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Heston Blumenthal

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  1. Taste Preference

    Dear Adam, I have to apologise for this but, unrfortunately, yours is the last question left. I simply do not have the time now to answer it. Possibly because it is such a good question and merits an answer that I cannot give at the moment. If you don't mind, please give us a call at the restaurant and I would love to talk further about this. See you Heston
  2. La Cocina De Los Sentidos

    Hello Simon, I do know of Miguels work. In fact, he has bottled and branded a gelling agent made from manioc, extracted from the edoe, a root vegetable. This product is great as it stabalises fatty emulsions when heated and is called "Micri". At the moment, the only people that I know sell it is "Valrhona" We have been doing some work on the synaptic work of foodstuffs. The trouble is with these related topics is that it is not like answering a question on a recipe or the state of British gastronomy, it requires pages of text. There are several aspects to this new approach to cooking, the molecular make up of foods, the science of cooking, brain to palate connection (including the psychology of taste) and actual effects on the mind and body from foods. In this q and a session, I have touched on most of these topics, although not as much as I would have liked to but the one that has not been spoken about is the effect on our minds and bodies of the foods that we could eat. I am trying to work on a menu that will cause mind and body response while eating. This idea was sparked off by a friend of mine, Dr Paul Clayton, whose book Health for life has caused quite a stir. The idea is that the courses will be comprised of foods that will induce physical-mental responses. It is very early days yet and this is the first time that I have spoken about it so please be a bit patient. We are lucky in this country in that we have some of the best people in the world when it comes to flavour psychiology and the study of the mind and emotion. Dr Charles Spence, at Oxford University has written a paper called "The ICI report on the secrets of the senses " and is available at a mere £200.00. It is however, one of the most definitive reports ever made on the senses and fits perfectly into our approach to cooking. This report has only just been released but it heralds a new approach to the way that the senses are looked at and is well worth looking at.
  3. Truffles

    Hello again Cabrales, I am in a hurry as I have got to get in to the kitchen but your question is a great one that needs time to answer and discuss. As tonight is my cut off day for answering these questions, perhaps it would be an idea for you and "blind lemon higgins" to spend some time in the kitchen we can then discuss this further. Give us a call at the restaurant over the next week or so to sort out some dates. See you
  4. Thanks for the kind words, I have thoroughly enjoyed the questions. With regards to low temp cooking in usijng domestic equipment, the one thing that I would say first, is get an oven thermometer and probe. You may be surprised at just how inaccurate your oven may be If you do have a therrmometer and have checked the temperature of your oven with this and it is still too high, don't worry; good results can still be achieved with an oven temperature as high as 100C. More care needs to be taken so that the meat does not overcook. Just remember that an internal temp of anything over 62C in anything but pork or chicken is moving into the medium to well done band. Resting meat is allways vital but the higher the temperature, the more rest the meat will need. I reckon for a chicken, an hour is good. So, for the probe, beef at 52 will be medium rare, lamb is round about this temp, perhaps a couple of degrees higher. Ps. If your oven allows, you could always wedge the door open!
  5. Taste

    Eating is the only thing we do that involves all of the senses. I don’t think that we realize just how much influence the senses actually have on the way that we process the information from mouth to brain. So many things influence the way that we perceive flavour. Even just the acceptability of food involves a complex process of evaluation. Firstly, we register the basic tastes, sweet, sour, salt, bitter and umami. These are then broken down into sub tastes, for example, spicy, metallic and astringent. We then evaluate the intensity of the flavour and its aroma along with the texture and temperature of the food, something vital to whether we decide to like it or not. Up to now these factors have been directly linked to taste. Now we have to process information that is indirectly linked to taste but directly linked to palatability. The colour and general appearance of the food and even its’ sound will have an influential role to play. Finally, even with all of this information processed we have not quite finished; whatever our food may taste like, it still has to pass on the accessibility stakes! Our health and mood will also directly affect whether or not we like a particular food, as will our environment and cultural background. This complex process might explain why one food can taste so good to one person and so bad to another! It really is that subjective. This might also explain just why our pre-conceptions can, on their own decide for us whether or not we like the taste of something. Eating, above all should be a thing of pleasure and, dare I say it, fun! It should stir conversation and not stern silence. It should excite, charm and challenge and not become a chore. There is alot of work being done at the moment on this very subject by people ranging from Nerologiists to Prof. of flavour technology and is something that warrants pages of text.
  6. Italian Cuisine

    Robert, Italy is truly one of the worlds great culinary countries. I think that the problem when it comes to the question of Italy being hardly relavent to the world of modern gastronomy is, I think, that the benchmark for modern gastronomy is still the MIchelin guide and notably the third star. Classical french cooking can fit into this category of gastronomy and , above all comfort far more easily than Italian cookery can. It also seems to me that that more people go to Italy to eat regional food than for a gastronomic (haute-cuisine) trip. I think one thing to mention is that, until recently, Italian cuisine has been very rigid in its' regionality. if you are from a certain part of Northern Italy and do not put a Parma ham knuckle bone in your tomato sauce, it simply was not acceptable. The same goes with the un-written law that parmesan should never be incorporated into a seafood dish when pasta or rice are involved. There is now a new breed of chef that I think will go some way to change this. One is my friend Davide Scabino in Torrino who recently gained his first star by cooking regional Italian food. This however, is not what he enjoys cooking and if you request that the meal is left to him, then you geone course consisting of a scuba diving back pack and told to breath through the mask. You get a jet of oxtail vapor! I am not suggesting for one minute that this is the way forward for Italian cooking, but I do think that chefs like Davide herald the beginning of a new chapter in Italian cooking.
  7. Savory and Pastry

    I have a very good pastry chef and one who does give a certain amount of input to the menu. The dishes themselves come mainly from me. The approach to a dish is not necessarily the same. The idea could come from something historical like the sweetcorn with chocolate which stemmed from the fact that several hundred years ago when chocolate was first introduced into Italy, it was paired with polenta. Although in a savory state, I then started thinking about chocolate and corn. There is also the big issue of flavour memory, which is covered on the web site www.fatduck.co.uk. I am trying to work on the idea of an almost adult sweet shop for petits fours. With regards to expected sweet ingredients to be used in savoury dishes and vice versa, you are right, history has a very influencial role to play. Some of the dishes on the menu now and some of the stuff that we are working on are; Chocolate fondant with harissa ice cream, piquillo pepper compote, dried apricot and orange flower water puree, lavender seed and myrrh Macerated strawberries, coriander seed, black olive puree, pistachio scrambled egg and parmesan Pineapple-crab-basil Carrot toffee, carrot and violet ice cream injected with pumpkin seed oil and dried carrot with coriander The ice cream or jelly with four seperate flavours in one mouthful Savory-sweet candy floss Essential oils encapsulated in a grain of carbohydrate; giving bursts of flavours to dishes The use of fructose to enhance fruit flavours The use of a range of non-sweet sugars to invert the perception of sweet-non sweet dishes The use of flavours that are normally associated with smells and household products ie pine and ambrox Although a taster, I hope that this is enough of a stimulator for you Thanks, although it has been a bit of work, especially when still trying to run a restaurant, the range and quality of the questions has been fantastic.
  8. The chemistry of cooking

    I want to make something very clear. Something that I have said on several occasions before. I am not for one minute suggesting that the appliance of science in the kitchen is the only way to cook, or that it superseeds classical cooking. It does question more and although it has proved some previously set in stone cookery myhts wrong, there are many classical lores that have been around for a couple of hundred years that are unqestionable. Ultimately nothing should detract from the fact that the end result must taste good. By taste, I do include all of the other senses (sight, smell etc). I am precluding the whole question of what does and does not taste great and the whole perception of flavour topic. Altohugh this is the most exciting thing happening in food at the moment, it is something for a completely seperate discussion. I certainly do not believe that there is only one way to cook something. After all tastes vary greatly. If someone likes their meat well done, is that wrong? Or what about the skin on top of a rice pudding. Some love it and others hate it. This would determine the way that the rice pudding was cooked. What I am a firm believer in though, is the fact that when it comes to meat cookery, an oven thermometer and probe will give the cook a far better chance of attaining a desired result, time and time again. This will hopefully lead rise to increased confidence and encouragement to move on to new things. After all ,many people would much rather cook something that they know they can do well, rahther than attempting something quite ambitious for the first time and living in fear of it going pear-shaped. Imagine somebody serving a whole salmon, for example and rather than serve something raw, will cook the fish for longer. This will more likely result in an overcooked fish. With the use of an oven thermometer to make sure that the oven is not hotter than the set temperature and a probe, the salmon can be cooked exactly how you want it. Not to an unquestionable temperature but to a desired one.
  9. Hello Gavin, I really do believe that there is a huge untapped potential for haute cuisine chefs to work with industrial food processing companies. These companies can bring great expertise in techniques and food psychology whilst the chefs can bring creativity and detailed technical skill. There will obviously be areas that are not common ground. The two main differences are that the food companies need to produce massive quantities at a price and that these foods need to be able to be transported all over the world and to have a long shelf life These food companies are in the business of making money and up until now, to bring a new food to production, they have to justify sales that put the more haut couture style of food out of the equation. I have a feeling though that over the next five years, things will change. These food companies are far more eager to try and become more inventive. Speaking from my own experience, I have had quite a lot of interest from several food companies and a supermarket chain wanting to move forward and become more inventive with products. The problem is however, that they are still nervous about how far they can go so for the moment are very cautious. In fact, on this subject, we are involved in a new EEC project called INNICON, which I think that I have mentioned in one of my other answers. This project involves four restaurants around Europe along with a cookery school in Paris, an engineering company, a flavour company and a food technology company. The idea is that by all working together, we can come up wit new techniques, produce new pieces of equipment and even look at manufacturing new ingredients both to make life in the kitchen easier, saving time, improving cooking techniques and coming up with new dishes. So, in answer to your question, I think that haute-cuisine chefs could become akin to haute-couturiers for fasion houses but in a slightly less direct way. One thing that I am sure about however, is that the next five years will see major changes in food developement.
  10. Fast Food for Kids

    Hello Samantha, Thankfully my children have no craving at all for Burger king, Macdonalds or KFC. My youngest daughter wouldnt actually mind visiting some of these places as she may get a free toy but not to eat anything. Jessica, the middle child and oldest of our two daughters loves shellfish; muscles, clams and prawns along with most fish. Jack, My son however, is a carbohydrate freak. Pasta in particular but Pizza chips and sandwiches will do nicely thank you! All our children do however, much like most kids have room for sweets, biscuits and chocolate; at any time of the day!
  11. Hello John, Its' great that you tried the potaotes,. Indeed the lack of salt does show through at the end in terms of seasoning. The problem is that salting the cooking of water can really affect the crust on the potatoes. I have to be honest however and say that I have not tried salting the potatoes whilst they are roasting, this may not be anywhere near as detrimental and may produce a better-seasoned result. How about injecting the potato with a saline solution, or even something else (sorry, I am going off ona tangent here!) One thing that I tend to do is to cut the potatoes quite small; this way the lack of seasoning in the centre will not be so apparant. I also then use a mixture of fine salt and fleur de sel which works well. Certainly a completely different set of factors apply when talking aboutthe use of salt in the cooking of other vegetables. The only time that I would not use salt when cooking potatoes is when the potato is required to be served crisp (browned), otherwise salt would allways be added. Salt in the cooking water of pasta is important altohugh having said that, we have been doing a bit of work on this recently and adding a really healthy (if you can use this word) dose of salt in the pasta dough, enough to make it taste too salty gives the dough more resistance and bite and in this case, it is not so important to salt the water. This is because the sodium in the salt forms quite strong bonds (although not as much as calcium) and creates a tougher structure in the dough. There is a huge on going argument as to the benefits of salt in meat cookery and wether or not it should be added at the beginning middle or end or at all three stages? There is still no definate agreement. Even my friend Herve This, the french molecular gastronomist (he has a phD in this!)held a workshop on this very subject!
  12. We are still looking at wine and food combinations and this is an area that requires an awfull amount of work still to be done on it. Over the past couple of years of carrying out wine and food pairings, a pattern was emerging. Interestingly enough, it was a pretty basic one; the strongest dishes seemed to go with the most complex wines. Ok, so this is not exactly a groundbreaking finding and although pretty interesting, does not at all go along with the current line of tinking of The Fat Duck. I had been thinking for a while now; if a red wine smells, for example of blackcurrant, it is not blackcurrants making that aroma but a compound or collection of compounds that make up this aroma that also exist in blackcurrants. If we can then analyse those flavour molecules and see what else they exist in, perhaps we can emerge with some great wine and food pairings. This theory is still an embryo in my mind but I do think that there is a potential here for a new approach to wine and food pairings; watch this space! Wine has often been the catalyst for a dish. For example, we have a dish combining scallops with caramelised cauliflower puree, cep and sherry jelly. The sherry jelly was in fact the origin of that dish. Every other element stemmed from the sherry jelly. We are currently putting a few wines through the mass specrometer to do a sniff test and analysis on the wine. This why we can look at possible combinations. I haven't done any work yet with beer or scotch but give me a year and I am sure that I could do quite a bit of research on these! On the whole though, it is not wine that I find difficult to pair food with but certain foods with wine. Soft-boiled egg yolks are an absolute killer as the runny yolk completely coats the mouth accentuating the acidity tremendously. On a final note, I am completely amazed how a wine maker can turn out unbelievable results from just a bunch of grapes!
  13. Starry-Eyed?

    Hello Cabrales, I wold be lying to say that it was not an ambition to obtain a third Michelin star. It is however, not the driving force for me. If it were then I agree with your point about the guide being unpredictable and would be cooking food that was far "safer" and appealed to a much wider audience. I have come this far though and have obviously taken a fair amount of flack in the past for various aspects of what I do, that to change now is just not an option. After all, I love it as I am learning so much each week. The more I learn, the more I realise I don't know. We also have a problem that the building we are in is not sufficient for us any more. We need more space, a bit of land, somewhere to have a drink before and after the meal and a lot more kitchen space. We have so much more to achieve in terms of the food and I hope that, with that will come other things but all in good time. I am not going to pin my hopes on it as I may either become disappointed, or try to figure the guide out and adapt my cooking accordingly. Not only would this probably not make any difference but is also wrong. The guide is for the customer and not the restaurant and should not be responsible for influencing the way that people cook. The develpopement of the food is definatley being held back. I would have said that a couple of years ago, the standards for achieving a third star in France were loaded on to the grandeur and sevice but in the last couple of years, things have changed so much that now I don't know. I think that any guide on earth is going to cause strong feeling as to who it does and does not award ratings to.
  14. low temperature cooking

    THere are most definately a number of precautions that need to be taken when cooking meats at lower temperatures. Chicken, for example needs to be cooked above the temp threshold for salmonela and amylobacter. This needs 64C. Salmonela is killed at prolonged exposure at 65C (say for thirty minutes). In fact in the production of ice cream there is a method known as LTLT or low temperature long time pasteurisation where the custard is kept at 60C for 45mins. Having said all of this however, chickens like the ones from Bresse that are pure breeds and not subjected to antibiotics have a far lower salmonela count than the intensively reared nonesense that is available to most of us. In terms of meat like lamb anf beef. Think about the centre of a rare steak. This will be barely above 40C, significantly lower than the low temperature cooking ranges that I normally advocate. Indeed much of the risk element comes into play when meat is to be cooked stored and re-heated. In particular Botulinum. When cooking at home and cooking and serving this is not a problem. For any of you however that cook sous-vide, this dangerous bacteria loves the absense of air and this can be a potential danger. This bacteria although surviving in the presence of even salt, can not do so in nitrate salt or the chacuterie-style pink salt. So, low temp cooking is fine if precautions are followed. I personally feel that 64C is too hot for pork but you need to know the origins of your meat!
  15. Sealing Meat

    Hello Omar, I am sorry, I haven't tried your recipe yet. In fact I am a little embarrassed to say that I haven't got it any more. Can you let me have a copy again and I will give it a go. I think that the term "Sealing" is wrong as it suggests that juices are going to be held in the meat by doing this. There is no way that you can hold juices in a piece of meat by creating a crust on the outside. Imagine a piece of meat as a wet sponge. As the temperature of the meat tissue rises, the proteins contract and eventually contract so much (think about scrambled egg) thsat they force the juices out of the meat, much like squeezing a sponge. This will happen whether or not the meat as been browned. In fact, on the discovery series, Peter and I made a test with three pieces of steak, same weight same cut from the same animal and hung for the same time. We weighed the pieces and browned all of them. We then cooked the three pieces to rare, medium and well done. The well done steak had lost over one third of its' weight while the rare one had lost very little. Browning does however have an important role to play; it adds flavour and under certain conditions will allow you to make a great sauce with the juices left in the pan. Harold McGee came up with a great way of cooking steak. Basically, you place the steak in a hot frying pan and cook it, flipping every fifteen seconds. This way a nice crust forms but the heat never stays long enough to do too much damage to the inside of the meat.
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