Forget salted or unsalted, this autumn the best menus are dripping with artisan butter
Words: Katy Salter
These days, when it comes to bread we are truly discerning – we want it stone-baked, studded with olives or made with organic spelt. But traditionally, our butter has been overlooked. Until now. The artisan butter revolution is gathering pace – spilling forth sweet varieties such as date butter and small-batch blends laced with pigs’ blood or infused with coffee.
“People expect bread and butter as a filler, but we’ve made it a course on our tasting menu,” says Robin Gill from The Dairy in south London, who makes his smoked bone-marrow butter from scratch. “We’re certainly seeing a new wave of house-made and flavoured butters,” agrees food critic Marina O’Loughlin. “The Dairy did a lot to popularise it, as did Danish restaurant Noma.”
In its essence, the spread is simple: just churn cream until it separates into buttermilk and butter, add salt to the butter and roll out by hand. So you can feasibly create a bespoke blend at home. Here’s how to eat, buy and make this season’s super spread.
The Sportsman, Whitstable (thesportsmanseasalter.co.uk)
Chef Stephen Harris has been making The Sportman’s butter for years. On the menu at his award- winning gastropub is a seaweed version, made with ingredients from the beach nearby for a deeply savoury taste that’s like essence of the sea. “Crumble nori into soft butter to replicate it,” says Harris.
Fermented yeast butter
Anglo, 30 St Cross Street, London (anglorestaurant.com)
Anglo’s ale-like fermented butter has a loyal following. O’Loughlin raves about it: “Feather-light and almost like whipped fudge: just exquisite.” The butter is made by whipping fermented yeast into Happy Cow salted butter. Best served with their sourdough bread.
Whipped Marmite Butter
The Typing Room, Town Hall Hotel, London (typingroom.com)
Lee Westcott whips butter into umami-rich clouds of Marmite and Maldon salt using a chef’s gadget called a PacoJet. The result is a smooth, light and aerated butter with an intensely savoury flavour, which spreads perfectly on The Typing Room’s IPA sourdough.
Abernethy Smoked Butter
This chef’s favourite (Marcus Wareing and Heston Blumenthal are fans) is made by husband and wife Allison and Will Abernethy in County Down. They use local cream, churn it and pat it out by hand – the smoking method is top secret but creates a lovely barbecue flavour. abernethybuttercompany.com
Ampersand cultured butter
Pre-order Grant Harrington’s butter online for collection at London’s Druid Street Market – this one’s made in small batches. Harrington adds live cultures to Jersey cream and leaves it for “well over a week” at his cabin on an Oxfordshire farm. After churning, he kneads the butter and adds Himalayan rock salt for a deep, creamy taste. Harrington adds his to coffee. butterculture.bigcartel.com
Oklava medjool date butter
The Turkish restaurant’s butter has become so popular you can now buy it in Selfridges’ Food Hall. It’s made with unsalted British butter, fudgy medjool dates, spiced black-rice vinegar and sugar. Sprinkle sea salt on top for a sweet/savoury hit akin to salted caramel. selfridges.com
The Modern Pantry’s hazelnut and black garlic butter
Anna Hansen describes her butter as “like a savoury Ferrero Rocher” and serves it with scallops and caramelised garlic purée. Recreate at home to serve with fish or steak with 125g salted butter (softened), 6 cloves black garlic, 1 clove garlic (all peeled) and 30g toasted hazelnuts. Put everything in a food processor and blend until well mixed. Wrap in greaseproof paper and chill until needed.
The Dairy’s smoked bone-marrow butter
Make Robin Gill’s spread with 250g unsalted butter (diced and frozen), 200g apple wood chips and 100g bone marrow (from your butcher). Place frozen butter on a steam tray and cover the entire tray with clingfilm so no air escapes. Place the woodchips in a heavy-bottomed pan over a medium heat. Once the chips start smoking place the butter tray on top and smoke for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the butter cool. Roast the bone marrow at 120°C for 10 minutes, blend until smooth, season and cool. Whisk the butter in a mixer on high speed, add the marrow puree and season.
Brickwood’s espresso butter
This London café’s coffee butter, served on banana bread, has an army of fans. Take 90ml good-quality hot espresso, 75g salted butter, a drop of vanilla extract and 1tbsp caster sugar. Stir in a bowl until combined and serve immediately.
Photography: Getty Images