Sticky and sweet: 17 delicious ways with maple syrup – from pecan pie to a whisky sour

Ek’ve often fancied getting into the maple syrup game – buying some Canadian woods, drilling some holes, hanging some buckets under some spigots. It seems like a low-stress pastime, and you get summers off.

It turns out that they don’t hang buckets under spigots much any more. These days, they run hundreds of feet of blue plastic piping between the trees, a giant sap collection network that feeds a big tank. Watching YouTube videos of men assembling these vast systems is also, it turns out, a pretty low-stress pastime.

In the kitchen, maple syrup can serve as a general replacement for sugar, as long as you remember two things: (1) you’ll need to reduce the overall amount of liquid in the recipe and (2), despite many nutritional claims made on its behalf, maple syrup is no sort of health food. It may be a decent source of minerals including zinc, calcium and iron, but it’s also an excellent source of sugar.

The main reason you shouldn’t replace sugar with maple syrup is price: sugar costs as much as sugar, while maple syrup costs as much as gin: about £15 a litre, give or take, depending on the brand and grade. Anything markedly cheaper is liable to be maple-flavoured corn syrup. So use the good stuff sparingly, in recipes where its unique woody flavour can make a difference. Here are 17 of those to be getting on with.

Maple syrup is often paired with another distinctly North American ingredient – pecans – to mutual advantage. Jamie Oliver’s maple syrup and pecan tart, byvoorbeeld, is basically a treacle tart with some nuts in, and a bit of maple added to the golden syrup (you can swap the two, like for like, in any recipe). The combination appears again in this winning reader recipe from Angela Kim for maple buttermilk pudding. Here the pecans are candied – with maple syrup and dark rum – chopped, and served alongside.

Liam Charles adds pears and maple syrup to a classic pecan pie for a similar effect, while this maple syrup, pecan and bacon lolly – yes, you read that right – brings together three great tastes and puts them on a stick.

You could never keep maple syrup and bacon apart – they have been obliged to share crowded breakfast plates for years – but that sweet-salty pairing is more deliberate these days, and not just in lollies. Here, bacon gets a maple glaze before joining an egg in a brioche bun, while these maple syrup and smoked bacon scones have the combination baked in.

A slightly less obvious match features in this parsnip and maple syrup cake, a BBC Good Food competition winner from Catherine Berwick. Grated parsnip serves much the same structural purpose that grated carrot does in a carrot cake, which is to say, it’s fine as long as you don’t think about it too much. Thomasina Miers’ maple, oat and banana loaf has got one small carrot in, along with a bit of apple and two ripe bananas.

Tom Hunt’s maple and coconut crispies is, he suggests, a great way to use up stale breakfast cereal, although his preferred mix is a combination of puffed rice and other grains such as millet and quinoa, which makes for quite a grownup Rice Krispies square. Nigel Slater’s hazelnut maple biscuits are another sophisticated tea-time treat.

Sweet as it is, maple syrup’s uses are not restricted to puddings. Yotam Ottolenghi deploys it in salad dressing, specifically his maple and lemon vinaigrette. It also figures in this smoky maple duck salad, in the dressing and in a glaze for the roasted duck breast.

Here are two more top reader recipes for savoury dishes: the first, vir maple-marinated aubergines is from Julia Austin; the second, furnished by Suzanne Anderegg is for maple and mustard salmon parcels.

Finally – and fittingly, for an ingredient that costs as much as gin – we present three maple-based cocktails. The first is a simple twist on a classic: die Maple Manhattan from Nigel Sandals combines good bourbon with Martini Rosso, maple syrup, a cherry and a little sugar. The ingredients are stirred with ice cubes, 15 times clockwise, 15 times anticlockwise (this is obviously the secret to the whole thing) before being strained into a chilled martini glass.

A maple whisky sour, like this one from Gimme Some Oven saves you the trouble of making a sugar syrup first – just pour the maple syrup straight into the shaker. The Baptiste, from Happiness Forgets in London, is a heady mix of maple, cognac, orange bitters and dry cider. It may sound a little too heady, but remember: it’s an excellent source of zinc.

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