Coffee isn’t just an after-dinner drink – it deserves its place further up the menu too, according to some of the country’s top foodies
The bitter notes and smoky aromas of coffee add depth to autumn and winter menus, according to celebrated chef Michel Roux Jr.
“For me, it’s seasonal,” he says. “It offers a change from the fresher fruit and herb flavours of the summer.”
Coffee can add richness to dessert menus such as a chocolate Swiss roll with coffee cream (below) but can be used with savoury dishes, as Roux, who is chef-patron at London’s two Michelin-star Le Gavroche, explains.
He adds it to a sauce served with game. “I find it works well with the smokiness of game, when contrasted with chutney and berries,” he says.
Meat and coffee combinations are also being explored by Antonin Bonnet, head chef at the Greenhouse in London’s Mayfair. Bonnet serves grouse with cocoa nibs (pieces of raw chocolate) and espresso mashed potatoes.
“The inspiration for the dish became obvious to me over breakfast one morning,” he says. “I noticed one of the best matches with a cup of coffee is salted butter on toast. The transformation from toast to potato wasn’t difficult, knowing how much butter goes into our mashed potato.”
He explains that the flavour of the espresso mash complements the gaminess of the grouse and the bitterness of the cocoa nibs: “It is almost like a mocha dessert only savoury – really addictive.”
Bonnet thinks the principle would work in a “posh bangers and mash” and has adapted the recipe for readers.
Coffee works equally well with pan-fried lamb chops (where espresso is combined with Worcestershire sauce, spices and chilli flakes to lift the meat juices from the pan) or to glaze espresso-roasted pork shoulder with a rich mixture that includes honey and balsamic vinegar and tomato purée, says Bristol-based award-winning chef and consultant Martin Blunos.
Blunos, who was awarded two Michelin stars at his Latvian-inspired restaurant Lettonie and is also known as the inspiration behind Blunos Blend – a coffee developed by Bristol roasting company Brian Wogan – demonstrated these gutsy meat dishes at this year’s Bath Coffee Festival.
“I used coffee in these lamb and pork recipes as the bitter note to balance the natural sweetness of the meats,” he says.
So coffee is packing a punch in main courses but also appearing later in the menu – and not just in desserts. Roel Lintermans, head chef at The Gallery at Sketch, was inspired by the restaurant’s founder Pierre Gagnaire to include coffee on a cheese plate.
Lintermans places coffee syrup (made through a reduction of coffee with glucose added to thicken it) with Morbier cheese on the plate alongside a terrine of St Agur, cheddar and port, and goat’s cheese and green tomato chutney. “The creamy Morbier cheese works with the bitter black coffee,” he says.
Such is the popularity of coffee that foodies think it should become an after-dinner statement in its own right. Polly Betton, who is championing a revival in country house parties and has been named a “get-together guru” by Harper’s Bazaar, includes a recipe for coffee-infused milk and white chocolate-dipped coffee beans in her new book Party! (Kyle Books, £19.99)
“The recipe is a deconstruction and rearrangement of the classic after-dinner coffee,” says Betton. “The milk is mildly caffeinated and relaxing, while the major caffeine hit is delivered directly from the bean.”
And it’s back to nature for Stefan Gates, self-proclaimed gastronaut and member of culinary think-tank the Experimental Food Society, who advises that dinner party hosts could make the evening memorable by serving green coffee beans.
“I get people to roast their own coffee from green beans at the table – you just dry-fry them in a small pan,” he says.
“Then I put them in a grinder and make coffee out of them,” he says.
Chocolate Swiss roll with coffee cream
From Le Gavroche
- 120g plain flour
- 30g cocoa powder
- 5 whole eggs
- 140g caster sugar
- 1 tbsp dark muscovado sugar
- 125ml hot espresso or very strong coffee
- 2 egg yolks
- 120g icing sugar
- 80g butter
- 1 espresso coffee
- 2 tbsp instant coffee
- 2 tbsp mascarpone
Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas 6. First, sift the flour and cocoa powder together. Whisk the eggs and sugar until firm and pale then fold in the flour and cocoa. Spread the mixture into a greased, lined Swiss roll tin or pastry tray, about 20cm x 40cm, and bake for 12-14 minutes or until springy to the touch. Make the coffee syrup by stirring the sugar into the hot coffee until melted.
Dust a clean cloth with caster sugar. Turn the sponge out onto the cloth and remove the lining paper. Brush the sponge with coffee syrup, then cover and leave to cool for 10 minutes.
Whisk the egg yolks, icing sugar and butter until creamed and pale. Dissolve the instant coffee in the espresso mix and add to the butter mixture with the mascarpone. Continue to whisk until smooth and light.
Spread the coffee cream evenly on the sponge, then roll up tightly from the short edge. Cover well and refrigerate for at least two hours before slicing and serving.
Wines to match
Maury and Banyuls, sweet French reds from the Pyrénées, both have notes of chocolate and coffee so work well with desserts containing these flavours.
Taken from Matching Food & Wine by Michel Roux Jr, RRP £20, published by Weidenfeld & Nicols.
Simple but posh bangers and mash
Developed for readers by Antonin Bonnet
- Wild boar sausages
- Onion, chopped
- A few sprigs of rosemary
- Potatoes, peeled
- Butter, to cook
- Flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
- ½ shallot, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- Instant coffee
- White wine
- Hispi cabbage, to serve
Roast the wild boar sausages along with the chopped onion and a few sprigs of rosemary in a preheated oven.
Boil the potatoes until cooked through. Meanwhile, make a persillade of mushrooms for a side dish by sautéing the mushrooms in butter, then adding the flat-leaf parsley, shallot and garlic clove.
When the potatoes are boiled, put them through a ricer then return to the pan with butter and salt to taste. Work warm milk into the mash and then add a pinch of instant coffee. Blend this in to make a beige coloured mash.
Take the cooked sausages from the roasting dish and add white wine and stock to make an onion gravy.
Place the mash on plates with the sausages on top and gravy. Serve with the mushroom persillade and hispi cabbage (a buttery tasting variety) on the side.