This is part an apology and part showing off (more showing off)!
I will be out of the lab for the whole month of August as I will be travelling through Greece and the Greek islands. This is a research trip (Researching drinking habits, partying practices, sun tanning procedures, etc), so I will have plenty more for you in September about the country where half of my heritage comes from.
But don’t pannick, I always remember my faithful readers I have written enough stories and scheduled them to be published 2 times per week, so keep checking as there are plenty to keep you going every week.
You have to love the European lifestyle of taking the full month of August off, stay safe during the holidays and have FUN!
Continuing on from the research into the Agar clarification technique of this week I have made a few more interesting drinks.
This one so far is definitely my favorite! I am a very big fan of Sake from living in Asia for many years. Here in Spain we have the most beautiful Plums in Season at the moment, I am eating them until they give me a stomach ache!
So with this one I selected my favorite sake as in these quantities you will still feel the full flavor of the rice coming through. I juiced some very over ripe plums but I left the skin on to give it that sweet and sour effect. So as per this technique I added 0.02% of Agar and set it. When set I pushed it though some absorbent paper and got the most beautiful and clear rose colored liquid. Well let’s just say it tastes 10 times better than it looks!
The best way to drink this is like a martini, so I have chilled it down to -7 using liquid nitrogen. The perfect summer cocktail and only 8% alcohol.
When it comes to color “How much is too much?”
There is always a very fine line between wanting the plate to look vibrant and turning it into a Carnival. For me I guess if it all has a place there (flavor wise) then go for it, but when you are adding things purely for a decorative point of view……… Be Careful!
Take this plate above as an example, it is a very carefully themed plate with every ingredient earning it’s place. But it is on the borderline of too much. This is a sample plate I am working on for our banquets department. The original combination of flavors comes from my friend Paul Pairet in Shanghai. They are a set of ingredients which just go so well together; Foie gras, Purple cabbage, raspberry vinegar, truffle and strawberry reduction. All the flavors are perfectly matched but they all turn out pretty colorful! Combine this with the fact of when you add an acidic substance to cabbage juice it reacts and turns pink in front of your eyes as you can see in 2 points in the above photo.
What about the color Blue??????? It has been voted as the most “off-putting” color to eat………….. Is this true?
The next person that says this refer them to this article, will make them think twice.
After numerous trials and errors, I have finally come to something very interesting using Aloe Vera. The same Aloe Vera I cooked at a low temperature for 4 hours (using sugar syrup and Ascorbic acid) last week has still been sitting in the same syrup in a vacuum bag. So over this time it has taken in much more of the liquid, so basically when cooked on the plancha at a very high temperature it caramelizes on all sides while keeping the jelly like texture on the inside. One of the very interesting points is when it is on the plancha it fills with air in all the very small cells but the moment you remove it all the air escapes. This is the best result I have had so far as the very distinct flavor of Aloe vera remains whereas when it is dehydrated at 60 degrees only the flavor of the sugar remains with none of the aloe vera perfume.
This is only the technique, once perfected I will create a dessert around it to highlight all of the interesting points. At least all of this work using aloe vera has softened my hands over the past 2 weeks!
Thanks to the work of the guys at Cooking Issues (http://cookingissues.wordpress.com/), I have come to learn of a new technique in clarifcation. Normally whenever I see a new technique I do not ever do it as I prefer to find new ones myself, but in this case I will make an exception as this one is very good! Basically it is working on the same principle as a technique discovered some years ago which was setting your liquid to be clarified in Gelatine then freezing it, then you have to let it defrost in the fridge in cloth so the pure liquid drips out while the particles are stuck in the links of the gel. This technique took a while to achieve and most of the time the liquid would absorb some of the smells from the refridgerator as it needed too long to melt and clarify.
With this new technique it is fast and gives a much better result! The basics are using 0.02% of Agar to set the liquid, breaking it up and pushing the liquid out through cheese cloth (or something similar). I must say the results I have had are pretty interesting, my hat goes off to these guys! There is one negative point for clarifying the Carrot juice which is by taking out some of the particles it makes it much more sweet and you loose some of those distinct carrot flavors.
A Couple of months ago I was preparing a lot of fish, when I was washing the scales off my hands with hot water I realized they were melting and extruding a gum like substance. So I placed them all in a vacuum bag with a little water and cooked them in the water bath. When it came out I chilled the bag and I was left with a really hard natural gel. So I took the gel and placed it on a silpat melted then dried it in the dehydrator. Well since then I have not used the dehydrator and I forgot I left it inside. What it turned into is a totally transparent and edible plastic that tastes like fish! And whats even better is when it’s fried it puffs up like pork crackling! It also melts in water. Interesting little technique!
Click on the new page above titled “The Ikea project”, this page will tell you all about a major consulting and production contract which I have been awarded after 6 months of work.
One of the things that I miss about living in Australia is the very high quality of tomatoes! I thought before I moved to the Mediterranean that I would be eating the best tomatoes everyday, much to my dismay I soon discovered that this would not be the case. Unfortunately here in Spain they pick the tomatoes far too early and you end up with a product that lacks all the power and mouth-filling flavors commonly associated with Tomatoes.
The taste of tomato mainly consists of two amino acids, organic acids, and sugars. The two amino acids, glutamate and aspartic acid, are essential to the taste of tomato. The ratio of the two amino acids is also important – a glutamate-to-aspartic acid ratio of 4:1 makes the tomato taste the best and brings out the genuine tomato taste.
Young tomato plants bloom with yellow flowers in early summer and then bear small green fruits. Amino acids, together with sugars, increase in amount during the red-ripening process under plenty of sunshine (Figure).
If glutamate is removed from the taste of tomato, it tastes like a diluted apple juice or sour.
I am currently researching 3 particular Amino acids which will assist me to bond certain elements together. While researching this topic I came across a very interesting short article which just goes to prove how intelligent animals are when it comes to nutrition! If only some people were as clever, this way our alarming obesity rates all over the world would go down. Read below.
Good timing in eating meat or raw fish
The wild lion first eats the pancreas, small intestines, and liver of its prey. These organs are delicious because they are richer in amino acids than muscle portions. Two or three days after the lion has left, other animals such as the hyena come to eat the muscle portions of the prey. Around that time, the meat tastes much better since muscle proteins and ATP are increasingly degraded to amino acids and nucleotides (such as inosinate and guanylate). It is also said that raw fish does not taste good when it is too fresh. The reason is the same. Umami of fish reaches its peak about 12 to 24 hours after killing because of increases in amino acid and nucleotide content.
Aloe Vera is a product which has so many health benefits, but how can you prepare it so it is edible?????
This is a question I have been looking at for many years with no good results. It has a texture which turns into a gum in your mouth when you chew it. With health benefits ranging from healing of wounds, repairing of dried skin, eliminating scars and even treating some STDs. So it must be good for you right?
Well I have picked up this investigation again and I intend to find something very good with it. When you cut off one of the “Leaves” it bleeds a yellow liquid from the many green fibres inside, but when you carefully remove the green skin you are left with a beautiful translucent gelatin like material. But in this state it is very bitter and impossible to chew as when you do the Gum almost sticks your mouth together. I have been trying many different techniques over the past 2 days and I have discovered when you add Ascorbic acid to the cooking liquid it actually breaks the structure of this gum inside. So now with this little discovery I am bringing down the temperature of the cooking and increasing the time as when it is too hot it looses mass and dehydrates. As a result of using the ascorbic acid it changes the flavour into a cross between Aloe Vera and Granny smith apples, which is actually quite refreshing.
Today I have cooked it at 65 degrees for 4 hours and it is the best result to date……….. But still not amazing! This is the first stage, once I can achieve a good texture than I can work on the flavor then eventually design a dish to work around it.
I am sorry that it has been so long in Between stories, I have just started a consultancy company with a partner and I have been very busy on our first major contract. But I will now aim to have a story most days for you.
So basically today I was experimenting with the idea of a Sorbet which is stable at about 4 degrees but will melt when it comes to room temperature. The reason behind this is I have a new dish using Avocado which I have put a “Hellmans” sorbet. The dish is missing a very strong and fruity olive oil. So the idea is there are 2 sorbets which are both at different temperatures and have the same mouth feel when they melt (but obviously different temperatures).
To achieve this I made a blend of my favorite 3 Extra Virgin olive oils, this way it doesn’t turn out too peppery and has a very complex structured flavor. This is then made into a very rich mayonnaise then whisked with Liquid nitrogen to shock freeze. When it is about minus 10 I then put it into an airtight container (to preserve the fresh flavor of the olive oil) then allow it to reach 4 degrees in the fridge. The result is a ice cream texture which can be formed into quenelles which will slowly melt on the plate like a sorbet.
Just as a continuation, I have discovered if I slightly freeze dry the Mushroom essense frozen mousse “Caps” (which were featured in the below story) then they gain a very distinct pearl effect.
Not a ground breaking discovery, but interesting all the same! This dish is very close to being finished, this little trick just brought it one step closer.
What is a summer soup?
Well I will start from the beginning! I was trying a new technique using liquid nitrogen and I discovered it was making cracks in the top of my mousse which were exactly the same as the cap of a shiitake mushroom. So I made a mix of mushroom essence, reduced white wine and gelatine and put it into a siphon. I tried to achieve the same cracking that I got by accident when testing on a dessert. Well it worked perfectly! So being really hot here in Spain during Summer I decided to make a hot soup and frozen mousse sorbet. So I made a square soup of Chinese BBQ pork (which I make here) and infused it with many aromatics. To complete the whole BBQ pork and mushrooms theme I added some souffled pork skin which has been seasoned with a powder of cepe mushrooms.
But still the dish was missing some sharp rises and freshness……….. So I added some points of Japanese BBQ sauce and some Garlic shoots. But still it was missing something to shock you and clean your palette from all the heavy flavors, so I added some fresh finger lime caviar in random points so you only get them in 1 out of every 2 mouthfuls. Well the result was a success!
The cap gets served at the table so the guest can see the boiling soup inside of the paper thin gel and so the mousse only starts melting at the point of service. I have called it a summer soup as it is hot and frozen in the same mouthful, this enables you to eat a soup in the middle of a Spanish summer on our terrace in complete comfort.
So this week the famous Ibericón has been finished and here is the photo, for those of you who have not been reading this site first of all……. Shame on you! Second, a small explanation will be needed.
Ibericón is basically the best fresh cut from the Iberico pig (with the black feet and what they make the world famous Jamón from), which is not available in any other country except Spain. The cut is called Presa Iberica, and think of Kobe beef! This cut is very highly marbled and a very caramel flavour to the fat as the pig has only been eating sweet acorns. It is also customary to eat this cut medium rare.
Ok, so we have the Presa Iberica…………….. Now we add the king of all meats, BACON! But of course this is not ordinary bacon! It is a fresh belly which I paint with a mix of sweet soy sauce and Chinese 5 spice and allow it to air-dry in a walk in chiller for about 2 days. Then it gets cooked in it’s own juices at a very low temp for 10 hours in a water bath.
Take these 2 ingredients then fuse (glue) them together to make the new meat we now call Ibericón.
A long time ago before I knew anything about Spherification I used to improvise with a technique using agar. So I decided for old time sake to do a small test using this same technique, this is not going to be used for the restaurant! So basically we were having some Spanish Lentils with Chorizo for lunch and the jus was very tasty. So I took a small part and also some lentils and pureed the mix, added some agar then boiled it.
The technique of dripping a mix containing agar into a container of oil which has been in the freezer was told to me by a Danish friend of mine. The idea is the oil can hold the very low temperature and is dense enough that the agar slowly falls and sets before it reaches the bottom. It is a very curious technique that had many applications before but now with the advances we have made in Spherification and other such techniques it has been put on the shelf as there are many other better and more precise ways to do things.
After this photo was taken I figured out a way to drip the mix from a little higher to make the mix form into flat little discs which looked exactly the same as the form of a lentil.