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Duvel

Between straw and amber in colour, smooth and ever so slightly spicy: one of the great beers of Belgium. The better bars keep the glasses in the freezer (which good Danes do for akvavit). Refreshing in summer, comforting in winter - gezondheid!
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We know a fair few people who used to assert "I don't like beer" until we thoughtfully persuaded them to try at least a swig of our Duvel. A quietly spectacular conversion overtook Chris' parents, usually a bit cautious about 'abroad' and foreign ways. Both at work, we were a bit anxious about inhospitably leaving them at home all day, but came back to find they had quite effortlessly gone native – they were sitting outside one of the bars on the Grote Markt in Vilvoorde, umbrella up over the table, enjoying the sun, watching the world go by and working well on their second Duvel apiece.

Belgians, understandably, use beer in cooking as thoughtfully and as generously as the French do wine. Here's a recipe for a winter soup with Duvel:

for the stock: veal bones, veal shin or tail, 1 large onion, 1 carrot, green part of 2 leeks, 1 stick of celery, thyme, bay leaf, salt and black pepper
for the soup: 2 onions, white part of 4 leeks, 4 sticks of celery, 1 or 2 chicory (to taste), 1 bottle (33cl) Duvel, 50g butter, 2 Tbsp flour, 100g bacon

1. Make the stock the day before if possible, as follows: cover the meat, bones, coarsely-chopped vegetables and seasonings with cold water, add salt and pepper to taste. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for just under an hour. Strain when cooled.

2. Chop the onion, leeks and celery and sweat them in a little butter. Sprinkle the flour over the sweated vegetables and add the stock. Bring to the boil, then simmer gently until the vegetables are tender.

3. While the vegetables are simmering, finely slice the chicory and dice the bacon. Fry the chicory and the bacon lightly in a little butter. Take the stock off the heat and let it cool slightly before putting it through a blender and then straining it through a fine sieve.

4. Add the bacon and chicory to the sieved stock. Simmer the soup until the bacon is tender, adding a little more salt and pepper to taste.

5. Just before serving, take the soup off the heat and add about three-quarters of the bottle of Duvel. [Make up your own mind what to with the rest! NGN]

Serve the winter soup with chunks of well-buttered wholemeal bread.