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Savour the moment: sweet and savoury desserts

15 November 2019 by
Savour the moment: sweet and savoury desserts

Desserts that straddle the line between sweet and savoury are riding high in the trend stakes and make for a memorable meal. Will Hawkes takes a look at these along with some more traditional offerings

Marrowmel, a dessert on the menu at Native in London Bridge, is a feast for the eyes and the tastebuds. It's half a beef bone, hollowed out and filled with a white chocolate and bone marrow caramel. While that description might put some off, the result is superb: a rich, sweet dessert that fills the mouth with flavour (although the marrow is barely discernible) and unctuous texture.

"We're all about using up waste ingredients and stuff that normally goes in the bin," says Ivan Tisdall-Downes, chef and owner of Native, of his signature dish, which is caramelised on top to complete the appearance of bone marrow. "When you order bone marrow from a supplier, you can't order one bone! We always had loads of bone marrow hanging about, so we thought ‘let's put it in the dishes instead of butter'."

This approach brings together three of the most interesting factors driving change in desserts: a desire for innovation, ecological awareness, and a growing interest in options that walk the line between sweet and savoury.


Native instinct

Marrowmel is not the only dessert on the Native menu that brings in savoury elements. On a recent Wednesday lunchtime there was also Tunworth (Camembert) ice-cream, white chocolate and mushroom crémeux, and sea buckthorn sorbet. "I'm not a massive fan of overly sweet desserts," says Tisdall-Downes, "and we've created a restaurant that I want to eat in myself first. All my desserts have this savoury element."

It's a matter of health as much as taste, too. "When you're making desserts, you see how much sugar you're putting into them," he adds. "You want to balance that out."

The Tunworth ice-cream was the result of searching for a replacement for the traditional cheeseboard, he says. "We used to have a cheeseboard from Neal's Yard, but it never really sat well on the menu because we pretty much make everything else from scratch – it didn't fit with the restaurant," he says. "We've been trying to get a cheese course on for ages. I actually had to do one for a small event we did, and it's stuck on the menu since."

These desserts have become a key selling point for Native. "Customers come here for an experience; they want to taste something different, something they can't have at home," he says.

Savoury ingredients seem common across the board. "Adding vegetables to desserts is becoming increasingly popular at the moment," says Morgane Thouvenel, head of insight and innovation at wholesaler Reynolds.

"People are looking for healthier options and our celeriac and apple fool or parsnip and pecan cupcakes are an excellent way to incorporate vegetables while still keeping the dessert sweet."

Plenty of customers are open to this. A recent report by Mintel found that 21% of UK consumers would be interested in trying sweet pizzas, for example, while 25% of UK consumers are interested in savoury products that include sweet ingredients.

"Sweet and savoury flavour combinations are continually being seen in a wider menu setting, turning standard offerings on their heads," says Aryzta Food Solutions' marketing manager Paul Maxwell. "There is a clear opportunity for operators to profit. Adding an unconventional sweet element to a traditional savoury dish can elevate the experience of any meal from ‘wow' to seriously memorable, and we've seen the trend for dessert pizzas in particular gain traction."

So very vegan

Another key trend is the rising availability of high-quality vegan options, including products that might appear to be inherently non-vegan, such as ice-cream. Suncream's ‘Love Vegan'natural vanilla ice-cream, for example, is made with coconut oil, dextrose and vanilla beans.

"In the year since its launch, demand for our Love Vegan vanilla ice-cream has gone through the roof," says Rebecca Manfredi, managing director of Suncream Ice Cream.

Love Vegan vanilla ice cream from Suncream Ice Cream
Love Vegan vanilla ice cream from Suncream Ice Cream

"Its popularity is directly aligned with the current trend for plant-based food, which has really taken off. Consumers are thinking much more about what they eat, and while they may not have made the switch to a fulltime flexitarian or vegan diet, they do want to have that choice available to them."

New Forest Ice Cream has also recently introduced two vegan options: vanilla pod and salted caramel. "It is incredible how many people opt for dairy-free options wherever they go, [because of ] diet, lifestyle choices or simply just because they are interested in trying something new," says director Christina Veal. "We always recommend having a couple of key flavours to hand to ensure you're appealing to all consumer needs."

Steve Lyons, sales director at Thomas Ridley Foodservice, points out that this trend has infiltrated all corners of the dessert market. His firm offers vegan products, including the Handmade Cake Company's blackcurrant crumble, a New York-style vanilla cheesecake, and a Sidoli frozen orange chocolate-chip pudding.

"The chocolate-chip pudding is a traditional hot pudding that will satisfy the most discerning vegan customers," he says. "It's a tangy, moist orange curd sponge pudding studded with vegan dark chocolate chips and flooded with a rich chocolate sauce."

Healthy, of course, doesn't have to mean vegan. Olivier Ripoche, managing director UK of Brioche Pasquier, notes that this year's Salon de la Pâtisserie in Paris was dominated by healthy options. "[That meant] fewer additives, unsweetened, cleaner recipes, and low glycemic [load]," he says.

Sweet treats

However, customers still want a treat, and that can mean in appearance as well as flavour.

Pâtissier Tipiak has recently released a range of ‘Pop Macarons Fruits' in blackcurrant, morello cherry, coconut, passion fruit, yuzu and apricot flavours. These ‘thaw and serve' treats are gluten-free and suitable for vegetarians, according to Marie-Emmanuelle Chessé, international development project manager at Tipiak, which supplies frozen, authentic French pâtisserie to the hospitality sector in the UK.

"Macarons can be used as decorations, toppings and inclusions for other desserts or freakshakes, or even be served pick 'n' mix style – popped in a bag or box and sold as a takeaway treat," she says.

Frozen food distributor Central Foods has recently launched a new vegetarian and gluten-free ruby chocolate and raspberry cheesecake for the foodservice sector. "Some ingredients and flavours really shine together, and ruby chocolate, dark chocolate and raspberry is a marriage made in heaven," says Gordon Lauder, managing director of Central Foods.

Chef Joe Yates, trainer, demonstrator and development chef at Carpigiani UK, suggests customers look at the compact Carpigiani Labo 8 12E or the more expansive Carpigiani Ready 1420 batch freezer for their ice-cream-making needs.

Another Italian firm, Ferrero Foodservice, has partnered with renowned chef Francesco Mazzei to create a series of desserts for special occasions, including a festive Tartufo di Pizzo, an ice-cream bombe made with Ferrero Rocher: "Tartufo di Pizzo goes back to my childhood and is a signature dish of Calabria," says Mazzei.

Chocolate and cheese

Chocolate cake rarely goes unappreciated, and Callebaut has introduced a new Gold and Ruby chocolate cake: "Layered with a ruby ganache and with a gross profit margin of 81%, it's the perfect recipe to add a dash of colour to your menu," says Anna Sentance, gourmet marketing manager, Callebaut UK and Ireland.

For something a little more out there, restaurants could consider Schmoo freakshakes, such as those made by Aimia. "A highly Instagramable and indulgent dessert such as a freakshake is sure to get consumer tastebuds excited," says Karen Green, marketing manager at Aimia Foods.

Granarolo Group UK has launched its mascarpone cheese to help caterers create Italian desserts. "Suitable for vegetarians, the richness and mild flavour of Granarolo mascarpone makes it the ideal filling for a variety of desserts, from the traditional tiramisù to tarts and cheesecakes," says Aldo Bosco, chief executive of Granarolo Group UK.

A key element to any dessert – as Marrowmel demonstrates – is how it is presented. Tableware supplier Artis offers more than 50 dessert service options in its range, from the original Knickerbocker Glory to the Thermic range, which are double-walled, insulated individual glass serving dishes that frame the food, providing high visibility while maintaining both hot and cold food at the optimum temperature for longer.

High res Med MSGFRRCC Menuserve Ruby Chocolate and Raspberry Cheesecake from Central Foods
High res Med MSGFRRCC Menuserve Ruby Chocolate and Raspberry Cheesecake from Central Foods

Freeze-dried fruits and sweet toppings provide a quick and easy way for caterers to pimp up desserts and really tap into the experimental and personalisation trends, according to Eric Quirin, sales director, EMEA, for Chaucer.

"Freeze-dried fruit retains its natural colour and flavour, making it ideal for delicious, vibrant desserts," he says.

Back at Native, meanwhile, the desire to experiment with sweet and savoury flavours goes on. Tisdall-Downes' brother Billy also works in the kitchen, and he's responsible for its latest innovation: a fermented apple and kombu sorbet, served with vinegar pearls.

"That was a new one on me!" laughs Ivan. "It took me three or four tastes to get my head around it. It's another really savoury dessert. I guess that's we do." Increasingly, it seems, they're not alone in that.


  • Aimia www.aimiafoods.com/shmoo-drinks

  • Artis www.artis-uk.com

  • Aryzta www.aryzta.com

  • Brioche Pasquier www.pasquier.fr/en_uk

  • Callebaut www.callebaut.com/en-GB

  • Carpigiani www.carpigiani.co.uk

  • Central Foods www.centralfoods.co.uk

  • Chaucer www.chaucerfoods.com

  • Ferrero Foodservice www.ferrerofoodservice.com/uk/en

  • Granarolo www.granarologroup.com

  • Native www.eatnative.co.uk

  • New Forest www.newforesticecreamltd.co.uk

  • Reynolds www.reynolds-cs.com

  • Suncream www.suncreamicecream.com

  • Thomas Ridley www.thomasridley.co.uk

  • Tipiak www.tipiak.com

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