Chocolate Beer Cake


Yes – it really works, it is rich, dense and deliciously moist. Probably the best chocolate cake in the world… well one of my favourites anyway. Originally the recipe calls for stout, but we prefer a less bitter ale. Any dark brown Belgian beer would work well, such as Kasteel. However, we used Young’s Double Chocolate Stout which works perfectly.




Line and grease a 9 inch cake tin. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 5/190 °C

250ml Chocolate beer or Brown ale or Stout
225g  salted butter
430g sugar (half light brown/half caster)
85g cocoa powder
300g plain flour
1 ¼  teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 large eggs
150g sour cream

For the Ganache topping:

200g dark chocolate
200ml double cream


1) Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the beer, leave to cool.

2) Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl.

3) Whisk the eggs with sour cream and add the cooled butter/beer mixture gradually whilst mixing gently.

4) Add the flour mixture till the batter is smooth.

5) Pour the batter into the tin and bake in the oven for about 1 hour 10 minutes. Check the cake is cooked in the centre with a skewer – it should come out clean.

6) For the ganache, wait until the cake is almost cool then heat the chocolate on a very low heat in a saucepan, stirring continuously and once it is melted and shining, add the cream gradually stirring. Spoon the ganache onto the cake and spread with a knife.





I like this traditional Belgian recipe, which is a rich beer infused beef stew - firstly because it is so simple and secondly -  because of the beer! We travel with a slow cooker (crock pot) which we can plug into the cab (12 volt).


1kg boneless stewing steak, cut into cubes
Sea salt (preferably in flakes)
Good grinding of black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons of plain flour
1 tablespoon butter
1 large onion, sliced
750ml Belgian beer (we used Leffe Brown)
1 tablespoon of fresh thyme and rosemary, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon redcurrant jelly
5 cloves garlic, chopped.

1. Lightly flour and season the stewing steak.
2. Heat a heavy bottom pot to medium/hot heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the meat and seal, add onions and garlic and brown evenly which helps gives the stew a richer brown colour.
3. Deglaze the pot with a good splash of the beer – this removes the juices from the bottom of the pan.
4. Add the thyme and rosemary and the remainder of the beer.
5. Bring it to the boil and turn down to a simmer and cover for 1 ½ to 2 hrs.
6. 5 mins before serving add redcurrant jelly and stir in.
I served this with a half of jacket potato, scored and roasted in goose fat in a hot oven for 45 minutes.



We love Belgium, and especially Belgian beer – here are our tried and tested Top 5 beers of Belgium, in our opinion, they are the best in the world.


There is no denying the fact that wherever you find a great beer – a monk has been involved in the brewing of it at some point in history! Religion and beer seem happily intertwined in this respect, the monks achieving their goal of spiritual labour and the beer seems to be infused with their sense of care and respect. Manual work in a monastery is considered a form of prayer, and one could also argue that drinking it evokes a prayer of thanksgiving, even if just to the person who bought it! Beer and friendship also seem to go hand in hand, and introducing a new beer to someone is always a wonderful gift.


Westvleteren 12


One of the Trappist ales, brewed and distributed exclusively by the Benedictine monks at St Sixtus Abbey in Belgium; Westvletern 12 is ranked one of the very best in the world - and one of the most difficult to acquire.
The monks at St Sixtus produce their beer as a true labour of love – and their devotion and commitment to an equal balance of prayer and work, infuse their beer with a flavour that is completely unique and of extraordinary quality. More accurately classed as ale, the beer is sold only from the Abbey on certain days of the year – and only to those who have been fortunate enough to book an appointment prior to this; the phone line is only open for a few hours on particular days only.
One could almost say that if God wills it – you will get through and get your beer! It really is a matter of luck and patience – the day we phoned required two hours of dialling, receiving the engaged tone numerous times before finally being answered by a friendly monk.
The beer is sold in crates of 24, and is limited to only 2 per person. The Abbey produces only 66,000 a year – and is not interested in profit or increasing production. There is no label on the beer, and the monks are not interested in any type of promotion; humility being one of their cherished values. The beer is simply the fruit of a life’s labour devoted to a closer relationship with God.


Tripel Karmeliet


Based on an authentic recipe used by the Carmelite monks, it is brewed with 3 grains: Oats barley and wheat. This gives the ale a fantastic unique flavour – a mixture of citrus sweetness and bitter malt – it is delicious











Grimbergen Dubbel



The phoenix on the Grimbergen label is used to symbolise the repeated destruction and rebuilding of the monastery that has occurred over the last thousand years. Each time the abbey was destroyed by fire, or persecution – it rose again to produce a very fine brown ale, similar to the Kasteel but less sweet, rich and dark in flavour.










Westmalle Triple


Another wonderful trappist beer; called the ‘Mother of all Tripels’, this beer certainly doesn’t disappoint in terms of strength. Though light in colour and less malty on the palate - it has a real kick to it and despite being only 9.6%, it feels stronger than any of the others – try it and see! As with the other beers, they are best served in their respective shaped glasses that have been designed to allow the beer to breathe and the flavour to be enhanced. Here is their website:



Kasteel Brown 11


This brewery, despite being a castle, was in fact built on the ruins of a monastery. Rich hints of toffee malt, deep and fruity – but still refreshing. A meal (or dessert) in itself! The Blonde 11 version is almost like champagne. They also have a very interesting website, have a look:











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