Jan 2011

Grape Amuse Bouche

P1010025_2Carbonated Anti-griddle ‘Seared’ Grapes - Purple Grape Glass - Fennel Sugar Strands

This dish is a celebration of grapes, with just a couple of simple complimentary flavours.

The ‘Purple Grape Glass’ is brittle and delicate but delivers an intense, lingering flavour. The fizzy, carbonated grapes are refreshing and palate cleansing, cutting the sweetness of the sugar strands. They also have a solid, then smooth and yielding, fast frozen edge. Finally the fragile, crisp, crunchy fennel sugar stands provide an extra hit of sweetness along with the distinctive and complementary flavour of anise.

This recipe uses fantastic bit of kit called an ‘Anti-griddle’. Its available on the
www.Modernist-Chef.com shop. It’s an amazing piece of modern kitchen equipment made by PolyScience, with a ‘griddle’ surface which chills down to bellow -35C . The anti-griddle allows you to freeze items incredibly quickly (thus giving you a smoother texture as ice-crystals don’t have time to form) and to freeze objects upwards from the ‘griddle’ surface by increment, allowing you to achieve unique textures and temperature contrasts within elements of a dish.

In this recipe the cut edges of halved carbonated grapes are frozen on the anti griddle. The top three quarters each grape stays soft and unfrozen so you keep the taste and texture of fresh grapes (with an added fizz). But you also get a texture and temperature contrast within each grape, and a really bright clean flavour from the frozen edge.

Whippers and The AntiGriddle available from www.Modernist-Chef.com


Grape glass
Above - The Purple Grape Glass

Purple Grape Glass

165g Purple Grape Juice
40g Pure-cote B790
15g Caster Sugar
5g Icing Sugar
Tiny Pinch of Salt
0.5g Ground Cinnamon
15g Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice (roughly equal to the juice of half a small lime)

Slowly heat all ingredients except the lime juice to 90C in a small pan whilst whisking, and hold the mixture at 90C for two to three minutes, continually stirring.

Remove the pan from the heat and pour the liquid into a blender, now adding the fresh lime juice. Blend the hot mix for ten minutes on full power.

Now dab a small amount of olive oil on to a couple of sheets of acetate and wipe with paper towel to form a very light coating.

Pour the warm grape juice mix onto the acetate sheets and form as thin a layer of the juice mix as possible by moving the sheets around.

Place the acetate sheets into a dehydrator ser at 33C for 3 -4 hours until the juice mixture has become a malleable but dry film. (The coated acetate can be left at room temperature to dry overnight but I find this low temperature stage in the dehydrator works well and speeds up the process).

Peel the grape film away from the acetate and shape the film as desired. For this dish I tore small pieces of the film and simply crumpled them up a little, pinning then in that shape with transparent cocktail sticks.

Finally dehydrate the shaped grape film on baking paper at 57C for 10-12 hours until you are left with crisp and brittle, abstract shaped, pieces of purple grape glass on cocktail sticks.

(These can be stored in an airtight container - layering with baking paper along with a small wrap of silica crystals to prevent the fruit glass from absorbing moisture).

Fennel Sugar Strands

40g Isomalt
20g Glucose Syrup
20g White Fondant
0.75g Ground Toasted Fennel Seeds (about ¾ of a teaspoon)

Heat all the ingredients except the ground fennel to 165C in pan.

Once the sugar mixture hits 165C remove the pan from heat and let it rest for a few seconds, then quickly stir in the fennel powder. (The mixture should be clear and uncoloured except for the fine fennel powder suspended in it).

Pour the hot sugar mixture onto a silicon mat (such as a Silpat)

As soon as the sugar is cool enough to touch, but still flexible, pull and stretch thin pieces of the ‘caramel’ into long, fine abstract shapes, working quickly.

You want a variety of shapes – some small flatter pieces and some long thin strands of sugar. Allow the fennel sugar strands to cool and harden on baking paper.

(As with the fruit glass these can be stored in an airtight container – layered with baking paper along with a small wrap of silica crystals to prevent the sugar stands from absorbing moisture).

For the Grapes

A mix of good quality Green and Red seedless grapes
Two Co2 chargers

Take about 20 mixed grapes and cut them in half.

Place the halved grapes into a
cream whipper and charge it with two Co2 chargers. Then place the whipper in the fridge and chill for at least two hours.

Complete the following steps once you are ready to serve the dish (and have prepared the Fennel Sugar strands and Grape Glass)

Lightly oil the surface of the anti-griddle and turn it on around ten minutes before your ready to use it so it can fully chill down to temperature.

Now, when you have everything prepared, fully vent the gas from the cream whipper, then carefully open it up and remove the grapes.

Place the grapes, cut side down on the lightly oiled anti-griddle. Allow the cut edge of the grapes to freeze and the freezing to continue up the grape by about a 2-3mm (this will happen very quickly)

When the grapes are frozen at the base remove them from anti-griddle surface with a silicon spatula. This should be done as close to serving as possible so that the edge of the grape remains frozen whilst the rest is fresh and fizzy from carbonation.

Putting it together

Alternately place the prepared grapes and some of the smaller pieces of fennel sugar in a small shot glass.

Arrange a couple of the longer thin strands of fennel sugar protruding from the shot glass.

Finally take one of the pieces of purple grape glass on its cocktail stick and gently press the tip of the cocktail stick into one of the grapes in the shot glass, so that the purple grape glass sits above the shot glass.

Podcast Interview

http://www.mylifeasafoodie.com/2011/01/21/episode-70/

Follow the link to listen to an interview I did with the fantastic podcast ‘My Life as a Foodie’.

We focus on ‘molecular gastronomy’ and vegetarian food but also manage to seamlessly get beer, music and the joys of Manchester into the conversation (good work I reckon!).

Phil, the creator of ‘My Life as a Foodie’, is a truly great bloke and was a joy to speak to and get to know. Please do check out his excellent, hugely enjoyable blog and podcasts.

Cheers

Eddie

Check it out! - www.mylifeasafoodie.com

Methylcellulose. An introduction and two recipes.

P1000872

(Savory Beetroot Meringue using Methylcellulose)

Methylcellulose

An Introduction and two recipes –
- Savory Meringue
- Super light and crispy Tempura

Available from www.Modernist-Chef.com

Methylcellulose is a popular hydrocolloid which can form a gel or act as a thickener when hydrated. Particular to methylcellulose is that it gels when its heated rather than once it cools. Because of this unique quality it’s often used to make mousses and gellees which are firm when they are hot but melt as they cool. Due to this many chefs have used methylcellulose in the pursuit of creating a ‘hot ice-cream’, the idea being to create something with the texture of ice-cream but served hot which then melts in the mouth as it cools (personally I haven’t come across a version of this yet which I think really works i.e. really gives an experience like eating ice-cream only hot –but I hope someone will crack it at some point).

Methylcellulose is used in various ways in modern cuisine. It can be used to great effect to create foams. Can be added to liquids which may then be dried to form films and baked into crisp brittle sheets. It can act a replacement for egg whites in some recipes as it can be whipped in a similar way to provide a similar structural element in a recipe (like with the beetroot meringue recipe bellow).

It’s also used in some deep fried foods, as when it comes into contact with the hot oil in a fryer it forms an oil impermeable film. Due to this using methylcellulose in deep fried products both reduces the amount of moisture which escapes from the coated ingredient and also reduces the about of oil absorbed into the coated item – this can help to achieve a crispier, lighter product with a great texture.

Methylcellulose is one of the very few modern ingredients I use which is not entirely ‘natural’ but synthesized from natural ingredients, namely cellulose - often from cotton. Its non-toxic and non-allergenic and a perfectly healthy and safe ingredient to use in food so don’t be scared off by the fact it’s synthesized. Bear in mind you most likely consume it fairly regularly already as it’s used in huge variety of products including foods and medicines (even vitamin tablets).

Typical use levels –

0.5% - 2% typical concentration for use in cooking

To replace egg whites use 2g Methylcellulose blended into 35g water to replace each egg white. Note – Methylcellulose prepared this way will whip to stiff peaks but you need to be persistent in your whipping to get it to nice stiff peaks.

You can buy Methylcellulose
here.

I will return to this post soon to add recipes and techniques for foams, hot gellees and mousses which melt as they cool, films, and brittle sheets - all using methylcellulose.

Savory Beetroot Meringue (vegan)

Methylcellulose here replaces egg white in giving the meringue its structure and texture. These meringues are then dried until crisp in a dehydrator. Here I’ve used isomalt to replace some of the sugar in order to create savory Meringue but sweet meringue could be made in the same way by simply upping the sweetness.

Here this is just a base recipe which you can flavour up, add acidity or other flavours to but its a really solid technqiue and then you can build in and play with the flavours you want.

The way I do this now is to first make a methylcellulose ‘slurry’. This hydrates the methycellulose before you use it in the recipe and makes it much easier to work with for this technique.

Methocel slurry
 
3g Methylcelulose
200ml Water
 
Boil the water in the kettle then measure out 200ml of just boiled water.

Now blend the Methylcellulose into the hot water with a stick blender.

Next begin to cool this mixture over an ice bath while stirring intermittently until cool.

Allow this mix to sit for at least a couple of hours but for best results sit in fridge overnight.

Beetroot Meringue
 
45g Methocellulose Slurry – (see above)
260g Beetroot Juice
1.2g
Xanthan Gum
40g
Isomalt – powdered
10g Caster Sugar
Seaonings to taste
 
First blend together the beetroot juice, methycellulose slurry and xanthan gum with a stick blender.

Then in bowl start whipping this mixture with an electric whisk and add in isomalt and caster sugar bit by bit.
Whip this mix to soft peaks, this will take a little time (more than whipping egg whites) but will go to stiff peaks eventually if you persist and want more control of the meringues finished shape.

Pipe into neat blobs on a non stick sheet or spread into a thin layer (or basically produce any shape you like)

Dehydrate at 57C for 10-12 hours till crispy.
 
This technique can be adapted for a wide variety of juices and a similar textured liquids.


Tempura - Super light and crispy tempura. (vegan)

P1000929 2

Using Methylcellulose in this tempura batter helps to create an incredibly light, crispy batter inside which the vegetables essentially steam whilst they’re cooked. It helps to keep moisture in the coated ingredients and also reduces the about of oil absorbed through the batter.

As well as using methylcellulose here I’ve also replaced some of the water in the batter mixture with vodka, which boils out very quickly during frying, giving you a fantastically crunchy, crisp texture.

Finally I also carbonate my tempura batter in a cream whipper to help get a beautifully light batter.

350g Vodka
450g Water
250g Plain Flour (or Rice Flour)
Pinch salt
Pinch chilli powder
8g
Methylcellulose
Plus your choice of ingredients to batter – ie shitake mushrooms, broccoli, baby corn, carrot batons, strips of peppers etc.

Blend the methylcellulose into 250g of the water using a hand blender.

Next whisk the vodka into the flour (seasoned with a pinch of salt and chilli powder).

Now add the methylcellulose mixture into the flour and finally whisk in the remaining 200g of water.

Whisk the batter until smooth then pour it through a sieve.

Take 500ml of the tempura batter and pour it into a cream whipper then charge this with two Co2 chargers (soda chargers).

Give the whipper a good shake and place it in the fridge to chill of around two hours or until your ready to it.

When your ready to make your tempura invert the cream whipper and dispense the batter into a large mixing bowl.

Dip your ingredients to be fried into a little flour then into the batter before gently placing them in a deep fat fryer (at 190C). Only fry a few tempuras at a time.

The tempura will cook very quickly (less than two minutes), take them out of the fryer when they are crisp and crunchy and serve up with a dipping sauce or with as part of a larger dish.