Glynn Christian’s personal pick of products from Olympia 2013
Veteran food writer and deli expert GLYNN CHRISTIAN, a member of the 2013 Great Taste final judging panel, gives his personal product pick from this year’s Speciality & Fine Food Fair:
September’s Speciality & Fine Food Fair is an autumn highlight of the food-lover’s calendar. Here’s what caught my eye and my palate.
The Wales stand is always packed with flavour. My tastebuds were astonished by a product I could never have imagined until its launch last year: Smoked Water, from Halen Môn, the Anglesey Sea Salt company. Totally natural, it can be used for cocktails, especially with whisky, finishes a risotto superbly and has a definite place in soups and stews, too.
Patchwork Paté also makes “ice cream for grown-ups”. Each of the five varieties is finished with an alcohol-enhanced caramel ripple, except for vanilla which is swirled with Angelsey sea-salted caramel.
There was much Indian influence at Olympia this year. On Curry Dave’s stand, rounds of Indian flatbread were topped with a variety of classic curries. Devilishly good Indian pizza and a culinary food empire in the making.
The Real Basmati Rice Co founder Shahid Mehdi imports only basmati rice that’s aged at least 12 months – the way basmati should be.
Nizami Foods takes well-known sauces from around the world and adds an ‘Indian twist’. Its gentle version of Catalonia’s almond-based Romesco sauce is outstanding. Little Turban offers a range including butter-free Makhani sauce with hints of melon and a rustic Punjabi Masaledar with a bourbon and honey twist.
Entirely new to me is Dziuga, a truly delicious Lithuanian hard cheese available at different stages of maturity. When most matured it has a mellow and lively flavour that can favourably be compared to Parmesan.
Another surprise was a true Parmesan made ‘dai primi 100 giorni de latte’ milk only from the first 100 days. Claimed to be gentler and more balanced than classic Parmesans it is available through Bertinelli.
Labeyrie is a famed French producer, especially associated with foie gras. Aware of resistance to this traditional product, it has worked feverishly to launch a range of fine-textured and flavoured patés based on duck and goose livers from non-force fed animals. They include fine Sauternes and the luxurious new Foie Fin range seems bound to reinvigorate this sector.
Jonathan Bailey was 19 years old when he first thought of The Potted Fish Company. High quality fresh seafood products delivered daily from the wilds of the Devonshire coast are set to include potted shrimps for the first time.
You will unquestionably be entertained by the products of We Love Jelly. It produces very grown-up cocktail-infused jellies with challenging names and an alcohol content that is significant enough to notice but less than one unit of alcohol per 100g shot; think wibbly-wobbly spoonfuls of Singapore Sling, Mojito or Pornstar Martini, the current clubbers’ favourite.
When the munchies hit, perhaps turn to Fred’s Kitchen, which produces unusual and very delicious condiments in Devon: top tastes I found were beetroot, pear & rosemary and red cabbage with orange & cinnamon.
A great surprise was to find a soy-based ice cream product that looked and tasted like . . . ice cream! Not a hint of vegetal soy-bean to be found in Antonio Russo’s signature flavours of certified vegetarian, lactose-free Belgian chocolate, Madagascan Vanilla and Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee.
From elsewhere in the world I discovered tropical fruit jams of pineapple, mango and papaya (with vanilla bean) made in Togo (Africa) and deeply delicious chocolate spreads made in France that included Caramoka flavoured with coffee and Chocamel that was rich with caramel. All from a French company, EDM Epicerie Fine.
Sweden sends us spectacular salmon products including the Great Taste 2012 three-star winning hot-smoked double fillet plus lemon smoked fillets, smoked eel and trout from Stefan Palsson.
Apicultura Brisi is an old family-based honey producer in Sardinia where over 200 different flowers play a part in production. The original and sometimes startling flavours include asphodel, arbutus and thistle or cardoon more accurately. Also a small range that adds nuts to honey to make outstanding spreads for cheese or ice cream.
A very ancient product, bougatsa is a Byzantine type of pie now produced by hand, only in Northern Greece. These are portionable squares of fine pastry stuffed with minced meat, feta cheese or spinach and feta. Many happy smiles on the Pie Piestand proved the sense of importing these.
And finally to Portugal and some exceptional, unfiltered olive oils from the estates of the Counts of Anadia and with production styles and values that have 17th century origins. Casa Anadia produces a DOP range that includes a Private Collection of extraordinary nose and flavour and Casa Anadia Junior, which has the least acidic content and is considered especially good for children and their healthy growth.