Features
Á la beer: The Queen Vic
March/April 2013

The best product of England and India since the IPA.

You’ve heard this one before. Back in the late 18th century, malty English beer was going bad by the time it reached thirsty noblemen living in India, so the Brits started loading barrels up with hops, thereby creating one of beer’s greatest styles: the India pale ale. You would think, then, that such a happy coincidence would have sparked more cross-cultural beer collaboration; but as it happens, one of the next great Anglo-Indian beer mergers took a few centuries and a Texas real estate banker to realize.

A few years ago in Houston, London-born Shiva Patel was working a 9-to-5 in finance but dreaming of a kitchen career; she eventually enrolled in culinary school at night, where she met her now-husband Rick DiVirgilio, who’s worn a slew of hats in the restaurant business. The two opened the tapas-style Oporto Food and Wine Bar, but in 2010 took the food further by launching The Queen Vic, a showcase for Patel’s Indian home cooking  in a gastropub setting.

Patel’s food is the kind of authentic that only comes from being born into Indian cuisine: She grinds every spice in-house, grows her own curry leaves and sweats a handful of mother curry blends each day. The technique and flavors appear in inventive dishes that make it tough to tell where the Indian begins and the Anglo ends: The samosas are stuffed with beer-braised short ribs; the beef Wellington’s topped with lamb sausage; the Scotch egg is curried. The spices, though, shine in the curry dishes that span lamb Vindaloo to Texas beef meatballs.

Sharing the marquis with the food is a beer menu that pits Kingfisher against Karbach Weisse Versa. Bare ceramic taps and a brief bottle list pour a rotating range of American and English craft designed to pair with the kitchen’s innovative flavors—or help with the recovery process (think refreshing Popperings Hommel Bier with a guahillo pepper-laden chicken tikka masala). British staples and byproducts of Texas’ recent beer boom plus a few other imports mean there’s a beer for every dish; DiVirgilio says the lagers and yeasty Belgian ales tend to work well with coriander- and cumin-heavy dishes, while the more traditional, meaty English fare lends well to maltier styles.

Not surprisingly, the beer always comes back to the style that started it all. “(512) IPA is our house IPA, so to speak,” says DiVirgilio. “Other versions can hurt your palate more than help it when you’re eating, but (512)’s is such a great, mild IPA that’s perfect for our food.”

 

Easily replicate Queen Vic’s Indian-British fusion at home with shepherd’s pie for the family or curry for one. The beer? Your favorite IPA, of course.

The Queen Vic spin on this British mainstay is made with lamb and has a hit of curry you can dial up or down. Sprinkle with shredded Cheddar for an extra English touch.

SHEPHERD’S PIE

makes 4 servings

 

1 pound ground lamb

olive oil

¼ cup carrots, diced small

¼ cup celery, diced small

2 cups onion, diced small

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon curry spice

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary, thyme and/or parsley

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon white pepper

¼ cup red wine

2 ounces tomato puree

3 ounces chicken stock

2 cups prepared mashed potatoes

• In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, brown the lamb. Remove to a paper towel set on a plate.

• To the same pot, add about 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the carrots, celery and onion and sauté until the carrots are tender; do not brown.

• Return the lamb to the pot. Add the paprika, curry, herbs, salt and white pepper; stir to combine. Add the wine and let reduce by half. Add the tomato puree and chicken stock; let simmer until thickened.

• Optional: Fold fresh herbs, chopped bacon or cheese into the prepared mashed potatoes.

• Turn on the broiler. Divide the lamb mixture into 4 individual ramekins, and top each with an even layer of mashed potato. Set the ramekins on a baking sheet and broil until the mashed potatoes are golden brown, about 3 minutes.

 

What do Indian cuisine and soul food have in common? Okra. Patel’s Southern rendition of the more traditional Goan fish curry features giant Gulf prawns and crispy fried okra on top. The coconut curry keeps for a week in the fridge.

 

COCONUT CURRY

makes 1 quart

2 tablespoons clarified butter (ghee)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon whole mustard seeds

2 stalks curry leaves

3 green cardamom pods, cracked

3 cups onion, diced small

3 teaspoons garlic, minced

2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced

1 cup toasted coconut

2 Serrano chilies

2 teaspoons curry spice

1 14-ounce can coconut milk

2 teaspoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons salt

• In a saucepan over medium heat, add the butter, oil, mustard seeds, curry leaves and cardamom. Sauté until fragrant, about 3 minutes.

• Add the onions and sauté until they begin to brown, about 30 to 45 minutes.

• Julienne one of the Serrano chilies; set aside. Mince the other chili, and add 3 teaspoons of the minced Serrano to the pan. Add the garlic and ginger and toss to mix.

• Lower the heat to medium-low, and add the toasted coconut and curry spice; sauté 2 minutes.

• Add the coconut milk, salt and lemon juice; reduce heat to low and let simmer 30 minutes. Refrigerate and use within 1 week.

 

GOAN PRAWN & OKRA CURRY

makes 1 serving

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus additional

1 okra pod, quartered lengthwise

salt, to taste

4 large shrimp, cleaned and deveined

¼ teaspoon fresh ginger, minced

4 serrano chilies, julienned

3 tablespoons coconut milk

2 tablespoons white wine

1 teaspoon lemon juice

4 tablespoons prepared coconut curry

• Fill a large, heavy pot with 2 inches of oil and heat to 350 degrees F. Gently add the okra and fry until crispy, about 5 to 7 minutes. Let drain on paper towels and season with salt.

• Heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat and add the oil. Add the shrimp and season to taste with salt; sauté 2 minutes. Add the ginger and Serrano chili; cook 1 minute more.

• Deglaze the pan with the white wine and lemon juice. Add the coconut milk and coconut curry; let simmer 2 minutes.

• Serve with crispy okra on top.

Published March/April 2013
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