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My Life In Food: Fergal Murray, master brewer


After graduating from Trinity College Dublin, Murray went to work in the Guinness Research Lab in 1984. Six years later he decided his interest lay in brewing, and since 1997 has been the Guinness master brewer. He has pulled pints for the Queen and President Obama and has rung the bell at the NY Stock Exchange.

What are your most and least used pieces of kitchen kit?

A bottle opener. Master brewers always have to have a decent bottle opener to hand. I have one on my keyring, so when I'm on my travels as the global brand ambassador I can flick off a top in an instant. I have no use, on the other hand, for a microwave. I just don't understand why you should use them at all.

If you had only £10 to spend on food, where would you spend it and on what?

In Ireland I love going to my local parade of shops. I like speaking to the shopkeepers. They give you recommendations about what's seasonal and fresh. So I'd probably go there and get ingredients for a nice stew. A nice bit of beef from the butchers and some potatoes and carrots, and, of course, the magic ingredient: Guinness extra stout, to give it that extra flavour.

What do you eat for comfort?

I love a dozen oysters, some brown bread and a Guinness in my hand.The balance of flavour between the oysters and the extra stout is just beautiful. It's particularly gorgeous if you get Clarenbridge oysters from Galway. They have a wonderfully velvety body – really creamy, really beautiful. It's a taste I've acquired as I've travelled through life.

If you could only eat bread or potatoes for the rest of your life, which would you choose?

Potatoes, without doubt potatoes. I love them. Good old roasties done the perfect way – magic. The trick is to cook them slowly in lots of oil with a good amount of garlic and salt and pepper. Then you have a jacket potato done on the barbecue – fantastic. Gratin with loads of garlic and cheese in the oven is superb, too.

What's your desert island recipe?

My kids love a coconut chicken stir fry creation I make. You fry the chicken in garlic and a bit of ginger, throw in some carrots and whatever other vegetables you have around. Then add lots of coconut milk and simmer away.

What's your favourite restaurant?

It depends on what I want, and where I am. There is this place in County Cork called Man Friday is always just fantastic. The location is good and the atmosphere is unbeatable. Oh, and the fish they do is great. I remember having a lovely dover sole down there. If I'm in New York I love going to Del Frisco on 6th Avenue for a steak. And there is no better place to have pub food than Mr Loonies in Boston in the US – it does superb burgers.

What's your favourite cookbook?

The Silver Spoon, an absolutely amazing book. My version is faded and smeared with food but it is still fantastic. It has everything you want to know. I love flicking through it for ideas or diving in for specific recipes. The spaghetti with lemon in garlic is just lovely – one of the best in it.

Who taught you about beer?

As a master brewer you learn your trade at the brewery, from your elders. Dr Carson and Arthur White, my predecessors, were legends. They knew more about beer than God. They were very intelligent men with the decorum of gentlemen; I took a lot from them. They were a joy to be around.