Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Sources of salty liquorice

I had my first request for info about where to get liqs from—Tyrkisk Peber of all things! And nope, the poster did not have a Scandinavian name (I don't either, but I've lived in Denmark for 2½ years, so I pass ;) )

My reply:
There is a small shop in London, not far from Madame
[sic] and Euston Station, called "Swedish Affair"
(32 Crawford St, W1H 1PL (7224 9300)). It doesn't have
a web site, but it does have TP -- even the lollies!

[That should've been 'Tussauds']

When it comes to sourcing salty liquorice, most of it is still down to a good old chase. The availability of the stuff usually determines where we go for our tobacco runs (i.e. Amsterdam more likely than say Paris, although my next tobacco run will be whale-watching in the Bay of Biscay!) and searching for my fix drives me down quiet little streets in West London. But of course, liquorice can be ordered on-line.

By far the most intriguing selection on offer is at kado in Berlin (it helps if you can read German). They even sell spunk!—which doesn't mean in Danish what it means in English, but is an innocent made-up word Pippi Longstocking and her little friends came up with one day. Allegedly.

True to form, it now comes as a flavoured vodka.You should definitely order a bottle of this.

Shame that Kado is so difficult to deal with. Last time I tried, they couldn't handle debit cards, so I never tried them again.

My only other on-line source so far has been den hollandse drop which is good, but mainly deals in wholesale quantities. Have you ever tried to eat a whole pound of DZ (more about those later)? I still have some left from my last order over 2 years ago...

Lastly, I would recommend hollandwinkel, but I have not tried them yet. Not such a wide choice of liqs, but ordering from them seems straightforward.

Good hunting, let me know what else is out there!

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Liquorice Ripple Ice Cream

OK so it's not salty, but it's made with Pontefract Cakes which contain real liquorice root—with all the goodness that implies ;)

This is an old recipe by Gary Rhodes, currently of Hell's Kitchen fame. I must say, I like the food better than the man, even though it does attract all those little Englanders who think of rival chef's Jean-Christophe Novelli's inventive French cuisine as foreign Frog's fare.

Anyway, Gary's the king of puddings and this ice-cream was originally paired with black treacle pudding—a winning combination!

Step 1: 200ml double cream; 200 ml milk; 1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out; 4 egg yolks; 120g sugar
Mix the milk and cream and add the vanilla pod with seeds. Bring to the boil, fish out vanilla pod (I dry it and add it to a jar of caster sugar to impart flavour). Whisk the yolks and sugar and pour in the hot milk. Cool, stirring to prevent curdling and churn or part-freeze then stir with a fork regularly until thickened.

Step 2: 75g Pontefract cakes; 100ml water
Melt the Pontefract cakes in the hot water, cool and stir into the ice cream to form ripples while still soft.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Tangled Bank

Many thanks to Circadiana for hosting the
anniversary edition of the
The Tangled Bank
—and to Pharyngula who founded it!

The Tangled Bank is a bi-weekly carnival for science bloggers that positively fizzes with amazing entries and enthusiasm. I'm very honoured to be a part of it. Thanks, everyone. Once again, I look forward to a great read.

Monday, April 18, 2005

IFA salt pastiller

Much more than merely a sweet, IFA pastiller are the aristocrats among liquorice.

I have already hinted at the many potential health benefits of real liquorice and IFA pastiller are formulated with this in mind. The opera singer Ivar Fridtjof Andresen (hence 'IFA'!), touted as 'the voice of the century' in the early 1900s, heartily recommended this candy The back of the pack reads to this day:

'Among their most distinguished features is first and foremost that they prevent dryness in the throat...I can most warmly recommend these lozenges for singers, speakers, smokers [yeah!] and athletes'

The fingernail-sized lozenges are indeed soothing and, for being a salty liquorice, surprisingly mild. Their thin glaze gives a tiny, satisfying crunch when chewed—and it is hard to resist doing so. I never had any handy when I suffered a dry or sore throat, but it might be a good idea to stockpile some for the next time. If I can keep my hands off them for that long.


Thursday, April 14, 2005

Oldtimers Äkta Saltlakrits

Oldtimers allegedly makes liquorice like your Grandma used to know—good, old-fashioned candy with none of that in-your-face fizz or other nasty surprises. Packed with flavour, they'll still blow your head off.

Not surprisingly, Oldtimers includes some of my favourite liqs and I grab them whenever I can. Intruigingly, the one I have currently on my desk has its inscription entirely in Swedish (my last one was all Dutch), a language I struggle with. In fact, I can't be asked to decode what it says: something about this recipe dating back to 1931.

The thick, oval soft liquorice is imprinted with a bow, oddly enough, and satisfyingly substatial and soft to chew—soothing like a baby's dummy. It releases a gentle, earthy flavour with a hint of powdered root and only a hint of saltiness that builds up into a gentle glow. I am surprised to learn that it contains malt extract.

Definitely a favourite, but almost a little too understated.


Monday, April 11, 2005

The Root of Goodness

Literally translated Glycorrhiza means 'sweet root', owing to the component glycyrrhizin which is 50 times sweeter than sugar. However, apart from its use for the world's best candy, this remarkable plant also has many medicinal properties.

Liquorice root has been used to treat a wide range of ailments for millenia. In Europe, it has alleviated coughs and bronchitis since at least the 14th century. It soothes the stomach and can bring relief from ulcers. It has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiviral properties. It acts as a liver tonic and may lower cholesterol. It may even enhance memory.

On the other hand, it can have ill-effects.Some patients who suffer from hypertension may owe their condition to a love for liquorice. Excessive consumption of glycyrrhizin increases the level of aldosterone, which can cause high blood pressure due to water retention. Reduced potassium levels (hypokalemia), resulting from sodium retention, can lead to headaches, heart problems (arythmia) and in extreme cases paralysis.

On the other hand, glycyrrhizin acts as a thrombosis-buster. it also kills cells infected by Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpes virus by interfering with the expression of latency genes.—making it a whole new kind of anti-viral agent! Such beneficial properties may offset its potential side-effects.

But glycyrrhizin is by no means the only bio-active component of liquorice; many of the potential pharmaceutical effects of liquorice root extracts are due to flavonoids.

The flavonoid Licochalcone hasanti-tumor activity and shows promise for the development of new cancer drugs.

Flavonoids also inhibit oxidation of low-density lipoprotein by macrophages. Glabridin in particular may offer hope for the treatment of atherosclerosis while others may protect the liver

In short, there is much more to liquorice than simple enjoyment. Regular intake, in moderation, may lead to a healthier, happier life.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Liquorice Forum!

'licorice'.org (sp??), a site apparently not affiliated to any company but dedicated to all things liquorice, has a well-designed (if sparsely frequented) forum with threads about the history, health issues, recipes for and pharmaceutical uses of liquorice. These are topics that I had planned for this blog and it looks to be a really useful resource.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Tyrkisk Peber

Made by Fazer of Helsinki, Finland, the distinctive blue bag is marked with a yellow stamp that screams 'EXTRA HOT' and a flashy icon of a little man spewing fire (while holding a thumb up).

The candy looks harmless enough and at first it tastes just like a boiled sweet; with a subtle flavour of liquorice root and anise oil. But suck it and you can feel the heat seeping through little holes which lead to the hollow centre. Here you find a vein of extra strong liquorice powder which will burn your tongue.

TP is an acquired taste. The German description on the pack ends with the warning 'Extra strong, liquorice for adults—not children' But you'll find plenty of kids enjoying the stuff in Scandinavia. The good news for them: It now comes in lollipops!

I don't go out of my way to buy it, but when I have a bag next to me I keep picking at it. Even though it makes my mouth go numb.

Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Welcome on Board!

Thanks for hanging on so long...

The idea for this blog came from a recent thread on my fave website:
(they publish a lot of my stories ;) )

I have long wanted to create a website in appreciation of the much under-rated delight that is Salty Liquorice, but three things have stood in the way:
  • I suck at web-design

  • Nobody looks at personal websites

  • Websites are tedious to update (my server's on strike as we speak—again)
So Blogger, with its user-friendly software and wide choice of readily customizable templates is a boon. Here it finally is: a blog dedicated to all things salty liquorice, its many different varieties, uses and legends associated with it. To my knowledge, this is the first such blog on the Web. It is also not affiliated with any company, but solely reflects my opinion and that of fellow liquorice lovers who may feel inclined to comment on it.

What about that thread then?

Don't miss it! It conveys the joys of Scandinavian salty liquorice perhaps even better than I will be able to. But more to the point—it introduces liquorice-flavoured vodka, a delicacy in Finland (and rightly so). Mina says:

'...the booze is made by dissolving a pungent salted black licorice (salmiakki) into the vodka. This completely smothers the taste of the alcohol, making you think you're drinking sweet candy juice when in reality you're downing 76-proof hard liquor. Dangerous, but fun!

The treacherous concoction actually killed a few people back in the early '90s, so the Finnish parliament decided to ban the stuff. Never ones for the alcohol-regulated life, the Finns responded by simply making their own version on a mass scale, so the government eventually gave up and lifted the ban. Koskenkorva is actually a small town in Finland that translates as "dead water in the rapids," and the label on the back of the bottle is intentionally upside down, so you can read it while you drink.

An alternative name is Salmiakkikossu, and it's commonly referred to as "Flakpanzer Fuel." Sadly, Salmiakki Koskenkorva is not available outside Finland, but here's how you can make an equivalent: get your hands on any brand of Scandinavian salted licorice candies, crush them and dissolve them in warm water until you have a thick solution. Let the stuff cool and pour it into a bottle of any unflavored vodka. You may have to try this a few times in order to get the proportions right, but it's either that or go to Finland instead.'


'A tip on the vodka: the easiest candy to crush up and dissolve is HARD candy, not chewy. This is the one I've used: [picture of Tyrkisk Peber bag] I think that is the Swedish name on the package, the Finnish name is Turkin Pippuri (both meaning Turkish Pepper) a.k.a. BOMBS because inside the hard candy shell, there is that yellowy powder that makes your mouth tingle.'

"tingle" is one way to describe it...

More on Tyrkisk Peber coming up very soon. And one day I will go to Finland...