Welcome to a weekly feature on my blog – Ben’s Zone. Written by husband… Ben. A foodie, coffee obsessed, ex-smoking, ex-drinking and Ridgeback loving Dad. Who is also seriously into his fitness. You can find him on the blog (most) Sundays. Enjoy!
Liquorice World Cup: The Best Liquorice Sweets
The BBC shared a really sad article earlier this week about a man who had died from eating an excess of liquorice. Of course, it was click bait, yes, some specific chemical in the liquorice hastened his demise but let’s be honest, if you’re eating a massive bag of sweets every day you’re playing with fire whatever sweets they are. It did though make me think about how much I really, really love liquorice and how many different types of liquorice there are to enjoy. So this week I thought I would do my World Cup of liquorice 2020. In the interests of transparency the rules are as follows. I pick some of the liquorices I’ve tried, I talk about them a bit and then I pick my favourite. Beautiful in its simplicity.
Liquorice is wonderful because despite being a strong flavour it plays well with other flavours and can work in a number of guises, liquorice is great in toffee, liquorice fudge is even a thing and it’s heavenly. liquorice isn’t necessarily for every one but it is for every one who has a shred of taste of refinement.
Finland – Skolekridt
We start in the North with arguably the most insanely tough nation in Europe, the Finns (seem an odd thing to say? Read this). The Finns like their liquorice salty, the Dutch do too, but the Finns have just the right balance of salt and sweet for a truly complex flavour. The Dutch also do a salt liquorice (they even have the mind bendingly salty double zout for those with a real death-wish) but the Finnish one is the real deal. The texture is also perfection, a bit chewy, a bit flaky and with the barest smattering of sugar on the outside. A strong start from the frozen North.
Australia – Soft Eating Fruit Liquorice
Australia, land of sunshine, surf and killer wildlife and their entry into this competition (I have decided) is the marvellous soft eating liquorice. Now, you might argue that as it’s fruity it does not count, at that point I’d remind you that it’s my competition and I can do what I want, so here it is. Upside, full on sweet, mouth watering fruit flavours (strawberry, apple, blueberry) and comes in massive bags. Downside, can be pricey, can have a slightly oily edge, gets on your teeth a bit too much and can have a weird floury aftertaste if you eat it in really massive quantities.
Netherlands – Honingdrop
The Dutch like their liquorice and they do it well. Much like being able to buy food from little doors in the wall (yes, really, no, not joking) Honingdrop is a stroke of genius. There is sugar there but the sweet taste comes from lovely delicious honey, it’s even in the shape of little beehives. Best of all you can buy sacks of the stuff, literal sacks. The downside is, like all drop, it is more a hard gum with a liquorice and honey flavour than the chew / flake texture you get in other licorices. This may or may not work for you, if it doesn’t I’m sorry because an extensive experience of drop is essential for any member of the liquorice cognoscenti.
UK – Liquorice Torpedo
Like a lot of Northern European countries the UK has a lot of varieties of liquorice and it was genuinely hard to pick just one. In my youth it would be the fearsomely hard Bassets sticks, but now I’m older and paying for my own dental treatment my tastes have mellowed. So now I’m going for the liquorice torpedo. Now, there are two places to buy good liquorice in the UK, Pound Shops and the market. Both will be able to sell you nice quality torpedos. A torpedo is a cylinder of liquorice coated in sugar and rounded on the ends, nuclear shades of colour are not optional. The torpedo should be massive anything smaller than a fingernail is a comfit, this is not what I am talking about, comfits are like children’s training liquorice and they have no place in adult conversation. The strength of a torpedo is the package, the liquorice is usually pretty good but it’s so versatile, you can suck slowly until the sugar dissolves and softens the liquorice or you can crunch like a man possessed and enjoy the chewy liquorice juxtaposed with shards of glasslike boiled sugar. Downsides, none at all, you mad fool.
Denmark – Lakrid
Laura got me into Lakrids. Just like hygge it all seems very understated and aspirational. I think lakrid is just the Danish name for liquorice but it’s also a brand name for a superb luxury liquorice with very bold flavour combinations (ok, chilli liquorice is to be expected but passion fruit chocolate covered liquorice? ). It’s really next level stuff. You might be forgiven for thinking this all sounds a bit ’emperors new clothes’ but the basic component, the liquorice is utterly smashing. There is an achilles heel though, cost, your have to remortgage property to buy Lakrids and, frankly, what good is liquorice if you can’t eat a ton of it in a sitting.
USA – Red Vines
The US are such a capable nation food wise. They have a massive resource pool to draw on and are the undisputed masters of savoury snacking. I don’t care what Korea may or may not say, the fried chicken you get in the US is the best in the world. liquorice is not fried chicken though and, frankly, red vines are not really liquorice, much more like edible plastic that you feel guilty about after. I’m actually not sure if it’s even supposed to be liquorice actually. It doesn’t matter, it’s not the winner.
Germany – Haribo liquorice
Finland – it was a close run thing in the end between the UK and Finland because those two entries are about perfecting the concept, not adding to it. Ultimately Finland edges out because just the right amount of salt lifts the liquorice itself above the torpedo. It is a hard one but man oh man, that Finnish great, when you find it, is the mother lode.