I thought I'd write a quick post as I'm currently having a 6 week break in my underground restaurant 'The Walled Gardens'. I use this time to do some creative work on new dishes & ideas and to work on other projects before I am super busy with prep and various deadlines again soon. I’ll put some of the last menus recipes up on here soon I hope.
Small homemade service pieces made of iridescent glass that I cut and sanded then built small bases for. I use these small plinths to serve one of the early courses in the tasting menu on.
One of the projects I've enjoyed in the past is making some of my own service pieces. This is partly out of financial necessity - I don't have the budget of a restaurant to get the sort of interesting service pieces I might like to buy. But also because I think it adds an extra element to the meals for me to serve some dishes on pieces that I have made myself. A dinner at The Walled Gardens should feel very personal I hope. I cook and serve all the food myself, and using various homemade service pieces feels like an interesting way to add to that senses of connection between myself and the guests aswell as making the evenings a touch more unique.
Bergamot and Juniper Chocolates served on a simple homemade service piece made from a slate base and iridescent plastic.
I also like the fact that this plays to the strengths of working on as small scale (serving just 8 guests a night). I always strive for the food I serve to be of the highest possible standard and it is very often favourably compared by guests to Michelin starred restaurants they have dined at. There are always things that would be easier for me to do in a larger restaurant with dedicated trained staff but that is part of the challenge. And one benefit of being small is that I can do some things that a larger restaurant would just find impossible - the chef meeting every single guest and personally serving them, being able to allow people to freely walk into the kitchen anytime they feel during the meal to ask questions or watch what is going on, and having all the food made by just one pair of hands. And I like the fact I can extend this to being able to serve some courses on service pieces, however simple, that I have made myself.
Dish using a cork as its base with a small hole drilled into it so I can place herbs into the cork and then stand a small one bite dish within the herbs. This allows an interesting way to add aroma to a dish from the herbs as well as a visual clue to the flavours within the dish. Here we have apple infused with calvados and thyme, topped with caramelised soy milk puree and blueberry glass.
This is an aspect of The Walled Gardens I really enjoy and that keeps things creatively interesting for me - learning new skills and augmenting the uniqueness of the experience. And this DIY personalisation is something I decided I wanted to explore further by trying to build myself a set of my own chefs knives. I’d read a blog post by Allen Hemberger (who wrote the excellent Alinea Project blog & book) where Allen describes making his own knife from scratch and this inspired me to look into it myself.
Initially I was very ambitious and wanted to try cutting my own knife blade from a square piece of Damascus steel billet, then shape and heat treat it before building my knife. But after more in-depth research and some first basic attempts I decided this is essentially beyond my skills if I want to make something high quality that I will genuinely use as one my main tools in my kitchen. So I’ve decided to try my hand at a simpler version.
My stabilised wood, cut and ready to make the handle for one of my knives
In the end what I have opted to try to do is to build my own knife set but do this using the easier option of buying high quality, Japanese hammered Damascus steel blade blanks. So I don't have to cut or temper my own blade but I will get to make my handles from stabilised wood which I will cut, afix and shape until I have something I can feel I constructed with my own hands but that should be in the same class of quality as the professionally made Japanese knives I already own.
The Yaxell Ran Chefs knife I was kindly sent to test
In the mean time I have been generously sent a beautiful Yaxell Ran Chefs knife to try by the people at Steamer Trading Cookshop (www.steamer.co.uk). They are the sole UK retailer of Yaxell and it was good timing to give this knife a go as I’m a fan of Japaneese knives but hadn’t used Yaxell before. It is a high quality Japanese Damascus steel knife, made in Seki Japan by craftsmen from a sword making tradition. The Ran chefs knife actually has more of a western chefs knife feel than most of my other Japanese knives and this 25.5cm version is a little larger than what I would usually use, especially for fiddly work, but I've found it great for larger jobs and it has been perfect for times I've needed to make batches of things. It's super sharp as you'd expect and sharpens well on a ceramic steel so I’m sure I’ll get good use out of it for a long time. My own knives I’m building are set to be a little smaller but using the Yaxell at the moment sets the bar nice and high for the quality I want to achieve with my own handmade set.
I’ll check back in here with progress I make on this and other projects and hopefully write more about some of the projects behind the scenes like this that make up part of the experience eating at The Walled Gardens. I’ll also try and pop some recipes from the last menu on here soon.
Thanks to Steamer Trading Cookshop for sending me the Yaxell to to try.
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A video showing the tasting menu as it is at the moment for Spring 2016
Above - ‘Death in the Afternoon’ Edible cocktail inspired by Hemingways cocktail of Absinthe and Champagne, this version features powdered absinthe and carbonated grapes.
& some other press from the weekend.
This weekend I was pleased to find out I was being featured on the Guardians ‘Word of Mouth’ blog for the Edible cocktails I serve and did a cook book of, and then also was featured on the cover of The Independent with my modernised nut roast recipe inside.
Above - ‘G&T’ Gin and Tonic Meringue served with an aromatic infusion of Juniper & Coriander
You can read the Guardian piece HERE.
It covers edible cocktails made by myself and a number of other chefs. I serve a couple of these small dishes inspired by cocktails or alcohol at the start of my tasting menu. I also produced and ebook focused on Edible Cocktails (more info HERE).
Above - ‘Sake Blossom’ Dish inspired by the Sake cocktail featuring Peach and Rose.
Then I was also pleasantly surprised to be featured on the cover of The Independent newspaper on Saturday with my modernised nut roast recipe inside.
Above - The front cover
Above - In good company in the paper
Above - The modernised nut roast I developed for Vodafone’s christmas ad campaign. More info HERE
This is the dish I developed for Vodafone as part of their christmas advertising campaign. They wanted a modernised version of a nut roast to accompany their run of TV ads.
You can see the full recipe, videos and more info on their blog HERE
The Modern Techniques Kit that I designed is now available to buy!
Buy it HERE on Amazon
The Modern Gastronomy Kit will introduce you to various modern ingredients and techniques which will help you make delicious, striking, modern dishes.
Containing 11 different ingredients, equipment and recipes I developed specifically for this kit. It will teach you various techniques and help you understand how these techniques and ingredients work so not only will you be able to recreate the recipes provided within the kit but also adapt these techniques to create your own stunning dishes.
Recipes Included: Elastic flexible Caramel Gel, Orange ‘Glass’, Rose Air, Chocolate Soil, Gin and Tonic Spheres, Chocolate/Mint Chocolate Pearls, Watermelon Caviar, Yoghurt and Honey Spheres, Apple Gel, Sour Cucumber Puree, Coconut Fluid Gel, Dark Chocolate and Red Wine Mousse, Cranberry Fluid Gel, Olive Oil Powder
Kit contents: Sodium Alginate, Sodium Citrate, Calcium Lactate, Agar Agar, Xanthan Gum, Carrageenan Kappa, Carrageenan Iota, Lecithin Powder, Zorbit Tapioca Maltodextrin, Ultratex, Citric Acid. Slotted Collecting Spoon, Digital Mini Scales, Set of Measuring Spoons, Small Hemisphere Mould, Syringes, Pipettes, Recipe Booklet - containing techniques, tips, instructions and recipes
Buy it HERE on Amazon
In this video I demonstrate making one of the Edible Cocktails that I serve at the start of my tasting menus.
This small dish entitled ‘Death in the Afternoon’ is inspired by the namesake cocktail that Ernest Hemingway invented - a combination of Absinthe & Champagne.
For my version I make a powdered absinthe that packs a real kick of alcohol, then I pair it with carbonated grapes to mimic the effervescence of champagne. The dish is completed with freeze dried grape, pop rocks - to provide more fizz, and fresh fennel tips - to complement the anise flavour of Absinthe.
It adds up to a small one bite dish with a big impact of flavour, fizz and alcohol which is exhilarating but fleeting. So it’s perfect for the start of the tasting menu when its is served as part of a trio of edible cocktails before the series of savoury dishes begins.
These Edible Cocktails are small dishes inspired by cocktails & alcohol, I became interested in the idea of serving small edible cocktails at the start of the tasting menu inspired by their use at Alinea & Aviary.