Okay, Christmas is over; it’s 2018. Time to have a stretch, dust off the stale Christmas cake crumbs and Quality Street wrappers (I hate Quality Street but ’tis the season innit), break up my beloved routine of getting up late only to eat scraps of roast dinner and watch films before driving over to boy’s to eat scraps of roast dinner and watch films, and start writing again. The topic to break my temporary vow of silence and set the tone for my 2018 is one that has been floating around my head for exactly 24 hours when it first occurred to me as I was falling asleep, causing me to roll over and quickly tap it into the notes on my phone; it reads ‘salad cream – does anyone but my mum actually eat it?’. So my first post of the new year; Heinz Salad Cream. After 24 hours of mulling, I have questions to raise. NB looking back on this I have essentially given you an in depth history lesson on Heinz salad cream. Please read on though, it’s saucy (oh stop it, Pip).
The first, most urgent query I have (if queries on salad cream can qualify as ‘urgent’); what on earth is it? Where was this strange mayonnaise/unexplainably tangy condiment hybrid conceived? Egg, vinegar, mustard, more vinegar, from what I can gather; so essentially a more vinegary, watery mayo. The first incident I can find of it is in within my dense copy of Mrs Beeton’s Household Management, though I’m guessing it probably took Heinz’s first launch of the stuff in 1914 to popularise it as I doubt even the most religious of Mrs Beeton’s followers would have been arsed to search through 1,000 plus recipes to find it (why am I speculating on the popularisation of salad cream? Oh well, I’m in this now). From then it established itself as the perfect way to posh up a salad, dolloped next to an expertly shredded iceberg lettuce and some sliced tomatoes to make the neighbours raise an eyebrow.
It hit peak popularity during the war, becoming a staple for some questionable wartime recipes and taking top spot in the condiment world due to the unavailability of ketchup. However, post-wartime saw the status of salad cream become a bit Eastenders. With its public damnation by the likes of cookery writer Elizabeth David, who dubbed salad cream ‘one of the great culinary disasters of this country’ and the introduction of arch enemy, Hellman’s Mayo, to the shelves in the 60s, salad cream was nudged to the back of the cupboard to make room for more aspirational condiments, where it has arguably remained ever since. Maybe my dissertation should have been on this…
Perhaps a less favoured burger topper and chip dipper, but not totally forgotten it seems. After Heinz announced a plan to scrap salad cream in 1999 there was public outcry, with a barrage of salad cream loyalists writing in to express their outrage. Such was the volume of protest, with supporters of the sauce extending to the House of Commons catering staff, that Heinz decided to retract their announcement and the wartime favourite was saved.
But the question still remains (my dissertation’s title); in 2018, has Heinz salad cream truly had its day, or is there still a place in our hearts and our fridge doors for the ‘original tangy taste’? Every other condiment has managed to hybridise, modernise, mellenialise, to suit our new well travelled and refined palettes. Come summer barbecue time and we have an entire cupboard prepped with ketchup in the regular, smoked and ‘artisan’ variety, mayo in every flavour from garlic (my clear favourite) to lemon to gochujang (for when we’re feeling extra exotic/up ourselves), and mustard in 5 different consistencies. Not to mention oils, vinegars and dressings in abundance. But despite the startling variety of things to dip, things to pour and things to squeeze, it’s always Mum’s ‘can you get the salad cream for me’ that I hear as I get up to browse what I want to flavour my dinner with. Underloved and arguably underrated (though I can’t say I agree), there will always be at least one die-hard supporter of the Heinz salad cream.
So there we go; I’m not entirely sure why I felt the desire to delve into the history and politics of salad cream, but my curiosity has been satisfied, and as a result I’ve probably lost a lot of readers. But who cares, it’s my blog and I’ll bore you if I want. Here’s a recipe for parsnip pancakes, adapted ever so slightly from Alexandra Dudley because it was one of the best things I ate last year and I want convince you of the greatness of parsnips.
Parsnip Pancakes with Walnut Pesto for 3/4
2 large parsnips, peeled and chopped into 2cm cubes
2 eggs, beaten
100g flour (any will do; she suggests spelt but I used gluten free plain)
1tsp baking powder
A few cm of chives, chopped small
100g walnuts, toasted in the oven for a few minutes
Bunch of basil, stems included
1 garlic clove
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
- First, heat a frying pan on medium and put a generous knob of butter in to melt. Add your parsnip and fry gently with a lid on for about 10 minutes until soft, tossing/stirring occasionally. Once cooked, put into a blender (or bowl if using a stick blender).
- Add the milk and blend until a smooth. Set aside in a bowl to cool while you make the pesto.
- Wash out your blender and add the walnuts, basil, garlic, juice from the lemon and a few large slugs of olive oil. Blend until it reaches the desires consistency – I like mine quite course so I can spoon it on top rather than drizzle. Season to taste and set aside in a bowl.
- Next, add your eggs to the parsnip mixture and whisk until just combined. Sift in the flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt. Add the chives and whisk everything together gently until it has just about come together.
- Heat your pan on medium/high and add another knob of butter to the pan. Using a ladle, spoon on a generous dollop of pancake mixture and let it sizzle for around 4 minutes before flipping. You want to sea a few tiny bubbles forming on the surface. Cook for a few more minutes and then plate up. Repeat until you’ve used all the batter.
- Serve with a dollop of pesto and a large salad dressed with something lemony. Alexandra gave the recipe for a lemon whipped ricotta too, but I found the pancakes alone with the pesto were more than satisfying without being too rich (and a dollop of garlic mayo to accompany, obviously).