An encounter of the Aperitif

Ham wrapped in cloth, a wedge of cheese on rye… Ham and cheese, the inseparable companions of our aperitif, are back in fashion: it’s all about simplicity and local produce. So what brings these two flavours together? That’s right: the aromatic depth of beer.

Cheese and ham: back to basics.

The sharp, tangy taste of a Bellota ham, the creamy texture of a Noir de Bigorre, the hint of balsamic vinegar typical of a fresh Vacherin and the floral bouquet of an Emmental Grand Cru…The world of cheese and ham, too, features a number of “grands crus” that make for classic appetizers, each presenting unique flavours that stem from a long, highly precise and strict production ritual.
 
Iberian Bellota ham, sometimes referred to as “the best ham in the world”, is without a doubt the most exquisite in its kind. Made solely of black Iberian pigs and left to ripe for at least 500 days, the ham has a dominant flavour and smooth, fatty texture, tasting subtly of hazelnuts. Other grands crus are a little more accessible, such as Vendée ham, which is rubbed with herbs and cognac, or Black Forest ham, rubbed with pepper and jenever and subsequently smoked on pine wood, which gives it a pronounced flavour and dark colour.
 
But certain cheeses are just as noteworthy. Red Label Emmental Grand Cru gets its fruity flavour from the unpasteurised (or raw) cow milk of cows fed on grass and hay, and from being left to ripe for at least three months. But there’s also Extra Old Mimolette, which has a dry, crumbly texture, nutty flavours and a distinctive crust that is the result of an 18-month ripening process under the watchful eye of an “affineur”, or cheese-ripening specialist. The affineur taps the cheeses with a wooden hammer to check for irregularities and brushes them down once a month to prevent excessive damage due to cheese mites, which offer the cheese its distinct flavour.
 

 

Abbey beer: bringing ham and cheese closer together…

The age-old tradition and craftsmanship involved in beer brewing offers ham and cheese a new, gastronomic twist. The focus lies on taste, surprising combinations and…a convivial atmosphere. It’s all about creating flavoursome fun: quark, for example, obtains an additional dimension when combined with a fruity, spiced beer, whereas Parma ham truly comes into its own when savoured with a beer with a slightly caramelised taste… In short: beer, ham and cheese are a match made in heaven. The different flavours enhance each other and even bring out other unexpected flavours…
 
Excessive alcohol consumption is a risk to your health. Drink responsibly.
 

 

 

Flavoursome food pairings and malt bouquet

 

Leffe and cheese

Combining beer and cheese isn’t an exact science. Everything depends on personal preference, the time of day, etc. Nevertheless, here are some useful tips when tasting:
 
1. Serve the beer cold, but not ice cold, so as not to disrupt the flavour. (The exact temperature depends on the kind of beer, e.g. between 8°C and 15°C for Leffe Brown and never below 6°C for Leffe Blond).
2. Start with the mildest cheeses, move on to the more pronounced cheeses afterwards.
3. To cleanse the palate, take a couple of sips of beer after savouring the cheese or ham. Then change the order to discover new taste nuances.
 

 

 

Food pairings by Hélène Darroze

Leffe Blond + Broccio
Tomato confit – Basil – Olive bread
 
“Leffe Blond’s bitter, refreshing flavours add zing and enhance the creaminess of the cheese without overpowering it.”
 
Leffe Rituel 9° + Comté
Carrot/cumin/orange – Sesame bread

“The complex taste of Leffe Rituel 9° enhances the fruity, nutty flavours of the Comté and provides a hint of ripe apricot and dried fruit.”
Leffe Nectar + Fourme d’Ambert
White peach  - Rye bread

“Leffe Nectar’s sweet honey flavours nicely balance out the salty aftertaste of the Fourme d’Ambert.”

 

Tip

Serve the cheese whole on a cheeseboard and allow your guests to help themselves. While they sample and discover all of the different flavours, you can entertain them with interesting facts on each of the cheeses.
 
 

Noire de Bigorre croquetas

Serves 8 :

- 300 g Noire de Bigorre ham
- 50 g Basque sheep’s milk cheese
- 50 g tomato confit
- 2 sprigs of flat-leaf parsley
- 50 g butter
- 100 g flour
- 1 L of whole milk
- Salt, Espelette pepper
- 200 g Japanese breadcrumbs (Panko)
- 2 eggs
 
 
 

1. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add 50 g of flour. Leave to thicken for 5 to 10 minutes in order to make a roux. Gradually add the warm milk and bring to the boil. Pour into a salad bowl, season with salt and Espelette pepper and leave to cool off.

2. Chop the parsley, cut the ham and tomato confit into small cubes and grate the sheep’s milk cheese. Add everything to the salad bowl and season to taste.

3. Then take the mixture and use two teaspoons to make small quenelles on a dish. Cover with baking paper when done and leave to stiffen in the fridge for at least an hour.

4. Whisk the eggs. Coat the croquetas in the flour, eggs and Japanese breadcrumbs. Repeat.

5. Fry the coated croquetas for 7 minutes at 170°C, then remove and lay on a paper towel to soak up the excess grease.

Serve immediately with a Leffe Royale.

 

 

Grissini with Parmigiano Reggiano and Parma ham

 
Serves 8 :
 
- 24  grissini breadsticks
- 50 g grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- 6 thin slices of Parma ham
- 2 cl olive oil
 
 

 

 

 

1. Dip one end of each grissini in olive oil and then in the grated Parmesan cheese.

2. Cut the slices of ham into long strips and wrap them around the Parmesan cheese on each bread stick.

Serve immediately with a Leffe Brown.

 

Braised chicory served in aperitif glasses

 
Serves 8 :
 
- 8 fresh, yellow heads of chicory
- 150 g Reims ham
- 5 g Comté
- 25 g walnuts
- 5 cl Vin Jaune
- 50 g flour
- 50 g butter
- 50 cl milk
- 20 g duck fat
- Salt, Espelette pepper, nutmeg
 

1. First make a béchamel sauce: melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour. Leave to thicken in order to make a roux. Deglaze the pan with cold milk, bring to the boil and leave the sauce to thicken for a couple of minutes. Add a little grated nutmeg and season with salt and Espelette pepper.

2. Rinse the chicory, remove the hard centre and chop up. Pour the duck fat into a sautoir pan and add the chopped chicory. Season with salt, a little sugar and Espelette pepper. Add the Vin Jaune and cook for 15 to 20 minutes until the chicory has gone soft.

3. Chop the Reims ham into small cubes. Mix 1/3 of the béchamel sauce, 1/3 of the braised chicory and 1/3 of the ham into a creamy sauce. Mix the rest of the chicory with the Reims ham and walnuts and fold into the sauce. Mix the remaining béchamel sauce with the Comté. Pour the chicory, ham and nut mixture into aperitif glasses and cover with the béchamel-Comté mixture. Place the glasses under the grill until golden brown on top.

Serve immediately with a Leffe Radieuse

 
 

Stuffed Ratte du Touquet potatoes and scallops with Maroilles

Serves 8 :

- 16 Ratte du Touquet potatoes
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 Maroilles cheese, not too ripe
- 8 large scallops
- 16 thin slices of peppered pork belly
- 200 g crépinette (caul fat)
- 30 g duck fat
- 2 sprigs of flat-leaf parsley
- 1 dl poultry stock
- Coarse salt
- Salt, Espelette pepper
 

1. Wash the Ratte potatoes. Boil in salted water for 8 to 10 minutes along with the bay leaves and garlic. The potatoes should be al dente.

2. Cut the Maroilles into 32 thin slices, each about 3 to 4 mm thick. Cut the potatoes in half. Also cut the scallops in half, but cut them lengthwise. Place a slice of Maroilles, a slice of scallop and another slice of Maroilles between the potato halves. Then wrap the stuffed potatoes with a slice of pork belly, followed by a layer of caul fat.

3. Bake the potatoes in the duck fat until golden brown. Add the poultry stock and deglaze the potatoes. Add the chopped parsley.

Serve immediately with a Leffe Blond.

 

Leffe and ham

 

Beer and ham have proved a perfect combination for years, just think of pork ham in a beer sauce. Treat yourself to a slice of Iberian ham with a Leffe Blond, or combine Parma ham with the strong, complex taste of a Leffe Rituel 9°…

 

Food pairings by Hélène Darroze

Leffe Royale + Noire de Bigorre Ham

Tomato confit – Basque sheep’s milk cheese

“Noire de Bigorre ham has a pronounced flavour and creamy texture that combine wonderfully with the 3 different hop varieties in Leffe Royale.”

Leffe Ruby + Iberian ham

Strawberries – Balsamic Vinegar

“The sweet and sour combination of Iberian ham and strawberries becomes even more pronounced thanks to the fruity flavour and hints of forest fruit in Leffe Ruby.”

Leffe Rituel 9° + Parma ham

Chorizo – Kiwi

“Leffe Rituel 9°’s remarkably complex character goes perfectly with the smoky flavours of cold cuts.”
 
 
 
 

Tip

Keep it simple when you put together a cold cut platter: use white plates and warm them briefly so as to release the flavours in the ham. Simply garnish each plate with a couple of beautiful slices of ham.

 

 

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