The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Patum Peperium. Gentleman’s Relish

Gentleman's Relish from Fortnum and MasonThis exquisite concoction is so quintessentially English that Danny had never heard of it until the fateful day when he stepped over the Cottage Smallholder threshold. And then I didn’t rush at him shrieking, “Patum Peperium,” or even, “Gentleman’s Relish.” In retrospect, this might have got the relationship off to a cracking start. Several years passed before he was introduced to this delicacy.

My nephew, Hamish, sent Danny this special Fortnum’s pot of relish one Christmas. Whilst I marvelled over the bijou pot, Danny was tasting and spreading. In a trice he was hooked. The instructions direct the user to spread sparingly. I don’t think D read these. It was licked clean within two days.

John Osborn created this spicy anchovy paste in 1828. He was clearly a canny lad as the recipe has never been published and it is now made, under license, by Elsenham Quality Foods. Apparently only one Elsenham employee knows the recipe. This seems a bit dodgy to me. An obvious target for a culinary kidnap.

For me Gentleman’s Relish was part of growing up. It sat in the fridge in a heavy white glass pot. It was easy to knock the lid off when one was reaching for something in the depths beyond. The old pots were great and often recycled as ashtrays. They have now been replaced by plastic pots with lids that stay on.

I hated it as a child but took to it in my twenties. Traditionally “Gentleman’s Relish” is spread on thin, lightly buttered hot toast. We had it on toast, under scrambled egg for supper when I was growing up. It’s also excellent spread on toast, covered with soft cheese and lightly grilled. Some people that I know even add a dollop to fish pie. Although the Fortnum and Mason website scorns this sort of wanton behaviour and directs every one to treat “The Gentleman’s Relish” with the respect it deserves.

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  1. Are you confused about where the name Patum Peperium comes from, Gentlemen’s Relish or Poachers Relish?

    Patum Peperium doesn’t appear to mean anything as neither word is actually Latin as far as I can tell. One Latin to English translator I tried came up with “a space to bear” which you can make of what you will.

    Gentlemen’s Relish is exactly what is means. The paste was considered too strong for the weaker sex and too expensive for the riff raff, so Gentlemen’s it was.

    Poacher’s Relish is named for, well, a Poacher. A Poacher is someone who steals (poaches) livestock – usually game or fish – from a protected area. Traditionally this would be a peasant stealing from the lord of the manor and for a long time was a hanging offence in Britain. In this case, the poacher would be someone stealing a nice salmon from the Laird’s Loch up in bonny Scotland.

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi monshure bon dova

    That sounds scrummy.

  3. monshure bon dova

    fantastic on a nice crusty french bread grilled till golden brown with a extra helping of cheese if desired!

  4. Fiona Nevile

    Hi William,

    I’m sorry but I don’t know what the name means. I have always imagined that it was made up by the man who invented it.

  5. I am eating the poacher’s version right now. Excellent, but what does the name mean? That is actually what I am looking for.

  6. Fiona Nevile

    Hi John,

    That sounds mouth watering. What a great idea.

  7. John Osbourn

    Poachers Relish is delicious on baked potatoes with a touch of butter.

  8. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Conor,

    Yes, it is Poacher’s and I think it is pretty good too. What do you think?

  9. Conor Booker

    It’s poachers relish nout paupers

  10. urbanyearners

    I too grew up with patum paperium, it was a favourite of my fathers. My brother, sister and i found the rather austere name highly amusing and would only ever say it in a very snooty nosed accent.We all found the taste far too strong but like many other things that i disagreed with my father about as a child i later found myself realising he was right. I love the stuff now and was very excited to come across “Paupers Relish” a month or so ago. It’s made by the same people but includes salmon and lemon as the main ingredients.It’s good to see people branching out in new directions but i’m not sure they have surpassed the original formula.

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