Adding Umami (gifted)

I am pleased to be a brand ambassador for Geo Watkins sauces. I've been using their Anchovy Sauce since the days when it was called Anchovy Essence, and the Mushroom Ketchup for almost as long. When the opportunity came along, I jumped at it, because I really enjoy using their products. Full disclosure here: Geo Watkins have gifted me several bottles of each sauce, but my enthusiasm for them came first.


Both mushrooms and anchovies are high in umami - that mysterious savoury experience that makes so many things taste better. Other things that are high in umami are parmesan, veal stock (when made from real veal bones), miso and yeast. It's not surprising that chefs have been using these things for centuries to enhance their dishes. The labelling on the Geo Watkins sauces pays tribute to their origin in the reign of William IV. That doesn't mean, of course, that they're only useful for traditional dishes. A few months ago I tried a little experiment with modern, Japanese-inspired flavours and really liked it.

Mushroom-enhanced Tuna Tartare (serves 2)


1 tuna steak
2-3 tablespoons of Geo Watkins Mushroom Ketchup
1 tablespoon of dried tapioca
½pt dashi stock made from instant dashi powder
Green parts of 2 spring onions
2 teaspoons of mayonnaise
¼ teaspoon of wasabi paste
salad leaves to garnish


Place the tuna in a shallow dish and cover with the Mushroom Ketchup. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours, turning once after an hour.

Heat the dashi stock in a small pan. When it boils, add the tapioca and reduce to a gentle simmer. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, giving it a stir from time to time, so it doesn't stick together. After 15 minutes, remove from the heat, then leave to stand for another 15 minutes. Strain and rinse quickly in cold water to stop it cooking, then set aside in a colander or sieve until needed. It's important not to leave it standing in liquid, as it will continue to absorb, even when cold.

Lift the marinated tuna from its dish and cut into 5mm slices. Cut the slices into strips and the strips into 5mm cubes. Place the tuna in a mixing bowl. Chop up the spring onion and add it to the tuna, then add a tablespoon or so of the drained tapioca. Mix well. You may want to add more tapioca or a teaspoon or so more Mushroom Ketchup, depending on your own tastes. Finally, add the mayonnaise and wasabi and mix the ingredients well to coat and bind them together. 

Divide the mixture between 2 food rings on your serving plates. Garnish the outside with a few salad leaves. Remove the food rings, then serve with thin slices of sourdough toast and a glass of something light and fresh (dry riesling?).

If your taste is for traditional English dishes, of course, Geo Watkins sauces are a store-cupboard essential. Both sauces enhance any kind of stew, soup, savoury pie or slow-cooked dish. Add a slug of Anchovy Sauce to cottage pie to bring out the delicious meatiness of the mince. I add it to roast beef gravy and corned beef hash. Mushroom Ketchup gives steak & kidney pudding some "oomph," and is the key component in the wonderful Harrogate sauce for roast game birds (http://blog.theaperitifguy.co.uk/2019/10/great-game-and-edwardian-revival.html). 


Anchovy Sauce for a delicious, rich gravy

Click here to find a Geo Watkins stockist near you in the UK: http://www.geowatkins.com/stockists
Outside the UK, both sauces are available through britishcornershop.co.uk


Next time: Italian amari - bittersweet flavours for after-dinner drinking

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