Lip-lickingly good if you like it, sickeningly bad if you don’t
Liquorice is one of those sticky subjects that can quickly divide a dinner table into two passionate camps: those that wax lyrical and drool at the very mention of the black gold, and those who simply detest the tongue-numbing stuff. Researcher Marcia Pelchat of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia believes that it is not an acquired like or dislike that causes some to wrinkle their noses in displeasure and others to raise their eyebrows towards heaven, but rather something you are born with.
Just in case you didn’t already know, liquorice is extracted from the root of glycyrrhiza, a legume native to southern Europe and parts of Asia. Its active ingredient is glycyrrhizin, a sweetener around 30 to 50 times sweeter than sucrose. This compound is routinely used in Japan to treat hepatitis and in China, tuberculosis. If your throat needs clearing, then a dose can help clear the gunk from your lungs. The sneaky addition of liquorice to tobacco products (its main use) not only adds a mellow flavour, but expands the airways, letting smokers puff a little more. Liquorice legend has it that Alexander the Great surreptitiously fed his marching troops with rations of the root to quench their thirst.
However, all good things in moderation seems to be the order of the day – a European Commission report from 2008 suggested a maximum intake of 100mg of glycyrrhizic acid to avoid health problems.
But liquorice is a spice to be celebrated. Denmark’s Johan Bulöw is a liquorice Willy Wonka, whose belief in the mystical qualities of the mighty root led him to follow a dream, transporting him from Bornholm to Sydney in search of the perfect liquorice recipe. A massive cooking pot from Chicago evolved into a liquorice manufacturing plant specially imported from Manchester. Today a factory in Taastrup ships out exclusive confectionery creations to select locations such as Magasin, Tivoli, Harvey Nichols in London and Chelsea Market Basket, New York.
This Saturday and Sunday, the Bulöw-organised Liquorice Festival promises to take us on a “sensory journey from liquorice root to gourmet liquorice”. A series of eight two-hour long sessions over both days include an open kitchen and mini-workshop, liquorice anecdotes and tales (in Danish), and liquorice tasting sessions at the participating exhibitors’ stands.
The magic oomph
Lakrids by Bülow is the undisputed star of the show. With Valentine’s Day on the way, Johan Bülow expresses his long-standing passionate love affair through the promise of sweet liquorice balls coated in white chocolate and tossed in “cascades of strawberry kisses”. Bülow sees it as his mission to spread the affinity for liquorice past Scandinavian shores and around the globe. Not just the sweet and salty varieties, but the entire spectrum of spicy liquorice flavours.
Adore in Afghanistan
A good news story from Afghanistan is hard to find, but Scagro will be on hand with tales of how it imports liquorice blocks from the remote plateaus of Afghanistan.
Try it in bread instead
A Vesterbro-based baker, Bageriet Brød, will be tempting the punters with liquorice bread and other tasty titbits.
The organic angle is presented by Woodshade, whose chocolate-liquorice balls come highly recommended.
Ren Lakrids imports the world famous Amarelli family liquorice drops in its iconic tins. Many connoisseurs consider this Calabrian masterpiece to be the tastiest and sweetest of all the varieties.
Nice cup of tea
A cup of tea or something a little stronger? Tante-T and the microbrewery Medicibeers have their respective steaming liquorice tea and distinctly flavoured Ale to sample.
Spice of life
Iben Büchert from Mill and Mortar promises to spice up the life of the quality-conscious consumer with a variety of herbs that maintain their aromas from field to kitchen.
At the Liquorice Festival, you can expect to encounter liquorice versions of ketchup, milkshake, jam, remoulade, soup, custard, as well as all the classic confectionery. This is the liquorice aficionado’s chance to unashamedly wallow in a world of liquorice and, as English chef Nigella Lawson puts it, to declare a deep and almost deviant love for liquorice.
Grilleriet på Dampfærgevej 10 (Pakhus 12), Cph Ø; Sat & Sun, open both days: 10:00-12:00, 12:15-14:15, 14:30-16:30 & 16:45-18:45, 250kr per ticket – 150 tickets available per session; www.lakridsfestival.dk.