Food writer Niamh Shields examines familiar store cupboard favourites and shows us that making your own versions is easy, tasty and rewarding.
Brown sauce is a far from appetising name for one of Britain’s favourite condiments. No fry up is complete without, a sausage sandwich doesn’t sing, pork pies are doleful, and a bacon butty is just sad.
Sweet with dates and molasses, sour with tamarind and malt vinegar and gently spiced, it compliments meat and cuts through richness. Northerners apparently love it more than Southerners; we are ketchup lovers down here. I have yet to see proof of that though, I think everyone loves it, even if they don’t want to admit to it.
There are many brown sauces on the market now but the most popular, and the original, is made by HP, which has over 70% of the market share in the UK. Frederick Gibson Garton developed the sauce in the late nineteenth century. With the name HP Sauce following in 1895 when he heard that his condiment was being used in the Houses of Parliament (which still adorn the bottle today). He later sold the brand and recipe for £150.
Controversial secret recipe change
In 2005, HP Sauce was bought by Heinz. Under pressure from government guidelines to reduce salt content, Heinz secretly changed the recipe, reducing the salt content, and offending a large portion of its customers. These included Marco Pierre White, who sent a dish back at The Hansom Cab in London, believing it was off after the change to the sauce.
Why it's better to make your own
For a fresher, brighter taste without any additives it is very easy to create your own and in not much time at all. Here's my recipe. I prefer a fruitier brown sauce with a brighter less heavy flavour. HP Sauce themselves recognised the potential for an alternative fruitier version this when they launched their own HP Fruity Sauce. Mine doesn’t contain orange and mango like theirs, but it does contain sweet / sour granny smith apples with a bass notes of rich dates all teased out by treacle and lifted with tamarind and vinegar. It is lightly spiced to support it. It has the seal of approval in my house and graces weekend bacon butties and fry ups. Try it – and make your bacon butty a little less of a guilty pleasure.
Homemade Brown Sauce is great served with:
For more about Niamh visit her blog
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