Gourmet ketchups: Posh foodies reinvent Britain's favourite sauce

As posh foodies reinvent Britain’s favourite sauce, SUDI PIGOTT asks… Who’s king of the gourmet ketchups?

  • If you thought Britain’s favourite sauce was good enough as it is, think again 
  • The need to put a foodie twist on everything has led to the boom in posh ketchup
  • But can paying up to £10 for the dinner-table staple ever be worth it? Sudi Pigott puts the new range to the test…
  • Ketchup is one of our most relished condiments, a familiar presence on the dinner table and positively de rigueur at BBQs.

    But if you thought Britain’s favourite sauce was good enough as it is, think again. The need to put a foodie twist on everything has led to the inevitable boom in posh ketchup.

    Apparently, it is irresistible because it stimulates all five taste receptors on the tongue: salty and sweet at the front, sour on the sides, bitterness and umami at the back. But the new gourmet versions promise to add even more depth of flavour and sophistication.

    Top chef Tom Kerridge has launched his own range of handmade ketchups created in the Lake District by the Hawkshead Relish Company, including virgin mary, black garlic and gherkin flavours, while Boris Johnson’s favourite farm shop Daylesford, who earlier this year made regular deliveries to No 10, also have an upmarket version.

    But can paying up to £10 for the dinner-table staple ever be worth it? I put the new range to the test . . .

    COCKTAIL KICK

    Tom Kerridge Tomato Ketchup (various flavours), £10.95, tomkerridge.com

    Tom Kerridge Tomato Ketchup (various flavours), £10.95, tomkerridge.com

    Tom Kerridge Tomato Ketchup (various flavours), £10.95, tomkerridge.com

    Irritatingly sold only as a twin pack on the website, this is made by the respected Hawkshead Relish Company with Kerridge’s recipe.

    Verdict: The Virgin Mary flavour has a good chunky texture and intense taste that may be too puckeringly piquant for those not particularly partial to the iconic cocktail. I loved it and kept coming back for more.

    The gherkin ketchup is curious and a somewhat unappealing colour yet perfectly captures the sour sweetness of gherkins and is truly one of a kind.

    It would be brilliant with fish and chips or cheese, as well as steak. 5/5

    ISLAND SUNSHINE

    The Tomato Stall Classic Ketchup, £2.85, thetomatostall.co.uk

    The Tomato Stall Classic Ketchup, £2.85, thetomatostall.co.uk

    The Tomato Stall Classic Ketchup, £2.85, thetomatostall.co.uk

    Made by Isle of Wight tomato farmers who have access to a glorious glut of fruit, this ketchup is 63 per cent tomatoes, plus cider vinegar, onions, raw cane sugar and apple concentrate made with apples, radish and blackcurrants, allspice, cayenne, clove and seasonings.

    VERDICT: It tastes of just-picked, sun-ripened tomatoes with a balanced, mellow piquancy. Would work as well with veggie kebabs, as well as burgers and sausages. 3.5/5

    A TREAT WITH MEAT

    The Ginger Pig Tomato Ketchup, £4.50, thegingerpig.co.uk

    The Ginger Pig Tomato Ketchup, £4.50, thegingerpig.co.uk

    The Ginger Pig Tomato Ketchup, £4.50, thegingerpig.co.uk

    Top-end butcher The Ginger Pig has a judiciously balanced ketchup to complement its top-notch meat. Handmade at their Loughton HQ in Essex, it has an exceptionally high fresh tomato content of 77.8 per cent, as well as red wine vinegar, bay leaves, cloves, allspice and garlic.

    VERDICT: I found this superb, intense, yet well-rounded with enough tang to please bloody mary lovers, but still plenty of familiar undertones. It tastes like it has been created with a deep understanding of what will accentuate good meat. 5/5

    Daylesford Organic Tomato Ketchup, £4.99

    Daylesford Organic Tomato Ketchup, £4.99

    JUICY FRUIT

    Daylesford Organic Tomato Ketchup, £4.99, daylesford.co.uk

    A moderate quota of tomatoes, albeit organic, lots of apples, spiced vinegar with allspice, cloves and black peppercorn, onions, chilli and quite a lot of tomato puree.

    VERDICT: A deep red, pulpy ketchup with specks of spices. 

    I enjoyed the deeper, fruity flavour with its balanced sharpness. 4/5

    The Cornish Ketchup Company, £3.95, londondelicatessen.com

    The Cornish Ketchup Company, £3.95, londondelicatessen.com

    TASTE OF CORNWALL

    The Cornish Ketchup Company, £3.95, londondelicatessen.com

    A specialist firm, they also make a harissa-spiked ketchup that seemed rather too mild and a hot ketchup.

    VERDICT: This smooth and vibrant sauce has a sweet, concentrated tomato aroma with a tangy vinegar note. Ingredients include malt and red wine vinegar. The flavour is ripe and fruity yet with well-balanced acidity, and hints of celery salt and nutmeg. 3.5/5

    Big Tom Tomato Ketchup, £2.65, jameswhite.co.uk

    Big Tom Tomato Ketchup, £2.65, jameswhite.co.uk

    PACKS A PUNCH

    Big Tom Tomato Ketchup, £2.65, jameswhite.co.uk

    This one contains more than 20 ingredients including mustard, celery salt, tamarind and Worcestershire sauce.

    VERDICT: For those who like a lot of punch and concentration. 2/5

    TANG-FREE FARE

    Farmison Tomato Ketchup, £3.95, farmison.com

    Farmison Tomato Ketchup, £3.95, farmison.com

    Farmison Tomato Ketchup, £3.95, farmison.com

    I was surprised this ketchup from the purveyors of well-reared meats had so much tomato puree and used onion and garlic powder rather than real ingredients cooked down.

    VERDICT: Lacks oomph and the requisite tang and acidity most ketchups have, tasting dull and overwhelmingly of passata. 2/5

    DELUXE DELIGHT

    Trufflehunter, £8.99, webbsdirect.com

    Trufflehunter, £8.99, webbsdirect.com

    Trufflehunter, £8.99, webbsdirect.com

    Unashamed, show- off luxury, this ketchup is from a Cotswold based company that makes a whole range of truffle- enhanced products.

    Verdict: Very likeable with a good, savoury earthy, richness and discernable specks of proper truffle. This would enhance aged beef burgers, venison sausages or triple-cooked chips. 4/5