To beer or not to beer



Siren Craft Brew have been in Finchampstead now for a year, and need to be exposed as a beer lovers best kept secret.

On Saturday Clarrissa and myself along with friends Debbie and Gareth our Partners at Milford Sandford Wines, headed to Siren for a tasting.

The young, charmingly dishevelled Steve gave us a warm welcome, Steve seemed to match the internal furnishings. Rustic tables and benches made from scaffold planks are inside for you to sit and taste these finest of craft beers. At the unassuming industrial unit it was a quiet Saturday and the only activity was the occasional beer connoisseur entering for his weekly beer rack top up.

Steve’s enthusiasm and passion for his chosen trade was bubbling from his every pore, while we tasted the Breakfast Stout (“Broken Dream” 6.7abv….smoky malt, coffee, oats and chocolate notes, we found it elegant, with a long finish and end fizz.), we laughed as he told of his goof, “I dropped chemistry at school even though I wanted to go into the brewing industry. What help would chemistry be??” He continued to tell us he had been taken under the wing of the creative owners and master brewers here after working a period for free, such was his desire to work in the industry. And now he is on the payroll.

The experimentation at the Siren barrel cellar is the alchemy between the beer and wooden barrels which have previously held the likes of Jim Beam, Jack Daniels and Buffalo Trace. The Barrel aged Broken Dream aged in Jim Beam barrels 7.4abv, is a delight for whisky and stout lovers alike. Strong whisky and chocolate notes on the tongue, hints of ginger and a strong whisky nose. The Broken Dream from the Buffalo Trace barrel again 7.4abv, was sweeter and longer with notes of coffee and Tia Maria.

Liquid Mistress is Sirens femme fatale, a red IPA at 5.8 abv, she was lively with biscuit and raisin followed by sparks of grapefruit and honey which delighted as Steve gave us a tour showing us the fermentation tanks whilst talking in depth about the beer making process. He told us that Siren believe beer drinkers should enjoy craft beer as wine drinkers enjoy their finest wines. Here here!

Siren already suggest food and beer pairing on their website but after tasting Broken Dream i’m not sure I will ever drink red wine with my Beef Bourguignon again. And coming up in Spring 2014 is Liquid Mistress aged in the barrels of Pinot Noir, I’m thinking Coq au Vin? As in the ever inventive world of craft brew, time will tell.

These guys are already winning awards, picking up 2nd at the ratebeer BEST awards 2014 and I’m sure there are many more to come. I can’t wait to go back and try the Caribbean Chocolate Cake 7.4abv a tropical stout with cacao nibs and cypress wood. Yes really!! So come on people of Finchampstead and Wokingham get down to Siren and support our “Local”



Celebrity or Chef.


I am a big fan of Rick Stein, I dined at the Seafood Restaurant some 13 years ago and traveled 4 hours just to get there. It was nice! Would I go back, No. What would be the point? He wasn’t even in the kitchen 13 years ago, the chances of him cooking anything now are non existent.

I am not a Gordon Ramsey fan. Have I ever wanted to eat at one of his many restaurants, not really.

Jamie Oliver, no thanks. Personally I want to know the creator of my meal is at least in the same kitchen and not somewhere in Asia up to his elbows in birds eye chillis or eating BBQ in Cowboy country up to his ankles in cow shit.

Looking for somewhere to have Sunday Lunch this weekend I chanced upon Anthony Worrall Thompson’s The Greyhound in Oxfordshire were he has fully advertised himself head chef.

I rang at 10.45 on Saturday and to my surprise it was the distinctive voice of “Wozza” himself who answered the phone. When I enquired for a table for Sunday lunch he informed me that he had “nothing for dinner only lunch.” Great, lunch is what I had asked for so we agreed a table for 5 at 1 o clock.

Arriving at the pub the following day my family were pleasantly surprised at the charm of the Oldie World Pub poised in a quiet lane and bathed in the spring Sunshine.

The grounds were well kept and the garden was busy with people eating and drinking.

Inside Anthony’s wife Jay greeted us and told us there was no booking for us, they have 2 lunch sittings 12.30 and 2.30 only and as our booking was at 1 o clock “it must be the other Greyhound near here”.

I told her that I had spoke with Anthony and he personally took my booking. Jay then went to the kitchen where Anthony confirmed this, only he had booked us in on the Saturday.

We were informed we were a “no show” and the pub was fully booked and there was nothing they could do for us.

With this my wife Clarissa had had enough. “but we’ve just traveled to get here!” she interjected in an indignant manner which only she can carry off. I clearly wasn’t the only one who could sense her heels boring into the flagstones. With tension in the air we were then given free drinks and asked to sit in the garden and Jay would see if there was anything she could do.

After 5 minutes or so Jay returned after a clientele shuffle, and told us she could squeeze us on to a table for 5. We ordered our food from the garden and then went through to our table.

I had roast loin and belly of middle white pork and Clarissa had the combo which was pork, lamb and beef. They were both delicious and the portions were very healthy. The vegetables came in mini Le Creusets to share and it was more than enough. The gravy was rich with a depth of flavour, but a little extra in a small pot would have been appreciated.

The only thing that marred my meal was the disappointing goose fat roasties, these were overcooked and hard (as you can see in the picture). If I wore dentures i’m sure they would have been non negotiable.

The children all seemed to enjoy their burgers.

We vacated the table for the next sitting and retired to the garden for our desert. The children had ice creams and Clarissa had the tasting desert which consisted of Eton mess, creme brulee, caramel meringue and chocolate brownie, she said it was delicious.

Would I go again. Quite frankly if I new The Greyhound had sittings I probably wouldn’t have booked in the first place and especially if I was going with friends. I know pubs with food of equal quality where i don’t need to watch the clock.Image

Linguine con Salsa di Spinaci



800g fresh spinach leaves

60g butter

60g flour

500ml milk

salt and pepper

grated nutmeg

freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Put a generous amount of spinach to one side and cook the rest very quickly in a covered saucepan (5 minutes). Chop Spinach very fine and keep warm.

Make a bechamel sauce using the butter, flour and milk, then dilute with a little water from the cooked spinach. Season and add nutmeg.

Cook the linguine. Add the cooked chopped spinach to the bechamel sauce and then add the raw spinach. This will make the sauce a more attractive green and improve the flavour. Pour onto the drained pasta, mix and serve with plenty of freshly grated Parmesan.

Cottage Pie with Guinness and Branston


It’s National Pie Week

Olive oil and butter to fry

350 ml beef stock

1 kilo butchers minced beef

1 large onion

3 crushed garlic cloves

fresh thyme leaves

2 tbsp tomato puree

1 pint Guinness

3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

3 tbsp Branston pickle

1.5 kilos mashing potatoes

125g melted butter

handful of grated cheddar

A rich savoury Cottage pie makes a lovely family meal to share, perfect for eating on laps, lush.

Fry your onions in butter and veggie oil until translucent, add your garlic and thyme then set aside.

Fry your meat until brown then add back to your onions and add your tomato puree.

Now add your Guinness, Worcestershire sauce and Branston pickle and reduce by half. Now pour in your stock return to a boil then reduce the heat and let it simmer for half and hour.

Cook your potatoes in boiling water until they start to fall apart, this will aid your smooth mash result. When cooked, drain and pour in the melted butter and cheddar cheese and mash until smooth. Check seasoning.

Pour your mince mix into a 2 litre pie dish and top with your potato, give it a rough finish with a fork to help the crispy, crunchy, crust.