A new weekly beer + food column to support the launch of CAMRA’s new podcast, Pubs. Pints. People. You can tune in each week on Apple Podcast or Spotify or simply visit https://shows.acast.com/pubspintspeople/

By Susan Nowak, Food Editor

‘FROM the towns all inns have been driven: from the villages most…Change your hearts or you will lose your inns and you will deserve to have lost them. But when you have lost your inns drown your empty selves, for you will have lost the last of England…’ Words penned by social commentator Hilaire Belloc in The Servile State published just over a century ago.

I recalled them this week when our Chief Medical Officer Prof Chris Whitty opined that in the gradual process of ‘getting back to normal’ pubs should be rather far down the line; if I didn’t mishear, after Christmas seemed to be mooted. I hope I’m wrong, but I fear that by then it might be too late for some of our locals.

Obviously nobody wants to do anything that could prolong or reignite this appalling pandemic, but if we were assured that “opening time” would be decided purely on safety grounds as the situation evolves – and, fingers crossed, that just might be autumn rather than next year – it would give us hope. And, equally important, give hope to publicans, especially as so many are currently providing fantastic services to their communities. (It is certainly my dream that I will be in a pub with a pint in my hand watching Liverpool FC lift the Premier League Trophy this year).

So as you’re now all shedding a tear, let’s start peeling onions. This is one of my favourite recipes – simple yet elegant, beer hoppiness balanced by caramelised onion sweetness. When I included the recipe in my Beer Cook Book some 20 years ago there were not that many India Pale Ales around but today so many fine ones are brewed you’re spoiled for choice.

Red Onion Tart Glazed With IPA

About 200g pastry; 4 medium red onions, peeled, quartered vertically and the layers separated; 2 cloves garlic, crushed; a little oil and butter for cooking; 150ml (quarter pint) IPA

Roll out pastry and line a greased ovenproof plate or tin; bake blind for 10 minutes. Sweat onions and garlic in oil/butter until soft without breaking up the onions, to retain their ‘petal’ shape. Add beer, bring to the boil, then simmer gently until the beer caramelises to a glossy dark veneer.

Spread over the pastry, flute the edge, and cook towards the top of a hot oven (220C, gas mark 7) for 15 minutes. Serve with a mixed salad of red and green leaves, with a dressing made from a little of the leftover IPA and squeeze of orange. Cheers – and bon appétit!

Susan Nowak

Susan Nowak, pictures by Fran Nowak and Graham Kirk

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