18 September, 2008

Patum Peperium - The Gentleman's Relish

So, last week I was running down Helen's British One Hundred and tripped over No. 33, Patum Peperium or Gentleman's Relish. I'd never heard of it before, so I did a little research and found that it's a sort of anchovy paste rumored to be excellent on hot toast.

I can't even begin to tell you how delicious that sounded.

By the end of the day, I had located a large handful of online merchants who carried the stuff, including one who sold it not only in the widely-available plastic container but also in the classic glass container (elegant black, with gold lettering no less.) So I placed the order and had a jar of Patum Peperium in my hands in three days.

Ooooh, I was psyched. I put a slice of bread in the toaster and sat down at the kitchen table with my new treasure. Inside the gorgeous glass jar was a thick portion of nondescript brown paste which smelled slightly fishy, slightly fermenty, and a bit like very old milk. The smell was strong enough to summon my dog, Zim, who sat at my feet and gazed up at me with big, liquid eyes, begging for just the slightest taste of this new and stinky treat!

First, I tried a little dab of it straight out of the jar. Salty and fishy, though not quite as fishy as I expected, a bit herbal, and quite unlike anything I'd ever tried before. I spread some sparingly on a hot slice of toast, and it was truly delicious, just as the jar label promised. The dog agreed. Unfortunately, my wife and daughter do not agree. This is yet another food that no other human in the family will share with me.

Since that first taste, I've been trying it in different ways:
  • Spread thinly on a lettuce and tomato sandwich - very good
  • Blended with lobster tomalley and cream cheese as a spread - aces!
  • Whisked as a seasoning into eggs before scrambling (suggested by the Wikipedia article) - good, but not exceptional.
  • Stirred into the gravy of a beef stew - Excellent, really "woke up" the flavor in a way that salt alone wouldn't have done.
I'm reasonably sure that Gentleman's Relish could be used in any situation where one might use anchovy paste, but it's so much better tasting than plain anchovy paste. I plan to keep a supply on hand from now on.


Alex Rushmer said...

That stuff is great. Although the name has become slang for something else entirely over here. Ahem.

Dave said...

Um...yeah, I don't even think I need to look that one up in The Urban Dictionary to know what you mean.

Michele said...

My favorite use of patum peperium is on toast with a slice of cheese on top and then put under the broiler for a few minutes.
Don't feel bad...there are several things in this house that only I will eat as well. The cat has been known to help me out. This week it was liver pudding. Phil is even afraid to touch the container in the fridge.

Jude said...

It almost sounds like the beginnings of a joke.. The name is hilarious and I really want to find it. Wouldn't expect "relish" to be fishy, though.

M Loo in Salzburg said...

Hey, Dave, my impression was that it's just anchovy butter. Of course, anchovy butter isn't that well known in the States.

M -
using the last of his purchased
Internet minutes

Maggie said...

I find myself inexplicably drawn like your dog to fermenty fishy things. I have to look for this!