Coffee with meat and veggies?

Chef talks

Coffee with meat and veggies?

I’m an unashamed coffee addict. By 11 am any day, I’ve already drunk a large pot. Please don’t tell me it’s unhealthy – I’m unlikely to change. I like the favour. And not just to drink. I’m helpless in the face of coffee and walnut cake, and have espresso with most desserts (sweetness is always better with a little bitterness). But coffee with vegetables? I would never have believed it until I was given a dish of beetroot roasted on coffee beans.

Think about the taste of coffee, though – it’s nutty, there’s sweetness as well as bitterness, tones of tobacco and chocolate. Now put it together with dishes like hot chilli, braised venison, slow-cooked pork, a sauce of bosky wild mushrooms. Used carefully, coffee can be a great ‘deepener’ of favour, lending a dark, meaty base note. Chef Daniel Patterson, of Coi in San Francisco, started using coffee with root vegetables some time ago.

Heat coffee beans in a pan, then lay them in a roasting tin, he advises. Put carrots or beets on top, cover with a double layer of foil and cook at 110C/gas mark ¼ for 2-3 hours. The beans release their oils as the vegetables cook, infusing them with an underlying ‘meatiness’.

Coffee has historically been used in savoury dishes because it was an economical way to add flavour. You have beans, onions, a chunk of bacon, and cold leftover coffee but no stock. It’s easy to see how that might work, especially if you throw some dark-brown sugar into the mix. Cooks in the southern states of America add coffee to the pan in which ham or bacon have been cooked, to make red-eye gravy. Barbecuers brine pork chops in it, and ground coffee can be used to make a dry rub for meat.

It’s particularly good with dried chillies (many have a similar flavour profile). Southern chefs Matt and Ted Lee make a spicy rub by mixing ¼ cup each of ground coffee, ancho chilli powder and dark-brown sugar together with 2 tsp smoked paprika, 2 tsp salt and 1 tbsp ground cumin. Just rub it into steak or pork and cook on the griddle.

You probably don’t need to be convinced that coffee works in sweet dishes. Coffee and chocolate is a match made in heaven. What’s better than a chocolate brownie with an espresso glaze. Wake up!

Espresso-pecan brownies

These are just a little over the top (glaze, on brownies!) but they’re very good. Eat them with very strong cofee or espresso. Makes 12.


110g butter, plus extra for greasing
2 tbsp instant espresso coffee powder
250g soft lightbrown sugar
5 medium eggs, beaten
2 tsp vanilla extract
100g plain flour
30g cocoa powder
50g plain chocolate, chopped into chunks
75g pecans, toasted and roughly chopped

For the glaze:

100ml double cream
1 tbsp instant
espresso powder
4 tbsp soft lightbrown sugar
75g dark chocolate, broken up into small pieces


1. Butter and line a 20 cm square cake tin so that the greaseproof paper hangs over the edges (this will help you to lift the brownie out). Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4.

2. Mix the coffee with 1½ tbsp boiling water and stir. Leave to cool.

3. Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. While still beating, add the eggs a little at a time, then the vanilla and the coffee mixture. Fold in the four, cocoa powder, chocolate and pecans.

4. Scrape into the tin and bake for 24 minutes (this time will work if your oven gets to the correct temperature first). The centre will still be slightly soft. Leave to cool in the tin for 15
minutes or so, then lift the brownie out and set, on the paper, on a  cooling rack.

5. For the topping, heat the cream, espresso powder and sugar gently in a pan, stirring to help the sugar and coffee dissolve. Take of the heat and add the chocolate. Stir to melt, until smooth and glossy. Drizzle over the brownie. Leave to set then cut into squares.


This drink is a speciality of Turin in Piedmont, Italy. I have been known to add booze to the coffee bit.


125ml double cream icing sugar, to taste
250ml milk
100g plain dark chocolate, chopped
3 tsp granulated sugar
150ml hot, very strong coffee or espresso


1) Beat the cream until it holds its shape, then sweeten to taste with the icing sugar.
2) Heat the milk in a large pan with the chocolate and granulated sugar. Whisk until it begins to boil then turn the heat down and let it simmer for a minute, whisking all the time.
3) Pour the coffee into two heatproof glasses. Carefully and slowly pour the chocolate mixture on top. Top with the whipped cream and serve.

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