We kinda thought pickles had crested and begun their descent. But it turns out we were wrong—at least outside of the U.S.: During a 48-hour stopover in London recently, we were delighted by two separate (and unexpected) pickle variations, at two different restaurants.
Upon returning home, we did our research: Merrill dug up the recipe for the pickle she'd tried, while Amanda attempted to recreate hers at home. Here's what we found:
Merrill, on a curious breakfast pickle:
Our first pickle encounter was at Rawduck, a hip, casual spot in Hackney that struck us as a more scruffy and slightly brasher transatlantic cousin of LA's Sqirl. Pickles and ferments dominate the first two sections of the menu, and as we were led to our seats we walked past a long bar littered with large jars of drinking vinegars, kombucha and various pickled things.
We were there for brunch, so we ordered large platters of eggs. I got an almond milk cappuccino and Amanda went for a blackberry kefir water. We only hesitated briefly before tacking on a dish described as "hot crumpets, westcombe cheddar & lime pickle." I imagined the lime pickle as a riff on Branston pickle, a sticky-sweet and tangy foil for the sharp and salty cheese, but what arrived was this:
Little doubt where we got our styling inspiration. (Thanks, Rawduck!)
The lime pickle evoked preserved lemons far more than the chutney-like condiment I'd been anticipating. The limes were unpeeled and sliced lengthwise into quarters, fragrant with mustard, and fenugreek, and tinged saffron with turmeric. There was a hint of sugar, but they were more savory than sweet, with a cayenne-induced blush of heat.
Instead of the oafish, unsophisticated third wheel that Branston pickle can be when it's paired with bread and cheese, the lime pickle managed to outshine the homemade crumpets (perfectly squishy) and cheddar (bracing and crumbly).
In their new book, the Ducksoup Cookbook: The Wisdom of Simple Cooking (due out in the US next spring), Rawduck owners Claire Lattin and Tom Hill aptly describe the pickle as "a good little number to get your taste buds into gear." Here's the recipe:
- 2 pounds (1 kg) limes
- 2 tablespoons coarse sea salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2/3 cup (150 ml) mustard oil
- 3 tablespoons mustard seeds
- 3 tablespoons cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon fenugreek seeds
- 3 tablespoons ground turmeric
Amanda, on the classic burger sidekick with a twist:
We came upon our second pickle at Lyle's, a restaurant in Shoreditch that changes its menu every night—so if you go there, you probably won't find this pickle on your plates. Served with grilled aged beef, it was charred on the edges as if it had dropped into the coals and been salvaged in the nick of time. We never would have thought to grill a pickle, but a light char adds character and edginess. I was given the taxing assignment of testing and developing this recipe. Here goes:
- Heat your broiler.
- Remove a thin pickle from a jar. (I used a mini dill pickle.)
- Pat it dry with a paper towel.
- Put the pickle on a sizzle pan or other sturdy, oven-safe dish.
- Set the pan under the broiler and don't touch it until the pickle chars. Mine took about 5 minutes. I turned it once.
You will feel weird and like a fraud, until you taste it. Enjoy with steak, sausages, and chops of all kind.
- 1 thin pickle (I used a mini dill pickle)
Love pickles? Hate them? Tell us in the comments below!