Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Soup of Cherries and Champagne

Confession time.....this was actually supposed to be Soup of Strawberries and Champagne from Philip Howard's book 'The Square - Sweet' however a late substitution forced my hand as strawberries became unavailable in the supermarkets and I had to make do with a kilo of black forest cherries. On a side note, the video above is a rough guide to how to the dish is made, the book is a more updated version.

Soup for dessert? Sounds a little strange until you read the recipe and come to the understanding that this is so much more. The original recipe consists of strawberry spheres, strawberry and champagne jellies, greek yoghurt spheres, strawberry sorbet and the strawberry soup at the base complete with a splash of Champagne to finish....mmmmmm.....

My plan was to omit the strawberry spheres as my cherries came in underweight by almost half of what Philip was asking for....2.5kg of strawberries, that's a lot of juice! I began by de-stoning and blitzing my cherries in a blender before passing through a sieve, infusing with a vanilla pod and leaving in the fridge overnight.
Weighing out Sodium Alginate

The next day the cherry juice looked more like a consommé gone wrong, a thick pulp hovered at the top of the bowl with clear liquid beneath. To get around this issue I strained the juice through a cloth-lined sieve and out came crystal clear cherry juice....things were looking good.

First job was the cherry and Champagne jellies which were made by taking cherry juice, Champagne and sugar brought to the boil to dissolve the gelatine and set into a mould for later. After that a similar method was used to make a sorbet base - minus the gelatine - with the addition of lemon juice.

What came next was a bit unnerving as I made the transition from home cook to scientist...a bit of spherification anyone? This is the practice of taking a liquid and encasing it in a gel-like skin using sodium alginate. Think Ferran Adria and those odd chef's who barely seem to touch a pan, instead opting for alginate baths and slotted medicine spoons....
Spheres taking shape....

Well it seems Phil has joined this merry gang of scientists masquerading as chef's and for the first time ever I was going to attempt to wrap vanilla-flavoured Greek yoghurt around itself. Using my new drug-dealer style scales, I weighed out 10g of alginate powder and added it to a litre of water. Top tip here is that its a good idea to blend the water to avoid lumps of alginate.

From there I picked up a teaspoon of the yoghurt liquid and gently dropped it onto the surface of the bath, which resembled a pot of glue. Initially, I was worried that I had miscalculated the powder to water ratio but gradually little mozzarella-type balls came out of the solution and once dropped into clean water looked really impressive. Some were better than others, for every perfect mozzarella ball there was something resembling a conjoined foetus.
Jelly spheres

Keeping my spheres in their water chilling in the fridge all that was left was to churn the sorbet and shape the jellies.
The final plate

 Strawberries would have been ideal for the dish of course but take nothing away from the mighty cherry. The sorbet, wow! What fresh flavour and smooth texture, up there with the best. The little spheres popped in the mouth releasing a burst of sharpness laced with vanilla. The jellies were okay, a little bitter from the Champagne but passable. The soup brings it all together. Sometimes when your hand is forced you can create something completely by accident, a great dish.


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