There are certain techniques in cooking which are the absolute basics, these are generally the ones which I take the most pleasure in as they are based on generations of knowledge. These can cover things such as Bread making, Pasta, sauces, Pastries, Pickling, dairy products preparation, etc.
One of the things I love the most is fermenting Milk products, one of the easiest being yogurt. I used to make my own yogurt many many years ago, but for some reason I stopped and didn’t start again until last week. I was looking at the amount of yogurt we were going through on a weekly basis plus the fact that they come in 120g containers which is a headache to open when you need 100 of them! So I started my first base yogurt last week and let it ferment over the weekend, the result I got was so convincing that Paco and I ate the whole batch (except my starter for the next batch) in 1 day!
The technique is so easy that you can even make it at home! Simply take 750g of whole fat milk and bring it to 85 degrees Celsius. Chill it down to 45 degrees Celsius then incorporate 70g of natural yogurt base. Keep the mix in an area which is between 30 and 40 degrees Celsius (I have used a container of hot water like a hot water bottle), keep it in this area for 4 and a half hours. Refrigerate and allow to naturally ferment for 3-4 days depending on how acidic you like you yogurt (the longer the time the more acidic). If you want a Greek style yogurt which is more firm and generally easier to use and more stable, hang the yogurt in a cloth over a container in the fridge over night to take out all the un-needed liquid.
As you can see it is not rocket science! Once you have started the base there will not be any need to buy yogurt any more as you will just use your yogurt as the next starter. From this base you can add your favorite flavors and/or sweeteners. You can keep the yogurt safely for up to 1 week.
I am sure at some point we have all eaten Fried ice cream in a Chinese or Japanese restaurant. Eating fried ice cream inspired the first real technical food question of my life, I must only of been about 6 or 7 years old. My family were eating dinner in a Chinese restaurant in Australia with my grandfather and we were all given a ball of fried ice cream, I still remember every aspect of that experience. First I was amazed at the perfectly round golden ball which was presented in an old fashioned glass ice cream bowl, the second shock was that the crust was very crispy and the obvious (or not so obvious to a child of that age) was that the ice cream was frozen on the inside of the hot outer shell. So without even knowing it at that point I was already beginning to question all of these things, luckily someone at the table was able to tell me that it was just a matter of deep freezing the ice cream so it didn’t have time to melt (a very basic overview but one that satisfied my curiosity).
So 22 years later I have decided to use deep fried ice cream in a dish.
But like everything that I do it comes with a much more complicated story, but for the rest the details are not important. I started replicating 2 Cantonese sweet soups that I love and used to eat very often when I was living in Shanghai. The 2 soups are Sweet black sesame soup and sweet peanut soup, both of which are served hot and have the texture of cake batter. Both of the soups turned out very well so I couldn’t decide which one to use……………. So I used them both! Now that I had decided to use them both I had the task of finding something to compliment the 2 very different flavors and bring everything together to balance the plate. To add to the Chinese theme I have used a yin yang pattern for the soups and the 2 points are made from the water inside of a coconut thickened with Xanthan Gum.
Now to add the main focus which will bring everything together, thats where the Fried ice cream comes into the whole picture. As there were already 2 elements which are chinese why not make the flavors of the sorbet Chinese inspired as well? Fried ice cream has a certain percentage which is hot so it made sense to use something with a strong perfume in the ice cream as when something is hot you sense all the aromas. The sorbet flavors are Lychee, Jasmine, Greek yogurt and Spanish Extra Virgin Olive oil. The negative point from regular Fried Ice Cream I had to over come was the very dense and icey texture of the ice cream due to the deep freezing up to minus 40 degrees Celcius. So for this point I freshly churned the ice cream then (with the help of liquid Nitrogen) molded it. To fry it sounded much easier than it actually was! First I fixed the outside very hard with Liquid Nitrogen then dipped it into an egg bath then into some crushed corn flakes to cover all spaces.
The result is balanced perfectly, it has the right amount of perfume, temperatures range from Frozen to hot and everything in between plus the texture from the cornflakes balances out the lack of texture in the soup.
A dessert that is far from finished but it ticks all the boxes already!
Duck a la piña? isn’t is supposed to be Duck a l’orange?
Yes it is but today I have been helping our Banquets Chef test for the new menus for the coming year. It is quite a common thing for the Spanish to eat duck and pineapple together. So basically we have fused the pineapple on the inside of the duck with the help of Transglutaminase.
The double breast is then cooked in the water circulator at 65 degrees for 40 minutes to ensure a uniform result for every banquet. All that is needed to serve this is to caramelize it on the plancha then finish it is a low oven.
Far from finished but not a bad result………………..
Why is it when it comes to bread most people think “It’s only bread”?
When prepared properly it can actually be one of the most spectacular things you can eat! Bread is one of the oldest scientific reactions used in the kitchen, which is quite relevant to think about especially now with the very long debate of the “evils” of Molecular Gastronomy being waged by those afraid of change.
By far the best countries of the world in producing bread are from Europe, each country has it’s own style and even a wide variety of styles depending on the towns or cities within that country. These days with more attention being paid to health there has been a few big changes; the first of which came about with several diets banning carbohydrates completely from the menu, luckily in recent years this has come back to an understanding of a healthy balanced diet including a little bit of everything (within reason). The second of those changes has come from the refinement of the grains, as society has developed the bread has become more and more “Over processed” by means of bleaching flour and adding many preservatives. Again, in recent years this has started to become less popular with people choosing more Natural breads containing wholewheat flours or with grains.
That was not the story at all, so lets get back on track!
The story was actually using already baked breads to make paper thin bread wafers. For many years I have been using this style of bread wafer for many things, but in this case it is perfect for the Avocado “sandwich” from a previous post. I needed a paper thin piece of bread that would break before it crushed all of the air out of the avocado so when the guest eats the dish they have the same experience from the first mouthful to the last.
It’s a pretty basic technique of freezing the loaf of bread (in this case I used a soy grain bread) then slicing it on a rotary slicer on the finest possible setting. So I managed to achieve 1mm in this case, just thick enough to hold together. Cut it to shape then spray with a Extra virgin olive oil which has been placed in a vaporizer. Season with a good quality salt and pepper. Place on a baking tray and slightly press with another “Up-turned” baking tray on top. Bake until slightly golden.
This is a very interesting result from the Agar clarification technique. When you juice a kiwi it makes a very viscous green sludge, and to be honest it looks like it will never clarify! But as you can see from the result it is amazingly clear with a very nice lime green color.
I ran 2 tests on the kiwi: The first was a bit of a no-Brainer, to combine vodka with anything is a pretty safe bet as it is pretty neutral in flavor when mixed and allows the mixer to take center stage. But the second was a very interesting combination as I used the new blue ”London dry Gin”, which by itself has a very complex flavor. I did not know how they would combine, but the result was actually by far the best as the kiwi flavor took it’s place in amongst all the botanical flavors of the gin and did not kill any of the flavors.
I did a testing amongst many of the people here and the results were pretty evenly split. This is definitely not the last you will see of this technique.
A technique which was made very famous by Paco is the “Olive oil Butter”
This is a technique using Cacao butter and some very good (strong) extra virgin olive oil. Paco serves this is the restaurant as a set of 3 with each one being from a different olive. Each one is carefully selected to show the huge difference in between each. It is served with a airbag bread which is separated and 3 different salts are used depending on which oil. This is both a gimmick and practical, in so many restaurants around the world you can get a dish of olive oil on the table which usually ends up dripping everywhere and making a mess. But here we serve it in a tube and it can be squeezed onto the small breads without any dripping, plus it is stable at room temperature.
The best results are using 3-1 Olive oil to Cacao butter. Melt the cacao butter and combine the olive oil. Chill them while whisking until you reach the desired buttery consistancy.
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.
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!
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.