From classic piccalilli to deep-fried preserved mushrooms, veg in vinegar is London’s latest food craving. Tania Ballantine tells you how, why and where to pick up a pickle.
Get into a pickle
Which of the following is true? Pickling is: a) Only good for cucumbers. And occasionally sharks; b) A time-honoured way of saving fresh produce; c) All the rage?
It’s b) and c). If it can fit into a jar, you can probably pickle it. Mushrooms? You got it. Walnuts? Yup. Cherries? Go on, then.
Why are so many people pickling?
It’s all part of our ‘back to basics revolution’ (by which we mean domestic skills, not the boring old political campaign). There’s a renaissance in Londoners growing fruit and veg – on roofs, in window boxes, in guerrilla gardened land previously occupied by weeds and irate squirrels. But how to make the gluts of seasonal produce last all year? Pickling, of course – it’s cheaper than preserving, and a lot easier than home-smoking (and less likely to involve a sheepish call to the fire brigade). Do try this one at home.
It seems daunting… Isn’t it the preserve of domestic gods and goddesses?
You need very little kit – basic kitchen stuff and old glass jars (sterilised first). As for ingredients, the world is your oyster (they work too); you also usually need vinegar (white wine or cider, say), plus herbs and spices (garlic, bay leaves, chilli, peppercorns). We like the recipes in Diana Henry’s ‘Salt, Sugar, Smoke’. And if you’re pickling for prezzies, check out lakeland.co.uk for pretty labels and lids.
Sounds intriguing. I need help to take the pickle plunge, though…
Richmond Adult Community College (raac.co.uk) has a ‘How to make Indian pickles’ evening class in January 2014, and venerable London cookery school Leiths (leiths.com) runs a range of one-day courses teaching pickling and preserving, among other things. If you’re still not sold, see right for our pick of pickle pushers.
Where to try them
To see how the pros pickle, head to Caravan on Exmouth Market (off Rosebery Avenue, EC1R 4QD) for one of its brilliant ‘Smoked, Pickled and Raw’ dinners. Tickets cost £35 per person and include four courses (including mackerel fillet, pickled cucumber and moromi miso) and a welcome drink. Call 7833 8115 to book.
BEST OF BRITISH
Hawksmoor (5a Air St, W1J 0AD)Try seasonal Brit pickles such as carrot and cauliflower at Hawksmoor. St John (26 St John St, EC1M 4AY) often has something stored in vinegar to accompany its meaty treats – duck hearts with celeriac and pickled walnuts, for instance. Mmmm.
AROUND THE WORLD
Yalla Yalla (1 Green’s Court, W1F 0HA) often does a great Lebanese dish of pickled baby aubergines (mackdous) with walnuts, red chilli, spring onion and olive oil. For pickles from a colder climate visit Scandinavian Kitchen (61 Great Titchfield St, W1W 7PP).
Ceviche is a delicious Peruvian dish using citrus juice to create an instant ‘pickling’ effect on raw fish. Try it at Ceviche (17 Frith St, W1D 4RG) or Tierra Peru (164 Essex Rd, N1 8LY). Kimchi, a Korean side dish, is made from salted and fermented cabbage, radish or cucumber – two of our favourite restaurants serving it are Koba (11 Rathbone St, W1T 1NA) and Cah Chi in Raynes Park (34 Durham Rd, SW20 0TW).
DOWN IN ONE
Pickles aren’t just for eating. Cocktail swigging hipsters are forcing down the Pickleback. Invented in Brooklyn (naturally) it’s a shot of bourbon or rye whiskey followed by a pucker inducing chaser of pickling juice – try it at Brewdog (51 Bethnal Green Rd, E1 6LA) or the Sebright Arms (31 Coate St, E2 9AG).
More London food trends at timeout.com/food.