Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Some Fat Duck recreations and a new project forthcoming.....

It's been a little while since I last posted on here and I'm sure all who visit this page will want to see me continue to be a prisoner of the kitchen and bang out recipes from advanced cookbooks. However the time has now come to put my own recipes across and develop a website that will give back to you in your own kitchen and have the opportunity to share the journey that I've undertaken through the many books and recipes at my disposal.

I hope this forthcoming website will give you all inspiration and maybe even teach a new skill or two or even just be pretty to look at....whatever you take from it, as long as you take something, then as far as I'm concerned its a job worth doing.

This blog will of course exist still, how could I erase such hardship? Not a bit of it! It's incredible looking back over the years at the variety of ingredients that have hit the plates in this house and there will be plenty more yet to come.

The photo's below are just of the finished dishes. In a way it was nice to just relax without having to stop to shoot a tuile mix being made or a piece of foie gras being sautéed. I plan to shoot videos for the new website which will help give a more interactive angle on recreating the recipes in the kitchen at home.

Three courses from The Fat Duck Cookbook then, are you mad man?! I must be. The theme chosen was rhubarb, something I really detest with its disgusting stringy texture and overly acidic notes, so why choose it? Well if anyone can make me like rhubarb I figured Heston was probably that man.

First up was the Crab Biscuit with Foie Gras and Rhubarb accompanied by an oyster cream and balsamic vinegar. Auldo, the legend who cooked every single dish from the book (www.thebigfatundertaking.wordpress.com), had this as his favourite dish of the lot so that alone decided it for me.

I still have a healthy stash of frozen foie gras in my freezer which is quite simply the best investment I ever made, forget the mortgage, car etc foie gras on tap cut into perfect escalopes is the future my friend. One new ingredient I had never tried before were fresh oysters which came by way of my second home, Leicester Market. These things were much larger than I anticipated and contained a lot of juice. Heston recommends 6 oysters to be blended together with their juice, oil and lemon juice to create an emulsion but 4 large Irish oysters did the trick for me.

Opening an oyster is a tricky business with your first attempt. Slotting the knife into the hinge releases a small piece of shell before you hear a popping noise releasing the top shell. I have to say the thought of eating this thing raw didn't appeal in the slightest, it looked like a flat mushroom which had been sneezed on.

Blending together the remaining ingredients for the emulsion was easy enough and I plucked up the courage to have a taste. It wasn't bad at all, quite nice but the oysters pronounced taste of seawater was a little strange, not unpleasant but I wouldn't put this near the top of my favourite ingredients of all time list.

The crab biscuit involved boiling a whole crab in water after frying the shell in hot oil to release the aroma's. Once the liquid has reduced to around 2 tablespoons from around 2 litres of water you have a crab reduction that's strong in taste and around an hour of your life that has been well invested. This goes into a mix of maple syrup and dry ingredients to create biscuits which to be honest didn't have a pronounced taste of crab as the syrup is added in a much larger quantity, more of a background flavour. These biscuits were very tricky to get right. If attempting this at home I'd recommend spreading the mixture on a silicone mat as thin as you can get it without using a template. Also I found using a higher temperature of around 150C gave the biscuits a better finish.

The rhubarb had been sous-vided in a mix of Grenadine and Grand Marnier (in place of Cointreau) and placed into the fridge. All that was left was to sauté the foie gras and plate the dish. I used rocket instead of the crystallised seaweed on the base after negative reviews of it being too chewy and placed drops of oyster emulsion and balsamic glaze around the edge with the rhubarb and foie sandwiched between biscuits finished with some toasted sesame seeds.

Crab Biscuit with Foie Gras and Rhubarb

Pretty lil' dish, eh? Delighted with its appearance and the taste was mind-blowing. The sweetness coming from the biscuit and sharpness coming from the rhubarb are in sync with the rich foie gras. The emulsion adds that cream element and sharpness balanced with the sweet balsamic. It's one of the best things I've ever eaten and not the most labour-intensive to produce. Satisfaction all round. Oh, you want more?.........

........Well here it comes! Cauliflower Risotto with Cocoa. Yep, just another mind-boggler from Mr Blumenthal. Basic structure of the dish is a risotto of cauliflower with dried cauliflower, cauliflower veloute and cocoa jellies. I chose to simplify slightly by serving the cream around the risotto as well as in it, mainly for the sake of a) my sanity and b) my availability of clean pans.

Sadly on this one my cocoa jellies didn't set. Possibly because I made an error in the measures of gellan F or most likely because I didn't use the de-ironised water instructed. Instead I opted to dust the top of the risotto with cocoa powder similar to the Heston at Home version, in the end it wasn't a bad move.

The dish is pretty simple to make in a few hours. Thin slices of cauliflower get left in a low oven to de-hydrate which is pretty easy when cauliflower doesn't contain a huge amount of liquid. The remaining florets are divided between making a cauliflower stock and making the cauliflower cream. Easy enough.

I managed to purchase the correct rice while in Italy last year. Acquerello is the rice of choice and is widely considered to be the best in the world....personally I wouldn't seek it out as a matter of urgency. The stock is added to the rice to create the risotto before being finished with cauliflower cream, butter, marscapone, parmesan and chives, not one for the diet-conscious.

The remaining cream was blitzed on high speed in the blender to the point of aeration and spooned around the risotto which was finished with the cocoa powder and topped with a couple of dried cauliflower slices.

Cauliflower Risotto

This was delicious, very rich though. Ideal for a small tasting portion as it was served in the restaurant. The key elements missing were the carpaccio of cauliflower used to shroud the risotto and of course the veloute and jellies. I didn't miss them on the plate though, delicious dish and worth taking the short cuts.

Dessert was another rhubarb effort...a Galette of Rhubarb with a Rhubarb Sorbet. I was feeling positive about this dish after the success of the rhubarb in the crab plate. The dessert didn't go without problems though, kind of to be expected with this level of cooking.

First problem was the container for my rhubarb terrine. Cutting the rhubarb pieces to Heston's exact measurements left a problem....there wasn't going to be enough rhubarb to cover the base of the container. I had to make a contingency plan and by using an egg box to act as a barrier and compress the terrine against the side of the container whilst pouring in the jelly to set the pieces together, it wasn't the most comfortable time of my life.

Still, unlike my cocoa jellies, the terrine set! Slightly on the chunky side but a terrine nonetheless. It was never going to be easy when cooked rhubarb is turning to mush the more you try and make it stand up.

The remaining elements were a sorbet, made with rhubarb juice and Grenadine syrup, an olive oil biscuit, puff pastry arlette, yoghurt mousse, rhubarb crisp and coconut gel with crystallised coconut pieces.

From sounding a relatively simple dessert the job's were beginning to pile up. The coconut pieces were made from grated coconut immersed in syrup overnight and caramelised in a pan. The slight issue here was that the caramel set and left getting the pieces taken apart a real task. Still the presentation of the dish was decent enough.


Chunky terrine! Well it was delicious, if anything it was more of a blessing to sacrifice vanity for pure eating pleasure. The sorbet was something else though, fresh, sweet and with that fresh hit of pure rhubarb, like a refreshing cocktail in frozen form, wonderful. The coconut elements were a bit anonymous amidst the powerful hits of the rhubarb elements. A perfect way to bring the curtain down on another memorable meal. Oh and I now love rhubarb.......

Stay tuned guys and watch this space, announcements of where I will be moving my activities to will be here soon.......

Please now follow my new blog at www.artisantraveller.com

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