A 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/5ed0cbc8e3ae160820cc9477/
I know, I know, and I’m sorry, right? Fourteen weeks you’ve stuck with this darn column and in all that time I’ve never featured a Belgian beer. For many, the greatest brewers on the planet; centuries of turning hops, malt and yeast into ambrosia that might carry on fermenting in darkened cellars for years to become the equivalent of a vintage champagne or brandy. Brewers who know more than brain surgeons, create richer notes than a Stradivarius, greater poetry than Shakespeare, but are they good enough for Ms Nowak? The woman’s a philistine. Happily, I can put that right with just one little word. Duvel. See? I’m forgiven. And during Lockdown uncapping those dumpy little bottles has released a genii rather than the ‘devil’ for whom it’s named – apparently for no more sinister reason than that when it was created around 120 years ago one of its delighted alchemists yelled: “Wow, this is devilishly good.” Though at 8.5 per cent this smooth talking charmer, teasing the tongue with cloves, pepper and spice, could seduce an innocent. This classic golden ale was first made at Moortgat brewery in the 1870s, something like 120 years before we coined the term here. It wasn’t until 2007 it gained a sibling, Duvel Tripel Hop, at 9.5 per cent even stronger than big brother. However, the Tripel does not refer to its strength but to the fact that it contains three hops: Saaz-Saaz, Styrian Golding and one other that changes every year. In 2016 that third hop was Citra grown in Yakima Valley, Washington, bringing hints of grapefruit and tropical fruit to the party; it quickly became clear that Citra was the ultimate tripel hop so Duvel Tripel Hop Citra is now permanently in the range. Beer improves every sort of batter from Yorkshire pudding to fish ‘n’ chips, and here the original Duvel lightens some rather posh pancakes made with both wholemeal and plain flour, wrapped round smoked salmon and asparagus. That legendary ‘beer hunter’ the late Michael Jackson, who was passionate about Belgium’s beer culture, called Duvel “the world’s most beguiling beer” – so I’ve served it in his glass.
Devilishly good pancakes (makes around half a dozen)
20g each of plain and wholemeal flour; a grind of black pepper, grating of nutmeg, pinch of mixed spice (to echo the beer’s spiciness), and half a teaspoon of salt. One large egg, 100ml buttermilk (or ordinary milk), 200ml Duvel, around 200g sliced smoked salmon, 8-10 trimmed asparagus spears, small tub crème fraiche, lard and butter for frying; red salad leaves and sliced lemon to garnish.
Put flour and flavourings into a mixing bowl then add the egg, buttermilk and Duvel, stirring to create a pancake batter. Leave to chill for at least an hour – you may find the batter slightly too thicken by then, if so add a drop more Duvel. Whilst the batter is chilling parboil the asparagus then drain. Heat a smallish frying pan (around 25cm diameter), add a knob of lard, heat until melted, then the same amount of butter, and let that melt until it is quite hot (though be
careful not to burn the butter). Put 2 tbsps pancake mix into a cup, then pour into the frying pan to cover the base; cook until it starts to bubble then flip over. When the pancake is golden brown on both sides transfer to a plate and keep warm in a very low oven. Repeat until all the mixture is used up. Spread a dollop of crème fraiche across each pancake and top with a slice of smoked salmon. To create a little variety roll up half the pancakes with asparagus poking out of both ends and fold the others in half; serve on warm plates with remaining asparagus spears scattered on top, and garnish with a dollop of crème fraiche, red salad leaves and lemon slices.
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