Food: A taste of bitters is sweet

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Indy Lifestyle Online
It's not so much as case of "put that in your pipe and smoke it" as "put that on your plate and eat it!" Chef Richard Corrigan at Lindsay House in London's Soho is using pipe tobacco in his puddings, and he thinks it is only a matter of time before other chefs get into the habit.

"Tobacco has a great kick," says Richard. "It's a bit like chilli in some ways. It has an incredible flavour and really sets the palate on fire."

He adds that he doesn't believe there is any danger to health as he simply infuses a pinch of tobacco for 10 to 12 seconds in a syrup, which he then serves with fig or banana tart. And it seems to be going down pretty well with customers at his pounds 40-a-head modern Irish restaurant.

"At first people do think it is a bit strange, but when they try it they love it," says Richard, whose other specialities de la maison include crispy pig's ear and veal knuckle. "I like to move things forward and bring new flavours to the palate," says Richard. "I also think that with the `no smoking' policy appearing in more and more restaurants it adds a bit of fun to have tobacco on the menu."

There are other ingredients you may be surprised to find on your plate. Most commonly associated with gin-swilling old colonels, who use it to spice up their pink gins, Angostura bitters were given a new lease of life after Delia Smith used a few drops in a fruit cake recipe. As a result, the "cranberry factor" has come into play, and supermarkets have been inundated with requests for it.

At the BBC Good Food Show in Birmingham last week, members of the public were being offered fresh pineapple with Angostura; a relish containing Angostura, cranberry and orange; and, of course, Angostura rich fruit cake.

In the past, tea has occasionally been used to add flavour to cakes and breads, but now everything from mulled fruit tea to Lapsang Souchong is cropping up in recipes. Last month, BBC Vegetarian Good Food Magazine featured prunes and honey simmered gently in Earl Grey and mango tea, and pears poached in lemon and ginger tea.

But according to the magazine's cookery editor Lorna Brash it is not so much about novelty as thrift. "Tea bags, particularly herbal tea bags, are simply a cheap alternative to spices," she explains.