After reading about how coffee’s smell and aroma make it a perfect cocktail ingredient on our blog last month, it’s not too difficult to see its other potential in the kitchen as an ingredient in sweet and savoury dishes or as part of an unusual and original seasoning combination. Indeed, with its strong ability to add flavour and enhance dishes, coffee has all the characteristics that make it a perfect companion to your next recipes during those ‘aha’ moments of daring culinary experimentation.
Let's see how to make the most of the organoleptic properties of coffee, which types of coffee are best for this purpose, and which are the must try combinations.
It may sound strange, but adding coffee as an ingredient to your recipes actually helps enhance the taste of whatever you are cooking without transferring the coffee’s own flavour to the food.
For this reason, coffee is mainly used to build the aroma of the dish, by giving pleasant toasted notes and to naturally flavour the dishes. As an added bonus, since it loses most of its stimulating properties during the cooking process, it can also be consumed by those who do not handle caffeine too well.
One of the best ways to cook with coffee is to use it as an accompaniment to meat dishes because it intensifies the roasted flavour and enhances the complexity of marinades and sauces. That explains why most recipes for chili con carne call for the addition of a cup of coffee. But it doesn't stop there; adding coffee helps caramelise the surface of what you are cooking, sealing the aromas that are released in the process.
The answer is not black and white and must be adapted to the other ingredients being used. It’s important to remember that the strong aroma of coffee must always be paired with equally strong flavoured foods so as not to cover their taste.
Use finely ground coffee grains as some sort of spice in marinades or dry rubs and all other recipes that require a fairly long cooking time. Here, it’s important to pay special attention to the roast levels of the coffee beans: the lighter one like Faema Caffè’s house blend will give the coffee a more acidic taste, and therefore it is particularly suitable for dishes rich in fat and seasoning, such as pork-based main courses. A darker roast, such as Gi-Ma Caffè Ambra on the other hand, is more suitable for game and poultry.
The type of coffee blend is also fundamental; the more spicy ones usually better accompany fish dishes, while the sweeter and more delicate ones go very well with sweet and savoury appetisers and desserts such as a mousse.
Unfortunately, ground coffee, even finely ground, can still be very bitter. That’s why for cooking, liquid coffee is much more widely used.
Faema Tip: Got some leftover coffee? Don’t throw it out. Freeze it in an ice cube tray and add it to soups, stews and sauces for an extra layer of flavour.
So, after learning about the basics of cooking with coffee, you may now wonder; which ingredients are considered best flavoured with coffee and how do you actually cook them?
Meat. Whether it is beef, pork or poultry, coffee can be used both as a spice for dry rubs and as part of a sauce accompanying cooked meat. A recipe that makes the most of liquid coffee properties is roast pork cooked in a delicious simple sauce based on coffee, mustard, lemon and sugar. If, on the other hand, you have opted for tasty marinated beef ribs, you can prepare the marinade with a mix of instant coffee, salt, dried garlic, coriander seeds, pepper and unsweetened cocoa powder. This marinade keeps well for up to a month and can also be used for game or duck.
Fish. Contrary to what one might think, the delicate flavour of the fish goes equally well with the roasted aroma of the coffee. In this case, strongly spiced marinades are needed to fully enjoy this explosion of flavours. Particularly suitable are firm fishes such as tuna and salmon. The first one can be marinated in soluble coffee mixed with star anise; the second, on the other hand, is excellent dry-rubbed in a mix of ground coffee, chilli, sugar and cumin.
Legumes and other combinations. Coffee, with its complex aroma - ranging from smoked to slightly sour notes - is an extremely versatile food that lends itself well to the most daring combinations. Why not try it with kidney beans? Braise them with pieces of pork, onion, and garlic in a red wine and coffee based sauce. And finally, for a slightly unusual, yet classy snack, take some of your favourite chips and sprinkle them with grated gruyere, a few drops of vanilla oil and a pinch of ground coffee.
Dessert. No surprise here; coffee lends itself to desserts with aplomb, and we're not just talking about tiramisu. There are literally hundreds of dessert recipes that use coffee as the main ingredient or as a flavouring for creams and mousses. For some unusual combinations ideas, try combining coffee with spices such as chilli, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and ginger. Remember that cinnamon-scented desserts usually require a very spicy coffee - such as Ethiopian blends - while ginger-based desserts go better with full arabica blend such as Gi-Ma Caffè Diamante. Its aromatic and smooth taste with fruity hints helps to dilute the pungent and citrus notes of ginger. Berries, particularly blueberries, are also good companions for coffee. Why not bake a blueberry pie with coffee made of Gi-Ma Perla Nera - Faema’s fine blend of coffee coming from six countries all over the world - and infuse the dessert with its delicate taste and hints of fresh fruits, chocolate and caramel.
How do you incorporate coffee into your cooking? Share it with us on our Facebook or Instagram page.