Salmon Mi Cuit

Talk about a pressure test! I invited the series director and head of content of MasterChef SA for dinner last night.

After bubbles on the deck (thanks guys), we settled down to a four-course dinner skipping helter-skelter over that rustic/refined line.

The prize for the most photogenic dish of the evening goes to (drum roll please)… Salmon Mi Cuit. This consisted of a piece of half cooked (that’s what mi cuit means) salmon, a ginger and ponzu fluid gel, radishes pickled in rice vinegar, wasabi aioli and salmon roe. The dish is inspired by sashimi and salmon roses.

Salmon Mi Cuit

I unabashedly adore ChefSteps. I’ve made their 104F Salmon dish a few times, but this time decided to make it my own. I followed the technique for Salmon Mi Cuit (http://www.chefsteps.com/activities/salmon-mi-cuit), which renders the most delicious and succulent salmon imaginable, and dressed it with a few garnishes to invoke that sushi vibe.

What on earth is a fluid gel?

I recently saw a HarvardX lecture on iTunesU in which Dave Arnold – a total rock star by the way – makes and explains a fluid gel. He explains: “Fluid gels have the properties of both a fluid and a gel. Agar fluid gels can look like hair gel on the plate but feel like a smooth, creamy sauce in the mouth.” http://www.cookingissues.com/primers/hydrocolloids-primer/

I decided to put this to the test. I whizzed up some sushi ginger, fresh ginger, ponzu sauce and about 0.8% agar-agar. Heated it to the boil and filtered it through an Aeropress. (Couldn’t find my muslin, works a treat.) I let the gel cool and set, and then blended it. Voila! Fluid gel. The soy in the ponzu with the particular texture of a fluid gel gives it that lovely silkiness and deep flavour of a good jus.

To complete the sushi effect I made a wasabi aioli and added some salmon roe. I loved the idea of making a modernist dish and having real ‘caviar’ on the plate instead of something spherified.

Equipment required:
Sous Vide circulator or bath or thermometer
Immersion blender
Blender

Difficulty: moderate

Salmon Mi Cuit close up

Some handy products for this dish

AeroPress

AeroPress Coffee Maker
yuppiechef
R495

 
Finding good coffee when travelling is an expensive and sometimes impossible task. The Aeropress is a wonderful travelling companion. I also found it great at straining liquids quickly and effectively.

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

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Decadent Spiced Flourless Chocolate Dessert Cake

A dear friend phoned me recently with an offer I just couldn’t refuse. Apparently a large batch of Ferrero Rocher milk chocolate had melted into a solid mass and was seeking owners at R25 per kilogram. How could I resist? I immediately got 4 kilograms, which have been lazing around in my pantry waiting for an occasion.

A Hunk of Chocolate

A Hunk of Chocolate

I’ve been a huge fan of the Chez Panisse flourless chocolate cake for years, and have made several very tasty variations with various types of dark chocolate; Lindt Intense Pear and Lindt Intense 85% being my favourites to date. This weekend I decided to use whatever I had in the cupboard (including the aforementioned pile of milk chocolate) to make a delicious dessert. It sits, very happily, somewhere between a cake, a fondant and a fruit flan. It’s rich and decadent, warm and spicy, cool and tangy all at once.

Another dear friend, who requested to remain nameless, was instructing me in the ways of taking decent food photos while I was baking. It was a fun and chaotic afternoon, and I am eternally grateful.

Spiced Chocolate Dessert Cake with Strawberries, Pine nuts and Yoghurt

Ingredients

Quantity

 

Method

 

 

 

  1. Preheat oven to 190°C.
  2. Grease the base of a 20-23cm springform cake tin and line with greaseproof paper. Dust with a little flour.

Quality milk chocolate
Butter, unsalted
Salt
(Or use salted butter and omit the salt)

300 g
250 g

 
 

 

2.5 ml

 

  1. Melt in a bowl in the microwave at 60% power. Once melted, whisk together until smooth.

 

Chocolate and Butter

Egg whites

 

6 whites

  1. Whisk until soft peaks form.

Cream of tartar

 

2.5 ml

 

Egg Whites

Egg yolks
Castor sugar
Demerara sugar

 

120 g
55 g

6 yolks

 
 

  1. Whisk until thick and pale.

 

 

 

  1. Pour in the chocolate mixture and gently mix until smooth.

 

Ground almonds

55 g

 

  1. Sprinkle onto the mixture.

Cocoa powder
Cake flour

 

30 ml
15 ml

  1. Sift together onto the mixture.

 

 

 

  1. Mix together.
  2. Carefully fold in the beaten egg whites to complete the batter.

 

 

 

 

  1. Pour the batter into the prepared tin. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the cake is set but slightly wobbly in the centre.
  2. Cool in the tin. The centre will collapse slightly – a perfect hollow for the toppings.

 

The toppings for the cake

The toppings for the cake

Butter, unsalted
Pine nuts
Ground cinnamon
(Butter must be unsalted here)

50 g
30 g

 
 

 

2.5 ml

 

  1. Melt the butter in a very small saucepan.
  2. Add the pine nuts and cinnamon and fry gently until the butter begins to caramelise and foam and the pine nuts are starting to turn a very pale brown.
  3. Scrape the bottom of the pan to release any bits that are stuck and pour the pine nuts and butter into a cool bowl to stop the cooking.
  4. Leave to cool slightly.

 

Mascarpone cheese
Greek yoghurt

150 g
150 g

 

  1. Gradually stir the yoghurt into the mascarpone to form a smooth mixture.

 

Caramelised butter, cinnamon and pine nuts

Caramelised butter, cinnamon and pine nuts

 

 

 

  1. To serve, run a knife around the edge and remove the cake from the tin. Peel off the paper and place on a cake platter.
  2. Dust the cake with cocoa powder.

 

Strawberries, hulled and halved

 

 

  1. Pile the strawberries in the centre of the cake.
  2. Pour the butter mixture over.
  3. Spoon the yoghurt mixture on top.
  4. Slice and serve. (The centre should be quite gooey.)
Cake

 

 

 

 

This cake is best stored at room temperature under foil, though the toppings need to be refrigerated. Oh dear, you’re going to have to eat the whole thing!

Eat Me

Eat a slice, or 6! It’s gooey and delicious.

Benedict with No-whisk (sous vide) Hollandaise

A Hollandaise can be quite a temperamental sauce, as some of you might have seen on MasterChef SA last night when I had to whisk and emulsify to save my skin. The flurry of activity on the screen was also testament to the fact that it is quite labour intensive.

It is very easy to overcook the eggs and split the sauce, or turn it into oily scrambled eggs. You could throw money at the problem and buy a Kenwood Titanium Cooking Chef which stirs and heats at the same time, and I must admit that this is as good an excuse as any to get it, or you could go the trusty sous vide route.

I recently, when I didn’t have the inclination to whisk, made breakfast for 9 people and served them Eggs Benedict with a slow poached sous vide egg, either smoked trout or prosciutto crudo and the lightest fluffiest sous vide hollandaise on top.

Eggs Benedict

Here’s how to make the sauce:

Hollandaise

Recipe adapted from Modernist Cuisine at Home.

The Mission to Mars: Post-modern kitchen renewal

Yeeee-hah! We’ve finally landed on Mars. That is to say that many months of planning has now reached a climax and we’ve moved into our new home in Mars Street, Kensington, Johannesburg.

IMG_0053Lots of furious painting of walls, changing of light fixtures and general DIY has given me chapped and calloused hands, but the results are worth every battle scar.

The house is a lovely old Kensington house perched on a ridge with views for days and a delightful secret garden. It also has a deck that hugs a Jacaranda at branch height where we have put a large table for many lunches on Mars. (Watch this space.)

The wonder of it all is that the house was built in 1926 and is still very much intact. It hasn’t had the soul renovated out of it by a succession of ambitious owners, in fact it still has original tiles in the bathroom, WC and kitchen. The changes that have been made are sensitive to the original house and very well executed. But this is not a home reno blog…

IMG_0055The kitchen. Of course there was no such thing as a fitted kitchen in the Johannesburg of 1926. A kitchen, like the other rooms, had furniture. This has been the room’s saving grace, because owners past probably changed the furniture quite frequently without having to gut and redo the room. (I think there might be a lesson here…)

This integrity of the original led me into a bit of a dilemma. How do you prepare a kitchen for modernist cooking without destroying its history? How do you “update” a kitchen but keep it in line with the mostly 1930s art deco / streamlined modernism look that we pursued in the rest of the house?

I recently read the most wonderful book, Consider the Fork: A History of Invention in the Kitchen. In the book (pp 359-362) Bee Wilson (@KitchenBee) makes a few insightful points about our current obsession with the “perfect” kitchen; whether this is a period perfect reconstruction containing nothing that was not made in the period concerned, or a ‘perfect’ contemporary kitchen with everything new and matched to within the proverbial inch. Both of these are illusions. She explains: “In the kitchens we actually inhabit, old and new technologies overlap and coexist… There is something sad as well as wasteful about the current impulse to start a kitchen from scratch: to rip out every trace of the cook who came before you. It feels forgetful.”

I sincerely believe that cooking and eating involves a large dose remembering and creating memories. As a result, this amnesia induced by ripping out the old seems slightly disrespectful.

I’m going to cop out of a detailed description of what was there and what I did. Instead I’ll just post a few before and after shots. Hopefully I have achieved renewal with respect. This is, of course, still a work in progress but here goes…

Before (facing West)
Before (facing West)

After (facing West)
After (facing West)

Before (facing South)
Before (facing South)

After (facing South)
After (facing South)

Before (facing North)
Before (facing North)

After (facing North-east)
After (facing North-east)

Caramelised Carrot Soup – The Maillard Reaction in Action

Being homeless (well, between homes) isn’t the most fun I’ve had recently, so in desperation I egged the divine Mistress M on to arrange a cook-up at a fabulous friend’s home. Said fabulous friend being a haematologist and partner in a pathology laboratory; I thought a soupçon of chemistry with a dash of microbiology might be in order.

The Maillard (say: my Yar) reaction, also known as the browning reaction, is the source of much of the deliciousness in the foods we love. The scrumptious crust on a seared steak, the caramelised sugars of toffee, butterscotch and tartes tatin, the heady aromas of roasted coffee beans, the comforting smell of baking bread are all largely due to this (actually quite complex) phenomenon.

The lovely caramelized flavours typically do not occur in wet environments in the time scales of normal cooking, but we can do a few things to speed them along; up the temperature and up the alkalinity.

You can read a wonderfully thorough and scientific discussion here: http://blog.khymos.org/2012/06/04/maximizing-food-flavor-by-speeding-up-the-maillard-reaction/

So, with the help of Modernist Cuisine at Home, let’s put all of this wonderful theory into action.

Because we’re literally a mile high, water boils at a paltry 94°C in Johannesburg. But even at sea level 100°C is not quite hot enough for caramelisation to take place in our soup. To get things a little more heated, we have to put some pressure on.

Enter the pressure cooker. Well, at least it would if all of my kitchen equipment weren’t in storage. After some frantic twoogling and phoning around, my aunt came to the rescue with a very retro orange pressure cooker, which then entered. A perfect match to the soup.

Pressure Cooker

With the equipment to add enough heat (up to 120°C in a pressure cooker), we now need to raise the alkalinity. Imagine your carrots in the pot have indigestion and you want to neutralise some acid. Just add another retro remedy: bicarbonate of soda (baking soda [U.S.] / koeksoda [Afr]).

All you need for this mind-blowing soup is:

  • The best carrots you can find (the flavour depends entirely on them)
  • Fresh carrot juice (juice in a centrifugal juicer or buy a bottle of organic from Woolies)
  • Unsalted butter
  • Water
  • Chicken stock (optional if your carrot juice is very sweet)
  • Bicarbonate of soda
  • Salt

Special Equipment

  • Pressure cooker
  • Immersion blender
  • Fine sieve or chinois

After peeling the carrots and removing the fibrous cores, chop them into 5cm pieces.

Coreless carrots

Melt butter in the pressure cooker. This coating stops the carrots from sticking and adds some proteins for more Maillard deliciousness. Add some water, salt and baking soda, and pressure cook for 20 minutes. Give the pot a few cautious shakes in the beginning to stop the carrots from sticking. Depressurise and Voila! Pressure-cooked caramelised carrots. They smell delicious, like toffee.

Caramelised carrots

Puree the carrots with and immersion blender and pass the puree through a fine sieve or chinois.

Bring the carrot juice (and water or stock if using) to the boil, strain and stir into the carrot puree.

Juice and stock

Mount the soup with butter using an immersion blender. This is a cheffy term that means whisking cold butter into a hot sauce off the heat just before serving to give it a wonderfully smooth and silky texture. (If you haven’t done it yet, try it with the juices from a roast chicken for beautiful gravy.)

Season with salt to taste, spoon it into soup plates or bowls and serve.

I wanted to serve it with a sprig of dill on top, but had to settle for bit of chopped parsley.

Carrot Soup

So easy, so delicious, so educational. Thanks @ModernCuisine!

Products:
Modernist Cuisine at Home

Modernist Cuisine at Home
Kalahari.com
R1 978

This is the essential cookbook for the home cook who would like to experiment with the new tools and techniques of modernist cuisine.

Molecular Gastronomy is the science that studies the principles at play in the kitchen, on the plate and in the mouth. When you actually start to cook it’s something else entirely. Hervé This, one of molecular gastronomy’s founders, waxes lyrical about this in the introduction to his new book, if you’d like to know more. Nathan Myhrvold et al like to call this cooking part, and their massive book, Modernist Cuisine. I’ll side with them on this naming (for now).

You’ll find the simplified caramelised carrot soup recipe in this book.

Modernist Cuisine

Photo Credit:Ryan Matthew Smith
Modernist Cuisine, LLC
 
Modernist Cuisine
 
Currently R7 509 at Kalahari.com
 
There are also one or two available at Exclusive Books Hyde Park at the special rate of R7 200. (011) 325 4298
 
This is the definitive guide to Modernist Cuisine. A hefty 5 volume set of groundbreaking gastronomical delights.
 
I think I might sell body parts to have my own copy.

WMF Perfect Ultra Pressure Cooker - 6.5 L

WMF Perfect Ultra Pressure Cooker – 6.5 L
R4,310.00
Liv’ In

AEG Pressure Cooker

AEG Pressure Cooker
6 L Precision Pressure Cooker – Stainless Steel
Kalahari.com
R1 099.95

Kenwood Triblade

Kenwood Triblade Hand Blender 15 Function Incl Att
Kalahari.com
R827.95

Dualit Hand Blender

Dualit Hand Blender with Accessories
yuppiechef
R1 395

Chinois

Stainless Steel 20cm Conical Sieve / Chinois
yuppiechef
R550

First Things First – Food Safety and Hygiene in the Kitchen

Hello World!

Well there’s a little hangover from my geeky coding days. I’m sure there are many more of those, but we are – for better or worse – the sum of our past experiences. So here goes…

Note that most of the information in this post is derived from Modernist Cuisine: The Art of Science and Cooking. Volume 1: History and Fundamentals. Nathan Myhrvold with Chris Young and Maxime Bilet. pp 191, 196-207.

Nature / Nurture

At home we cook to nourish and nurture our nearest and dearest. Bad food can, unfortunately, inflict pain and suffering on us and those we love. I think it’s our first priority to make sure that the food we produce in our kitchens is safe and wholesome, thereafter tasty, and then all the other things we’d like it to be (entertaining, nostalgic, impressive, comforting).

Colorized low-temperature electron micrograph of a cluster of E. coli bacteria. Photo by Eric Erbe, Colorization by Christopher Pooley. USDA. http://www.flickr.com/photos/microbeworld/5981923914/

Colorized low-temperature electron micrograph of a cluster of E. coli bacteria. Photo by Eric Erbe, Colorization by Christopher Pooley. USDA. http://www.flickr.com/photos/microbeworld/5981923914/

Beware the Poop

According to Philip Tierno, a leading immunologist and microbiologist, 80% of foodborne illness is caused by faecal contamination, and proper kitchen hygiene can prevent most of this. That’s right folks, a clean kitchen and proper handling avoids poop in your food (and excessive pooping by those you feed). This is not just an issue for commercial kitchens. Tierno estimates that between 50 and 80 percent of all foodborne illness is transmitted in the home.

Top 10 Tips

I’ll delve into some kitchen safety science in later posts, but here are my Top 10 tips for food safety and hygiene.

  1. Manage risk sensibly by being informed.

All foods carry some risk, thus the only way to avoid all risk is to eat nothing at all. Don’t overcook meat because you’re afraid of contamination and then serve it with a raw salad that might be even more dangerous.

  1. Don’t cook for other people when you are feeling ill.

We want to spread goodness and cheer from our kitchens, not germs and disease. This is an expensive lesson that Noma, the top rated restaurant in the world, learnt recently. Sick people should eat good food, not prepare it.

  1. Wash your hands.

Be obsessive. Every time they may be contaminated, wash your hands, even if this is 20 times a day. Wash them properly with soap for long enough, about 30 seconds, making sure you wash your thumb and wrists. Use a nailbrush, like a surgeon, to get the junk out from under your nails. Because this is so important, I’ll add a whole post about washing hands later. Dry your hands with paper towels or an air dryer.

  1. Use paper towels.

Your roll of paper towels is the most important tool in your fight against bacteria. Side towels and dishtowels should only be used as potholders. Even better, use a dedicated potholder. Use single use paper towels to dry your hands, to touch contaminated items (like taps, door handles and dustbin lids) and to wipe down surfaces. Buy towels made from sustainable and recycled materials to keep it eco-friendly.

  1. Banish the ‘lappie’*.

Bacteria can multiply at an alarming rate on cloths and sponges. When a cloth has been used once, consider it contaminated. Lots of cross-contamination in the kitchen is perpetrated by the nasty little cloth.

  1. Treat eggs like raw meat (or use pasteurised).

The rear end of a chicken has only one opening. Eggs emerge contaminated with faecal matter and with an especially high risk of Salmonella. Use pasteurised eggs whenever possible. These can also then safely be served uncooked or semi-cooked. If the eggs aren’t pasteurised, consider the shell contaminated, so don’t use your hands to separate eggs after holding and cracking them open.

  1. Treat vegetables with the same respect.

Vegetables are sometimes more dangerous than meat. Many fertilisers, especially from organic farms, contain faecal matter. Most recent contamination outbreaks had unwashed vegetables and herbs as their source.

  1. Never put hot food in the fridge or freezer.

Putting hot food in the fridge or freezer will raise the internal temperature into the range that allows bacteria to multiply.

  1. Be a label-queen.

Label all containers put into the fridge or freezer. Indicate what is inside and include the date. Label spray bottles and jars so that you don’t, for instance, confuse the 1% chlorine solution with the sterilised water spray bottle.

  1. Sterilise the sink and sponge.

The sink and the sponge are the places in the kitchen that contain the most bacteria. Sterilise the sink with a chlorine solution. To sterilise a sponge, after washing it place in the microwave oven on 100% power for 1 minute.

*‘Lappie’ is Afrikaans for a small cloth.

Hygiene and Safety Products

6009171642242_large

Double-ply paper towels
Woolworths
R15.95

 

 

 

 

 

picture20071113132101_520x530q80

Eva Solo Soap Dispenser, Stainless Steel
yuppiechef
R895 in satin steel
R900 in mirror polished steel

 

 

 

 

 

otherpicture320111102100615_520x530q80

Joseph Joseph Index Advance Chopping Board Set
yuppiechef
From R670

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

Brabantia-kitchen-roll-holder-with-automatic-roll-stop-matt-steel-and-black-460142

Brabantia Kitchen Roll Holder with Automatic Roll Stop
(One-handed operation)
Boardmans
R399.95