Après-Birthday 2023
Livin' La Vida Liquorica
Barratt Liquorice Stick

Brighouse Sweet Shop
It all started with the squid.

On my weekly Meat Walk through Brighouse I noticed that the outdoor market's squalid fish stall had some surprisingly attractive-looking squid.
Now I've been burned there before with the worst scallops I've ever eaten so I kept on going, but as I collected my fillet steak for dinner I just couldn't stop thinking about that damned squid.
And as I passed the little traditional sweetie shop my mind turned to thoughts of liquorice. And squid. Liquorice and squid. And after all, why not?
So I bought some liquorice and went to collect a squid, just as the guy was packing up his van to take his rotting fish home to marinate in their own exudation before bringing them back again the next week.

I noticed the stench of decaying squid wafting out of the bag on my way home on the bus, so I immediately gave the smelly fellow a damn good scrubbing, peeled him, chopped him up, and left him to soak in some milk in the hope of him being edible the next day.
And reader, he was. Squid and liquorice is delicious. Who knew?

And thus began my period of liquorice experimentation. It turns out that there are very few things that don't actually go with liquorice.
And many more that are definitely improved. I may make it my signature flavour!

Since Flora no longer joins us for Christmas she is obligated to visit in November, usually around my birthday 🙂, in order to deliver our Christmas presents. And collect her own, if she's been a good girl.
Reader, she has been a good girl.
Her reward was a ludicrously expensive (but delicious) bottle of Burgundy long story, but she has particularly fond memories of this estate from visiting it with her father as a child - lucky girl! and a Fondue.

Karl and Flora in the woods Christmas presents, including some from Flora Domaine Perror Minot - Gevrey Chambertin Burgundy

Liquorice Prawns with Garlic and Chilli and Creamed Spinach and Minted Potatoes Sirloin Steak with Red Pepper and Mint Sauce
I tried working with a few different liquorice forms:
- The spongy molasses-based sweet is the least palatable,
- Barrett's floury sticks are certainly the worst to work with,
- but hard Italian pellets of pure liquorice are definitely (and probably unsurprisingly) the best.
Grind them up with a pestle and mortar, catching the ones that leap out - they're really hard.
I guess you could use a spice grinder but I'm not convinced they aren't so hard they'd crack the blades!

So anyway, here are a couple of the liquorice meals I've produced recently, with my new-found enthusiasm for the unprepossessing brown root...

Liquorice Prawns
Liquorice Prawns with Garlic and Chilli
Artistically arranged around the edge of a plate, which is then sifted with liquorice powder. A small plate in the centre is used to keep an area clear of the black snow for the vegetables.
Creamed Spinach with Garlic Cream
Piled into a cooking ring or cookie cutter to produce a tidy circle.
Minted Potatoes
Steam some new potatoes steaming definitely produces potatoes with a better texture and dress with minted butter.
Arrange them carefully on top of the creamed spinach ring.

Liquorice Steak
Sirloin Steak with Red Pepper and Mint Sauce
Plated cubes of beautifully rare steak arranged on a puddle of Red Pepper sauce, jauntily decorated with a couple of mini-mint leaves.
Roast Squash and Garlic Mash
A bold smear of the smooth orange purée.
Truffled Savoy Cabbage with Ogleshield Cheese
Enjoy a slice of the this truffled, cheesed, cabbage.
Cavalo Nero with Liquorice and Black Garlic
A stack of vibrant cavalo nero squares moistened with garlic liquorice.

main dip veg
To start with, you'll need a pretty acidic white wine to help stabilise this cheesy emulsion.
Something like a tart Riesling or a Muscadet. Alternatively add a squirt of lemon juice.
Adding cornflour to help with the stabilising is a bit of a cheat - but not uncommon. Even in professional settings, so I've read.

You could have less garlic - light just a light wiping around the fondue pot. But you should just chuck in a few whole minced cloves.

Ordinarily you would use a roughly 50/50 mix of gruyère and emmenthal, but Swiss vacherin (called Fribourgeois or Freiburger) would make a nice change from emmenthal, if you can find it. Or possibly appenzeller.
You can also throw in a softer cheese to give a creamier final texture - reblochon, raclette or taleggio.

Best made in a sturdy pot (or caquelon), preferably enamelled cast iron.
Once made, the fondue will set like cement as soon as it cools even one degree - so you'll need candles or a meths burner underneath your fondue pot to keep it dip-able.

The stale bread is pretty much required, but dipping small potatoes or meat balls makes a nice change, and the occasional pickle, piece of fruit or salami can provide a welcome relief from the overwhelming cheesiness of the occasion.
Speaking of which, forfeits will be required should you accidentally lose your bread in the pot.
I shall leave yours to your own imagination.
Mine demanded that the guilty party sing a verse of Birthday Shark (doo-doo, doo-doo doo-doo). (It was my birthday).

Serves a Party

Mix the starch with a little wine first, then add 350ml of wine, the minced garlic and the starch to the fondue pot.
Heat until it reaches a simmer, then over low heat gradually whisk in the emmenthal, then the gruyère, then the reblochon.
Keep stirring until smooth.
Add more wine if the mixture is too thick.
Add a grating of nutmeg and a splash of kirsch if you like.
Serve with bite-sized pieces of day-old or slightly stale baguette and any extras you fancy.
You may never move again!

Tomato Basil and Orange Hollandaise
sauce veg
The orange may be overkill - leave it out if you prefer.
You might also consider substituting sherry vinegar for the lemon juice.
If your sun-dried tomatoes aren't in oil you might re-hydrate them in water, sieve them, then blend them with the egg yolks to begin.

Serves 4

First chop the garlic and sun-dried tomato pieces, season with a few pepper grinds and press them through a sieve. Discard the seeds, skin and pulp.
Finely mince the basil leaves and beat with the egg yolks, grated orange zest and lemon juice in a glass bowl. Place over a simmering pan of water.
Heat the butter until it melts, but isn't too hot. Gradually drizzle the butter into the eggs, beating continuously until it thickens into a rich sauce.
Loosen with more of the orange juice as required.
Beat in the sieved tomato. Season, add more orange juice if required. Cover and keep warm, but not too hot or it will split, until required.
Excellent flavours!

Cauliflower Rice
staple side veg vegan
Cauliflower rice seems to be a pretty popular keto whatever that is alternative to proper rice.

I added some orange zest to mine with the spring onions (I was making an orange-ey meal). Some greenery is nice but you could use any herbs or spices you like.
You'll find it easy to eat a lot. I ate a whole cauliflower head flavoured with minced coriander at one sitting!

Serves 2. Maybe 4

Heat the oven to 400°F/200°C/Gas Mark 6 (though you can go as low as Gas Mark 4 - just cook for a little longer).
Grate the cauliflower florets to about the size of rice grains. Slice the spring onions on a bias. Grate orange or lemon zest if using.
I used the fairly coarse side of a box cheese grater, but you could use a food processor or the grating disc attachment for one. I grated mostly floret and left most of the stalk.
Season with salt and mix with a drizzle of oil, then spread the mixture out fairly thinly in an oven tin.
Bake for 5 minutes or so until getting steamy.
Mix in the toppings you're using, stir thoroughly, and return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes until hot. Don't let it brown. Unless you want it toasty.
Surprisingly good. It's pretty much ready as soon as it's heated through - it starts to get mushy if cooked for longer.
It packs together nicely when pressed lightly into forming rings too, holding its shape well if you want to stack other ingredients on top.

Squid with Liquorice and Pomegranate Seeds
fish starter
If this works, perhaps I could make squid and liquorice my signature flavours?
The milk allegedly helps to tenderize the squid and remove some of the stronger fishy flavours. Which might be a concern if you buy your squid from the same insalubrious Brighouse market stall that I do.

Pull the squid body from the pouch, cut the tentacles just below the head and discard the head and guts. Separate the wings from the pouch and pull out the quill hard chitin called the gladius or pen from inside. Wash everything, particularly scrub the tentacles which hide some hard gritty bits. Probably tiny teeth! Rinse out the pouch thoroughly.
Carefully peel all the skin off the outside of the pouch and the wings.

Cut the pouch down one side to open it up. Score the inside into a diagonal pattern without cutting right through. Slice into ribbons.
Cut the tentacles into sections. Cover everything with milk and refrigerate overnight.

Chop the soft liquorice stick into small cubes. Or possibly thin strips.

Mix about equal volumes of cornflour and plain flour. Season generously. Remove the squid from the milk, shake it dry, roll it in the flour, then fry over high heat in a generous amount of neutral oil.
You could also deep-fry the squid. Which might be easier, you wouldn't need to do it in batches.
Fry in batches to avoid overloading the pan. Turn to brown all sides. Start frying the scored squid body pieces score-side down first, so they don't curl up to begin with. Lift out to drain on kitchen roll.

Dress the herb salad lightly. You might use just oil and pomegranate juice.
Pile the squid on the salad. Dress with the minced liquorice and heapings of pomegranate seeds.
Pretty good flavour combination. To my great delight.
It would be better, I think, with a liquorice sauce rather than liquorice pieces, which were somewhat awkward to eat, but the flavours are good.

Marmalade Butter Sauce
veg sauce
To be made with a nice piece of fillet that's been fried in garlic and rosemary.

Serves One

Allow a lump of butter to soften at room temperature and then mash it with anything up to the same volume of plain flour to make the beurre manié.
About half the volume is good for thickening a sauce. Use a fork or your hands to blend the flour through thoroughly.
Fry your steak with garlic and rosemary.
After you lift out the steak to rest it, de-glaze the pan with white wine.
Add a glass of orange juice, bubble to reduce a little.
Add a couple of teaspoons of marmalade, and swirl until they dissolve.
Whisk in lumps of beurre manié until the sauce thickens.
Strain out the garlic and rosemary and keep the sauce warm until needed.
Different. Pretty nice!
I bet a splash of whisky would go well.

Parsnip and Potato Rösti
veg side
As requested by Flora - a rösti of a different feather. Very similar colour though.
The potato is there only to provide enough starch to hold everything together.

Makes 1-2 per Parsnip

Simmer the parsnip and potato whole until partially cooked.
Don't overdo them. The parsnip will cook more quickly.
Put them whole and unpeeled in the fridge overnight to chill and set the starches.

Next day scrape off their skins and coarsely grate about half as much potato as parsnip. You want only enough potato to hold the mixture together when frying.
Season and mix with melted butter until well coated. If the butter is salted, you probably won't need any more salt.
Lightly press the mixture into patties in a non-stick frying pan (use a forming ring if you like) and fry over a moderate heat until crisped and nicely browned.
Using a plate or a saucepan lid with its handy, er, handle, flip the patties and fry on the other side.
Serve immediately.
Mine browned, but didn't crisp satisfactorily. I may have over-boiled the parsnip.
I did think of mixing through some cornflour, though it seems sacrilegious.
You might add thinly sliced shallots or red onion to the grated mixture I suppose.

Carrots with Ginger and Marmalade
side veg
For Flora, in honour of her visiting for my birthday.

Peel and julienne the carrots.
Peel and mince (or grate) a knob of ginger.
Heat a generous knob of butter in a small saucepan and add the ginger.
Fry slowly until the ginger begins to take on a little colour at the edges.
Add the carrots and stir to coat in the butter. Throw in some minced garlic, if you like.
Season lightly, then cover tightly, reduce the heat and leave to sweat for 5-10 minutes until the carrots are softened.
Add a blob of marmalade and stir through so it melts.
Add a squeeze of honey or a shake of sugar, unless the marmalade is very sweet.
Add a little water if the carrots look dry, then cover and sweat again over low heat, shaking occasionally, until the liquid is absorbed and the carrots are very tender.
The sauce should have reduced to a thick gloopy coating. Something much like marmalade, in fact.
Sweat with the lid ajar if it seems too thin.

Sirloin Steak with Red Pepper and Mint Sauce
main meat
Buy yourself a substantial hunk of sirloin, thick enough to stand up on its fatty side.
I had a packet of those long sweet red peppers - Parade, Romano or Marconi - and they worked really well for the sauce. But bell peppers would make a reasonable substitute.

I used red wine to make the sauce but if you use white wine, you could add some cream to enrich it.

Serves 2

Salt your steak and leave it in the fridge overnight to flavour the meat while drawing out and evaporating excess moisture.
Remove it an hour or two before cooking to bring it up to room temperature.

Roast or grill the peppers, then put them in a plastic bag to cool and loosen their skins.
Scrape out their seeds, peel of their skins and blend them up to a smooth paste.

Fry the steak: Render the fatty edge first until richly coloured, then turn and sear each side adding garlic and rosemary for flavouring. Add a large knob of butter and vigorously baste the steak.
Leave it to rest for a good ten minutes.

De-glaze the pan with wine, bubble until reduced by half.
Strain out the rosemary (and the garlic if you don't want it) then blend with the reserved pepper purée and some mint leaves. And some cream, if you're using white wine.
Season and finish by adding some shredded mint leaves if you like.
Pretty good. The mint gives the sauce a welcome lift.

Roast Squash and Garlic Mash
veg side
My squash has lovely orange flesh, so my mash was a nice bright colour.
Your pigmentation may vary.

If you want to smear it decoratively across your plate, you'll need to blend the puré so it's very smooth, and not too thick.

Serves 2-4

Bake the squash at Gas Mark 4 for 2 hours or until easily pierced with a knife.
Add a head of garlic with about an hour to go.
Halve the squash, remove the seeds, scrape out the flesh and mash or blend with the roast garlic, butter, a grating of nutmeg if you fancy, and a splash of double cream.
To serve, fill a measuring cup (or a cookie cutter if firm enough) with the mashed squash and invert onto the plate.
If it's very smooth, you can create a smear by placing a spoonful onto the plate then dragging it into an elongated shape with the back of the spoon.

Truffled Savoy Cabbage with Ogleshield Cheese
side veg
Ogleshield cheese from Cadbury Somerset, described as The West Country’s answer to raclette, is a nicely melty cheese with a pungent aroma.
Perfect for grilling over cabbage!

Serves 4

Grate the cheese.
Cut the half-cabbage into three or four fat slices. Blanche them briefly, then drain thoroughly.
Place the cabbage pieces in a shallow oven-proof dish. Slide them under the grill until they start to crisp at the edges.
I'm not sure this pre-grilling is entirely necessary, but you can't really have too much crisped cabbage here. Plus it helps cook off any water you've left in there from your incompetent draining.
Drizzle the cabbage with truffle oil and scatter with the grated cheese.
Grill until the cheese is nicely melted and crisping up at the edges.

Cavalo Nero with Liquorice and Black Garlic
side veg
Cabbage - another thing that goes with liquorice!

Remove stalks and slice the cavalo nero cut into nice squares if you like, blanche quickly then shock in iced water.
When ready, heat a knob of butter, swirl in the kale, then dress with the hot liquorice sauce.
Dress with shredded mint leaves too, if you want.

Liquorice and Black Garlic Sauce
sauce veg vegan
An experimental sauce, that is definitely not yet ready for prime time.
I first tried using some soft liquorice sweets made of molasses, wheat flour, and liquorice extract.
Then I progressed to Bassetti (now Barratt) hard liquorice sticks (made of an even more dubious combination of treacle, wheat flour, gum arabic, glucose syrup, and aniseed oil), which I thought would extract into a sauce more easily, but actually forms a weird thick, gloopy, bubbly sludge.

I shall try pure liquorice pellets next. Which I think will work best.
Reader, they do work best.

Chop the liquorice sticks.
In a small saucepan over a low heat, melt (as best you can) the liquorice in enough simmering water to cover.
Add white wine and black sambuca to taste if you like.
Cook in a few black garlic cloves, mash everything together, then push through a sieve.
Season as required.
Yeah, the Barratt liquorice sticks do not want to melt, and produce a thick goopy sludge when they do.

Beurre Monté
sauce veg
Beurre Monté is a butter emulsion, which is a great liquid for poaching in, for holding cooked food, or for using as or in a glossy finishing sauce. It's a little bit temperature-sensitive and will split if it gets too hot (above 88°C) and will break or set if it gets too cool (much below 70°C). So best to keep it warm using a double-boiler, or in a pan set over a pot of simmering water. Starting with two tablespoons of water you can emulsify anything between a tablespoon and a pound of butter!

Makes almost any Amount

Heat the water in a saucepan until hot enough to melt the butter, but not hot enough to cook it. Gradually beat in the butter, about a tablespoon at a time until everything is incorporated into a smooth glossy sauce. Hold it between 70°C and 88°C.

Buttered Baby Fennel with Liquorice
side veg
My greengrocer had a pack of baby fennels. Unusually.
I thought they might turn out rather stringy if left whole - since you usually see recipes for fennel, even baby ones, slice them up for cooking. But they weren't too bad, though it might have helped that they went a bit crispy round the edges.

Turns out fennel goes very nicely with liquorice flavours too!

Trim the fennel bulbs as required. You can leave the stalks on. Submerge in hot beurre monté in a pan over a pot of simmering water. Cover the surface with a parchment cartouche and allow to cook until tender. This might take 30 minutes.
I considered blanching the fennel to start. It might help - it would certainly speed the process up.
Lift out the fennel and drain them. Enrich the liquorice sauce with a little of the beurre monté, and use it to dress the fennel.
Yes the sauce is a bit lumpy and goofy. I'm hoping to improve that with the use of pure liquorice pellets.

Liquorice Prawns with Garlic and Chilli
fish main
Seafood and Liquorice. Works great - just ask the elf!

Serves 2

Peel the prawns and carefully cut out the intestinal tract that runs along their backs. Assuming your prawns are fresh. And are a reasonable size.
Grind a few liquorice pellets in a mortar to a fine powder.
Mince a clove or two of garlic.
Mince ½ or one fresh chilli, or use dried flakes.

Heat olive oil in a frying pan, add a knob of butter, and fry up the prawns until almost cooked through. If they curl up into tight balls you've overcooked them! Add the garlic and the chilli about half-way through. Scatter the liquorice over the pan using a small sieve, saving some for garnish, and roll the prawns around in the buttery, liquoricey juices.
Scatter the liquorice powder pretty evenly, which is why I suggest the little sieve, because it tends to clump up.
Serve, sieving more liquorice powder prettily around the plate.
Surprisingly delicious!

Quick Garlic Creamed Spinach
side veg
A proper creamed spinach would be made with a béchamel sauce.
This quick version will have all the flavour, but have perhaps a runnier consistency.
You will need more spinach than you thought feasible.

Serves 2

Wash the spinach. Cut off any fat stalks you don't fancy eating.
Boil in a large pot of salted water for a minute until it wilts. Drain and plunge into cold or iced water to shock and retain its colour.
When cool, squeeze dry, then slice roughly if you like.

Heat a knob of butter in a skillet and sweat the garlic until fragrant.
If you like you can fry minced shallot or onion first.
De-glaze with Pernod if you like.
If you want a thicker sauce then throw a little flour in too towards the end of the frying.
Add the cream and cream cheese, if using and stir until smooth and bubbling. Season and add a grating of nutmeg, a dash of paprika, or a hint of cayenne if you like. Add the spinach and parmesan, if using and mix.
Decant to a serving dish and drag through a fork or chopsticks to create nice long swirly lines of spinach, for extra points.
Tastes pretty fine, though it can be a bit oozy.

Comments (2)

Newest first Oldest first

  1. Well Flora, fortunately for me looks aren't everything!

    It sounds very good - now tell us how to make a Spanish Omelette?

    #2 – 18 June, 2024 at 9:40 pm

  2. Flora's avatar Flora

    As was discussed. I am unable to comment on just ANY recipes. So my comment relates to your tomato salsa recipe.

    I found a better one which tastes excellent. In other news I am eating an exceptional camembert - Italian made with buffalo milk and truffle. It is simple Devine and when you are next up I will take you to my new favourite cheese emporium.

    Back to Tomato Salsa Recipe


    many baby tomatoes two punnets one punnet matters not.

    1 small onion chopped

    1/2 a garlic clove squeezed

    parsley - lots

    1 tbsp nice olive oil

    1 tbsp red wine vinegar

    1 tsp sugar


    Put everything into a glass bowl. Whizz with a hand blender.

    Eat with nice bread or Sardinia bread or add to a Spanish omelette.

    I found it tastes great but Karl says it looks like sick. Well can't win them all s'pose.

    #1 – 18 June, 2024 at 6:08 pm

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