WHEN fans of Italy flock to the La Dolce Vita festival in London this month, they’ll be in for a surprise.

Foodies in search of mouthwatering hunks of 30-month-old parmesan cheese washed down with prosecco, will be offered beer-based food treats by chefs Giancarlo and Katie Caldesi instead.

As the new faces of Italian beer, Birra Moretti, in the UK, the two chefs have been looking at ways to cook with beer. But it’s no easy task.

Katie Caldesi, who recently published her recipe book, The Italian Cookery Course (Kyle Cathie, £30.) said: “The main problem when cooking with beer is acidity. To counteract that and achieve balance you need to find sweetness.

“I’ve experimented with a casserole made with beer, chicken and lots of onions and carrots that caramelise and the sweetness comes out. It’s gone down wonderfully with guests.”

In Britain, cooking with beer is a staple in many pub kitchens.

From beer-battered fish, to steak and ale pie, we love the effects of beer’s ingredients – water, malted barley, hops and yeast – on our food.

Caldesi was surprised to find that beer always works really well with puddings.

She said: “In my recipe for date, custard and beer jelly trifle, the beer’s nice hoppy taste works well with the sweetness of the dates.”

Here’s the recipe for you to try at home.


Serves 6

For the beer jelly:

1 bottle of Birra Moretti
4 heaped tsps of caster sugar
2 leaves of gelatine

For the custard:

600ml milk
1 vanilla pod split into two or few drops vanilla extract
80g caster sugar
40g cornflour
6 egg yolks

For the cream:

150ml double cream
25g caster sugar

For the date base:

250g medjool dates
100ml water


First make the jelly by soaking the gelatine sheets in cold water for a few minutes. Pour roughly half a bottle of Birra Moretti into a saucepan and add the sugar.

Heat the beer through stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar.

Remove from the heat. Squeeze the sheets of gelatine gently to get rid of the excess water.

Add the sheets to the pan of warm beer and stir through until dissolved. Pour into a cold bowl and add the rest of the beer. Stir through and leave to set.

Next make the custard. Put the milk in a saucepan with the vanilla pod and bring to a gentle boil. Mix together the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour in a bowl using a whisk. When the milk is just boiling, remove from the heat and add a ladleful at a time to the egg mixture whisking constantly until half of it is incorporated.

Pour the mixture back into the rest of the milk in the saucepan.

Return to the heat for a few minutes to thicken, keep whisking.

Remove from the heat and transfer the custard to a cold bowl, cover the surface with cling film or damp baking parchment to prevent a skin forming. Allow to cool with the vanilla pod still inside.

While the custard is cooling whip up the double cream to soft peaks and fold in the sugar.

When the custard is cool, discard the vanilla pod and mix in the whipped cream. Cool in the fridge until the jelly is set.

Stone the dates and put them together with the water into a saucepan.

Warm them through and stir until they become a paste, it doesn’t have to be smooth though, squashy lumps of date are really rather pleasing.

Remove from the heat and transfer to a cool bowl, allow to cool.

Now assemble the trifle by dividing the date mixture between six glasses spooning it into the bottom of each one. Top each glass with the custard as the second layer and then spoon over the jelly.

Serve straight away or chill until needed.