A little while ago, I reviewed (here) the luscious Salted Caramel Sauce from Hawkshead Relish which we've been munching on hot pancakes and toast. But we've also been trying out another of their products : Damson Ketchup.
Like most people, I would think, here at The Madhouse we know all about tomato ketchup but I'd never tried or even heard of damson ketchup so I was keen to see what it would taste like. The Hawkshead Relish website explains that it is "rich and fruity and perfect for serving with lamb, game, sausages or cold meats, full of fruity flavours from Westmorland Damsons and great for adding to casseroles or sauces."
Well, I first tasted a little dollop straight from the bottle and its sweet, rich, fruity taste reminded me a bit of chutney. I decided to add some to the side of my plate when my curry came out a bit hotter than I planned and it cooled things down nicely, while adding an interesting sweet and sour note so it's great for livening up slightly bland meals. I also added a dollop to my plate when eating pork chops with rice so that it wasn't so dry and that worked really well too.
I can also see this being lovely with the Spanish tortilla-type omelettes I sometimes make or with a ploughmans in place of the usual pickle for a bit of a fruity twist. It would make a lovely contrasting and cooling dip for spicy potato wedges or with white fish to add a bit of interest too. I'm sure it would go with pretty much anything though so I'll be having fun getting experimental and seeing what works and what doesn't.
You can tell from the taste that this isn't a mass-produced, additive-packet ketchup so I went off to investigate the company behind the products. It turns out that I was right - the Hawkshead Relish Company is a small family run business based in the Lake District. Originally running a cafe in the centre of their village, the owners Mark and Maria focused all their attention on their relishes, chutneys and preserves when the 2001 Foot & Mouth epidemic threatened their livelihood, emptying the cafe of customers. But as they say, every cloud has a silver lining.
The website explains : "Within a couple of years they had to close the cafe down to concentrate on the production full time and were winning many awards and accolades for their products. In 2005 they received the top award from the Great Taste Awards when they won the coveted "Speciality Producer of the Year" award. In 2007 they moved production into a lovely 16th century restored cruck barn, just a mile south of Hawkshead, ensuring long term employment for the small but dedicated workforce, supporting the local economy and community is very high on their list of priorities. All the products are still made by hand in small batches with no colourings, preservatives, artificial flavourings or padding out. "If it doesn't add flavour it doesn't get added" said Mark, who is the creative influence on the partnership. "Allowing the great quality of the ingredients to speak for themselves is the key to creating a product that bursts with flavour".
Well, it certainly works ! If you happen to find yourself near the picturesque south Lakeland village of Hawkshead, you can call in to stock your kitchen cupboards and taste the goodies they have on offer in the shop !
star rating : 4.5/5
RRP : £2.65
for more information : http://www.hawksheadrelish.com/shop/products/damson-ketchup.htm
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