The chronicles of British cuisine in a meal
As we ordered our starters and main dishes we were advised that one of the desserts takes a long time to prepare The Tipsy Cake (c.1810) requires 3 “visits” to the oven and takes about 40 minutes to make/bake obviously we ordered one (to be on the safe side) that was a great mistake cause even 2 orders would have been devoured by our small group, a real gem to which we will return in details later…
We ordered The Taffety Tart (c.1660) just to compare with the exquisite one we had at The Fat Duck, both of course from the: 1610 A New Booke of Cookerie by John Murrell. The recipes for Taffety Tarts, which usually contained apples is a spectacularly fragrant version – the apple pulp scented and flavoured with orange, quince, rose-water, and violets, This recipe was first published in print in ” The Cook’s and Confectioner’s Dictionary” 1724 goes like this: “Mix a quarter of a Pack of Fine Flour, with a quarter of a Pint of Yeast, and as much hot Liquor as will make it into a stiff Paste, with two Pound of butter, the Yolks of twelve Eggs, and half a Pound of fine Sugar; make it up into small Balls, and then roll it out into thick Plates; wash round their Brims with Milk: Boil Pippins soft, peel them and scrape the Pulp from the Cores, mingle the Pulp with fine Sugar, a little Marmalade of Quinces, the Scrapings of candied Orange-peel, and Rose-water: Make up your Tarts, dry them in a warm Place, bake them, scrape Sugar, and sprinkle Essence of Violets or Roses over them, and serve them up”. I’ve read thousands of recipes and cooked from them, but the above C.1724 instructions, will amount to nothing that looks or tastes like a tart.
The HB FAT DUCK version saves the day very elegantly as you see on the Fat Duck version(on the left) , but less so, or in fact as… just another tart in the Dinner version (on the right).
Brown Bread Ice Cream (c. 1830) Salted better caramel, pear & malted yeast syrup, from the 1830 A New System of Domestic Cookery by Maria Aliza Rundell.
For the Brown Bread Ice as written in the above book (on page 201): “Grate as fine as possible, stale brown bread, soak a small proportion in cream for 2-3 Hours, sweeten and ice it”. Short and simple innit? Well It makes Iced cream but not Ice Cream as we know it, so the idea of powdered “stale brown bread” is incorporated in a classic creamy ice cream decorated with salted butter caramel which is also a “filling” for the base pastry also in the “brown bread” realm including cubes of “bread” soaked in caramel syrup than toasted to achieve crunchiness, intermittently with cubes of poached pears. The barley malt extract syrup, provides a combination of enzymatic activity, sweetness and appealing crust color to baked good, used extensively in brown bread making
I must say that Maria Rundell’s Ice cream recipes such as the one quoted here do not come even near the ice creams of another author appearing on the menu, for a dessert we did not have The Boemian Cake (c.1890) by “THE QUEEN OF ICE”, Mrs. Agnes Bertha Marshall (1855 – 1905). This lady was a celebrity cook of Victorian time, she always adopted new technology and technique. Apart from having her very own ice cream maker the Marshall’s Patent Freezer, she is also credited with the invention of the ice cream edible cone, mentioned in her 1888 book of cookery. Agnes B. Marshall wrote four books: The Book of Ices 1885, Mrs. A.B. Marshall’s Book of Cookery 1888, Mrs. A.B. Marshall’s Larger Cookery Book of Extra Recipes 1891 & Fancy Ices 1894. These are considered to be some of the finest books of their type ever written, especially those on ices, of which Mrs. Marshall was crowned Queen. Her recipes are clear, accurate, and well illustrated.
We could not resist our waiter’s recommendation: Quaking Pudding (c.1660) Pear, perry, caramel & lime, from: The Accomplished Cooke by Robert May, 1660, or in its full name THE Accompliſht Cook, or “THE ART & MYSTERY OF COOKERY. Wherein the whole ART is revealed in a more easie and perfect Method, than hath been publiſht in any language, who am I to dispute that…?
The recipe on Robert May’s Accomplished Cook 1660, is a classic 17th century English recipe. This one by Robert May is a basic cream custard with bread steamed in a mould and which should shake or quake when served, which it does right before our eyes.
Making a Quaking Pudding: Slice the crumbs of a penny manchet*, and infuse it three or four hours in a pint of scalding hot cream, covering it close, then break the bread with a spoon very small, and put to it eight eggs, and put only four whites, beat them together very well, and season it with sugar, rose-water, and grated nutmeg: if you think it too stiff, put in some cold cream and beat them well together; then wet the bag or napkin and flour it, put in the pudding, tie it hard, and boil it half an hour, then dish it and put to it butter, rose-water, and sugar, and serve it up to the table. (Copyright © celtnet) For the full recipe link to:
*Penny Manchet, is a wheaten yeast bread of very good quality, or a small flat circular loaf of same. It was a bread that was small enough to be held in the hand. Perry is an alcoholic drink made from fermented pears. Perry has been common for centuries in England, particularly in Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire, and in parts of south Wales.
This is really an exquisite dessert. Dinner’s version containing Vanilla as well as the “obligatory” freshly grated nutmeg with the light Jus of pears, perry, lime and caramel, from the poached pears not only quaking all the way to our table and on it (aided by all concerned) but smoothly lining our palates and down our throats… delicious.
Back to the Tipsy Cake (c.1810) from: The English Cookery book by J H Walsh which can be read on: http://archive.org/stream/englishcookeryb00bookgoog#page/n0/mode/2up
The tipsy cake is a soft succulent brioche is served in a mini cast iron Staub pot, soaked in a sweet alcoholic sauce – “a drunken cake” here it is accompanied by a small strip of roast pineapple, slowly sweating on a spit roasted (to perfection) on the large Rotisier.
Brioche is a pastry or a highly enriched bread of French origin, with high egg and butter content that give it a rich and tender crumb. It is “light and slightly puffy, more or less substantial, according to the proportion of butter and eggs. It has a dark, golden, and flaky crust. Brioche is considered a Viennoiserie- baked product made from a yeast-leavened dough in the same way as bread, but has the richer aspect of a pastry due to the extra addition of eggs, lots of butter, liquid (milk, water, cream, and, sometimes, brandy or sweet wine) and sugar.
The combination of butter and caramelizing sugar at the base of the cast iron dish creates a runny delicious liquid toffee which is “sucked in” by the baking fluffy brioche making it addictive beyond imagination, in fact I crave for more as I am writing right now, the combination with the roasted pineapple is perfect adding tropical touch and flavour to the dish.
I must add that my fruity and fresh 1987 Château D’ Yquem, that was “not welcomed” at Dinner, but consumed with joy on my “official” Birthday Dinner at Catit Restaurant Tel Aviv, would have been PERFECT with all our deserts especially the Tipsy cake and spit roast pineapple which is an Yquem on a plate.
Dinner is a restaurant that presents with pride a chronological history of best of British food throughout recorded history (in print) from the 14th century to date.
HB: “around about two hundred years ago Britain had gastronomy as good as anywhere else in Europe, we only take our inspiration from periods and time it’s not replicating it not at all, it’s an inspiration by association at times just a spice mix or a way the dish is served, we are updating and upgrading the ingredients nowadays you would not be able to eat like all round rancid milk or oxidized & sour wine available in the 17th-18th centuries”.
At Dinner they are using refined oils rather than Pigs lard for cooking, other contemporary products and techniques to achieve reminiscences of a glorious culinary past, in contemporary dishes. If you do not search for the origins of each dish (not only a mention of their sources of origin as they are meticulously entered on the menu), the idea gets lost somehow, very much like looking at relics from the past in an archaeological dig which without any deeper explanation of what you are looking at look like just another bunch of “broken stones”. I guess most people including me loose the essence of the “exercise” and just have yet “another meal”, rather than appreciate the amount of thought and effort that is entered into each and every dish, and that’s a bit of a shame, that might not be easily rectified after all people come to Dine here and dine we did, in style and meticulous perfection in dishes execution, that with the right company, what else could I wish for on my 60th Birthday (month). Yes celebrations went on (and on) some of which you will be part of in the coming posts.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
66 Knightsbridge, London, SW1X 7LA
Phone: 0207 2013833
“Bring the sense of FUN”.
A Feast at The FAT DUCK
10:38pm Late September 2011 a “rain” of emails from my old buddy Spike in London, came pouring down on me: Hey Buddy – we have a table for lunch @ the Fat Duck next Tues. – really really really looking forward to it buddy sweet dreams SPIKEY X”
“The table is booked 12.30 as that was all they could get so we have 2 leave earlier – fergus p.r@ st J. did it & he said it was a right carry-on lets make sure we get there on time innit?
looking forward 2 it buddy sweet dreams SPIKEY X”
The buzz of enthusiasm caught me as well, a visit to the Fat duck, is a meal I “promised” myself for the last 10 years (since the Restaurant got its first Michelin Star) and the raves regarding a new star in the culinary sky started to tickle my taste buds and imagination, but somehow I never got down to arranging it well ahead enough and kept missing my opportunities for a meal at “The Restaurant at the end of the Universe”. This is: “The ultimate hot spot for an evening of apocalyptic entertainment and fine dining, where the food (literally) speaks for itself”. (From “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe”, by Douglas Adams.). Spike, through his web of connections finally managed to arrange a meal at the Fat Duck, the restaurant that serves Bacon and egg ice cream, snail porridge and all, molecular cooking (As it is often described in the media) Such a sense of culinary anticipation had not struck me since I (obsessively) dined, ( 20 years earlier), with the world greatest: Fredy Girardet, Joel Robuchon, Bernard Loiseaux, George Blanc, Jacques Lamellose, Pierre Gagnaire, Alain Ducasse, Marco Pierre White, Pierre Koffman, Daniel Boulud to name but a few… As a matter of fact I like this feeling of tastes and flavors hype that engulfs you at a perfect meal, (a kind of addiction), it is as if these guys (Top Chefs), know of the anticipation and expectations most of their customers come with… and have this magic touch to form the perfect setting for that very day, for the man who came to dine (ME). I must admit I’m not much into culinary terms such as Molecular gastronomy or molecular cooking as the “great” Mr. Herve This, calls the cooking at El Bulli or The Fat Duck, or the “late” term”: nouvelle cuisine”, which is actually an old term (since the 1740s) used throughout the centuries for anything new at the time, in the preparation combination or presentation of food, for example, the cooking of Vincent La Chapelle 1735, or François Marin was described as nouvelle cuisine of the time, in 1890s the cooking of the great Auguste Escoffier, the epitome of traditional cuisine was described with the term “The modern” – Nouvelle.. I like restaurants that try and succeed to “give pleasure and meaning to people through the medium of food”. As our host Heston Blumenthal neatly put it: “Build food while predicting the effect on the eater.” We did arrive on time, and Bray is not a big place, but if you don’t look up and catch a glimpse of the Restaurants Logo you will not find it as it is well hidden behind the walls a modest looking English country House, no boasting, very dignified, and we missed it (what anticipation does to you…) so we strolled up the street to peek inside the ‘The Hinds Head Pub’ 30 yards down the road and ask for DIRECTIONS. You open the door yourself (I like that), it feels like entering your own home, no gate keepers, or other paraphernalia which is inseparable in some 3 Michelin star restaurants. Thank God I can’t stand these tedious manners. They let you settle down and do all the necessary bits and bobs of bread, water and wine. Which is if you think about it a necessity of any restaurant, but also a traditional welcome almost in all cultures: bread and water or bread and wine were served as a welcome gesture since biblical times.
So we ordered a 2004 Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru, Boudriotte, Domaine Ramonet That went very well with the first half of the dishes in the menu. Now we are “all set” as the restaurant needs our full attention with the opener which I would call an Amuse-bouche, usually a “mouth amuser” which serves here as a Meal amuser The LIME GROVE- Nitro poached green tea and Lime mousse. The liquid Nitrogen is bubbling and evaporating in a white mist in a container into which a ball of lime mousse is tossed in and turned around in a freezing temperature of −196 °C as the mousse hardens, a dust
of green tea is sprinkled over and just before you’re requested to put it whole in your mouth the finishing touch of Lime fragrance is sprayed over your head and engulfs you with the aroma of lime inside and out and the mousse melts in your mouth as you bite the “hard / soft” ball of delight. It is fresh and fun and tingles your taste buds with the sense of fun it is intended, still with the correct concentration of the flavor of what it is meant to be: a lime mousse in a bite. Welcome to the Fat Duck, Here life is beautiful… The theatrical curtain opener is over, but as in the theatre the show must go on and the first course is served: RED CABBAGE GAZPACHO served with ice cream of Pommery Grain Mustard. Well, Pommery mustard, also known as Moutarde de Meaux, this is truly a culinary historic gem. This jewel of condiment comes from Meaux, France, (just northeast of Paris). It is said that French kings have been dining on this mustard since the early 1600s. Of all gourmet mustards, this particular mustards blend is on the top of the list, both for its richness and its simplicity. It is said that the secret recipe for pommery mustard originated with an ancient religious sect that lived in the town of Meaux,. In the year 1760, the secret was revealed to the Pommery family, and they have kept it safe ever since.
Back to the dish, though the photo speaks for itself, a deep purple smooth Gazpacho or traditional Russian Borscht (both would fit the description) decorated with a delicate grained white ice cream with a hint of very fine mustardy flavor that looked like the sun setting into an ocean of purple bliss, as in the Deep Purple song Lalena that came right to my mind (press play to listen to the song as you read on, to ease the pain)
When the sun goes to bed
That’s the time you raise your head
That’s your lot and life, Lalena
Can’t blame ya, Lalena!
Lalena is the name of the Russian girl eating her Borscht and sour cream… You dig? I can’t blame YA. Aren’t we having fun??? I am now as I was then, slurping the meticulously spiced almost “Gazpacho essence” with a morsel of ice cream to melt on my tongue on every bite. We’re through the first two dishes and your Tenzo is giving you a “break”, as I was given between each and every dish (of around 15-20 leisurely moments) for our five senses to sink into the meal’s atmosphere We slid down the rabbit hole and still have 10 more dishes to go,so patience my friends,
Create one mouth full of food with 3 separate flavors Feast at the Fat Duck
…We cleared our palate from the delicate Gazpacho, flavored with a hint of the tiny cucumber cubes (brunoise) and mustard, with the excellent breads on offer (which bread would you like Sir?.. a bit of both, of course! …) especially when enhanced with the voluptuous sea salted french butter, I love good bread it is so basic yet can reach heights of pleasurably delights under the loving care of a good Baker, and even better, wrapped up with some more sips of the fresh Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru, Boudriotte, Domaine Ramonet 2004 , served by the capable, gentle, and knowledgeable Mr. ISA BAL the Duck’s head sommelier . Though the 2004 is not the best vintage year for Bourgogne’s whites, Boudriotte always displays finesse, elegance with a long, ripe finish yet crisp with a strong sense of green apple peel, balanced with notes of crème patissière and toasted butter brioche. My wine of choice to fit the occasion, it went very well with the first four offerings. Now, the table is being laid down with the stage setting of act 3 of the show: “welcome to your very own tiny oak forest, the only place truffles grow…”. It is a wonderfully orchestrated Homage to Alain Chapel legendary dish Jelly of Pigeons with 3 chicken oysters and young vegetables, The FAT DUCK version: Jelly of Quail, crayfish cream, chicken Liver Parfait, Oak Moss & Truffle Toast. A game of associations…A long name and an elaborate setting to go with it, first a wooden box with Oak moss that looks like a rectangle piece of grass, which brought another smile and sense of fun to the table with two “fat duck Oak films” to melt over your tongue which has a delicate aroma of Oak that spreads around your mouth and evaporates through your nose with an oaky bark sensation and a touch of wet oak moss,
as the films melt over our tongues the waiter pours hot water and oak scented oil on the turf box causing vapors of oak scented mist, to crawl out of the box and over the table cloth onto our laps, what a wonderful sight luring you into an enchanted forest where truffles may be found under the Oak trees.
Quite rightly Spike said: “Heston Blumenthal must b mad as a brush!” What a load of fun… And that is the basic Idea behind all this so far wonderful meal, innit? The whole scene immediately reminded me of Woody Allen’s father’s “Piece of Land” from the movie Love and Death (Have a look and tell me I’m wrong!
The rest of the dish is laid around with sensuous pastel colors of brownish peach and some surprises after you dug in (if you dare) to disturb the beauty of the triple wrapping “Babushka” arrangement of, outer layer of liver parfait covering the quail’s jelly with the “mushy peas” inside like a savory “Mozart” chocolate (Salzburg Mozartkugeln) course you do bite on it almost impatiently, after all we came to eat!!
All the rest is a bonus. The liver parfait is light and smooth coating a concentrate of quail stock jelly that really tastes of quail stew that bursts open to reveal a galantine pea mousse a smooth “mushy peas” style flavor and all of that swimming in a bowl of Langoustine cream.
We ordered some more bread and wiped the bowls shining clean Superb!The truffle and oak toast was forgiven due to mitigating circumstance concerning the time of the year being way beyond the truffle season. Most diners, (I know I would), could easily be fooled by some drops of good truffle oil or white truffle paste to enhance the aroma and flavor of the truffle toast, we happily settled with the Oaky atmosphere that was bestowed upon us.We were in a state of constant blissful smile which threatened our facial skin so I looked around the restaurant and literally every guest was HAPPY! The sense of fun caught all forty four of us diners, mission accomplished as far as the Kitchen and the Ducks philosophy is concerned : ” We believe that cooking can affect people in profound ways, and that a spirit of collaboration and sharing is essential to true progress in developing this potential.“ So Bring in the sense of FUN in life” through food and a visit to the restaurant. I too, always felt, that this is the idea behind a good restaurant, a good meal, a good food and wine outing.
Next came the Snail Porridge, Jabugo Ham, Shaved fennel. A dish always mentioned when the restaurant is in the media. Personally I’m not too keen on “Porridge” in its traditional preparation form, it’s not a food I was raised on or “learned to like” at early age, and you can’t deny it’s an acquired taste kinda food and consistency… neither am I hot for snails, they usually disappear in tons of herbs and garlic. This is my “challenge” dish and there it came the first thing that came to mind was the fresh parsley green color the same unique parsley green color of Bernard Loiseau’s legendry dish: Escargots Au Veloute De Persil. The Porridge was not overcooked and mushy (which is probably what I dislike about porridge), and the scent of the Jabugo Ham* added depth to the dish that was decorated with some braised and then butter sautéed snails, and some shavings of fennel.
Needless to say it was again meticulously spiced and well balanced. *They say that “Jabugo breed pigs are the only animals of this species in which stored fat is redistributed thoughout the body, infiltrating the muscle fibers. These pigs consume a diet with a high acorn content their fat is of superior quality, giving the flesh its characteristic texture, aroma and flavour.
We were now served the Roast Foie Gras, Gooseberry, Braised Konbu and crab biscuit.
The foie gras was made to perfection, the pinkish late season, gooseberry coulis was a great compliment to the foie gras yearning for a touch of fruity acidity and the Konbu (Japanese sea weed) and crab thin and crunchy biscuits added antagonism in texture and taste with its sea saltiness to complete the balance. Great !!! As I went out for a short break and a phone call to my dear friend Yair to consult on the next wine I am about to order from a shortlist I have prepared the night before, I thought to myself, what a pleasure it is to enjoy a really good meal in the right lighthearted manner and pleasant fellow dinners And until I do decide upon the suitable wine I leave you till next time…with seven more dishes to go, where we’re invited to A Mad Tea-Party with ALICE.
Like Alice in wonderland we were only half way down the rabbit hole, we were falling the very deep and wondrous well, and had plenty of time as we went down, Alice, Spike and I, to look about us and to wonder what was going to happen next. One thing I was sure of the wine we ordered is about to finish and a new bottle suitable for the next 4 courses should be ordered. Now the wine list at the Fat Duck is fairly large in volume and selection and I dislike reading book size wine lists in the middle of a pleasant meal so I made the effort and looked into it, the night before (Hooray for a good internet site) such as the Fat Ducks: http://www.thefatduck.co.uk/The-Menus/The-Wine-List/ and made myself a shortlist of about 5 wines (Spike drinks only whites) after being satisfied with my first choice I thought a more “reddish” white wine will be more suitable, and the meal was so enjoyable up till now, I decided to consult with a “telephone friend”. Yair my dear friend was the obvious choice and although he and later Isa (the house sommelier) tried to direct me in a more fresh and elegant direction, and even tried to “warn” me of the extra oakiness of Mounir Saouma touch, on this specific wine. Still I knew I wanted to taste the wine of my fellow countryman Mounir who “made it big” in Bourgogne which is not a trifle matter and so I opted for the Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru, La Romanée, Lucien Le Moine 2004, which turned to be on the day a wine well suited for the rest of the meal. While the bottle is opened and given a much needed “breather” let us have another look at the oaky mist (this time) from our very own table:The break is over and I felt like the March Hare mumbling to himself: ‘Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be late!’ I returned to our table to get ready for the next dish: MOCK TURTLE SOUP “Mad Hatter Tea” , In the words of Lewis Carroll it is : A Mad Tea-Party (CHAPTER 7, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll 1865) As the card by our plates explains Turtle soup was highly popular in 19th century England but was so expensive and hard to get (sea turtles were rare and difficult to import) that a mock turtle soup was developed using calves head and feat (that is why Lewis Carroll, mentions in length the story of the mock turtle and John Tenniel whose drawings accompany “Alice in Wonderland” drew the Mock Turtle with calves head and feet). Welcome to our very own Mad Hatters tea party. We are each served a 24 karat gold leaf plated, fob watch, which we put (or dip) into a cup of tea and boiling water are poured over it, we’re in the scene: “The March Hare took the watch and looked at it gloomily: then he dipped it into his cup of tea”
our mock fob watch dissolves like a tea bag and glitters of gold leaf “swim” in a cup of boiling water that turns into a brownish broth (the mock turtle soup), with a deep meaty concentrate aroma and flavor. The bowl in front of us is a setting of the complimentary scene: what goes with mock turtle? Mock turtle egg It looks like an egg but the white is turnip mousse and the yolk is Swede and saffron nothing is what it is it just looks like what we think it is… confused?? Add some enoki mushrooms to keep the wonderland atmosphere going, and an ox tongue and Colonnata Lardo (from Fausto Guadagni) Terrine that gives the fatty feel of what is described as genuine turtle soup.
“Colonnata is a small village in the hills of Tuscany that happens to make the world’s best lard. Fausto Guadagni is one of the last, and best, of the traditional producers. The Lardo is treated with spices and matured for six to eight months in marble tubs, known as conche, in caves cut out of the same stone. The result is fragrant, melting and joyous.” Now, garnish the bowl in your mind with cucumber, pickled turnip, truffle cubes, and some leaves of micro parsley. pour the golden broth from the cup onto the enchanted scene bowl, and there you have it; Mock turtle soup. I trust Heston this is as close to turtle soup as you can get!! And as in the the Mock turtle sad song, on the day it was:Beautiful Soup, so rich and green, Waiting in a hot tureen! Who for such dainties would not stoop? Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup! Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!It was glorious in the bowl and wonderful on your tongue and over your palate as you swallowed each spoonful of golden fairytale in a bowl. And yes we’re still having fun and yes the wine is a bit over oaky but the bourgognian Chardonnay from La Romanee, (chassagne) is powerful enough to withstand the wood without losing its character. Can we hope to proceed with anything to match the ingenuity and originality of the wonderland soup?
A large Conch a symbol of old, is laid down in front of us with a pair of modern I Pod ear phones sticking out of it…
The conch, this is one of the most important emblems of the India God Vishnu. He is the protector of the world and the restorer of moral order (dharma). He is peaceful, merciful, and compassionate. The blowing of the conch symbolizes the primordial creative voice and Indian mysticism links it to the sacred sound OM , which is said to be the breath of Vishnu, pervading all space. This is a good sign to what is going to come, but are we going to say OM or sigh UMMM to the taste of THE SOUND OF THE SEA.
A sea shore scene on a glass slab is laid before us here’s the sand made of Tapioca mixed with fried grounded baby eels, some Japanese sea weed for taste and decoration, with a triptych of sashimi of mackerel, Halibut and yellow tail, and the foam of the sea I guess a foam of a fish consommé to “kiss” the sand and the fish. The sound of sea waves and sea gulls take you to somewhere on a British shore line, the tapioca sand is really sandy between your teeth, with a deep but delicate sea saltiness flavor and aroma added by the ground eels, and the foam is a fine touch to wrap the sea taste in your mouth and mind, we went UMMM, but felt the breath of Vishnu pervading our taste buds and nose, OM we blessed the chef…for serving us a “sunny day down at the beach”, on a plate. Today, the conch is used in Tibetan Buddhism to call together religious assemblies. During the actual practice of rituals, it is used both as a musical instrument and as a container for holy water. We kept the earphones in for a longer while as the sound is calming and the total effect is outrageous or as Spike put it on an email to his friends: “…a dish called SOUND OF THE SEA came: a conch shell with headphones 2 put in yr ears (it had an ipod inside) b4 they brought over a beach on a tray with frothing sea + sand + seafood – all edible – whilst u listened 2 seagulls + waves, I kid u not baby!” We are still before our main dishes of fish and than Pigeon and a whole lot of desserts and sweets. All or at least mostly in part 4 to come real soon. but at the moment we savor our Chassagne-Montrachet, and cherish the joy this meal is giving us.
Our next dish Salmon poached in Liquorice with Artichoke, Vanilla Mayonnaise and Golden Trout Roe, is a perfect example of cooking which utilizes the scientific knowledge of what is called Molecular Gastronomy, and turns the knowledge into eatable food of the highest quality and finesse which is in one word cooking or even Haut cuisine for some. Not the bubbling mist of ultra cold gases in their “frozen” liquid form as they warm up in room Temperature, (although I must say it is a lot of fun), or other stunning paraphernalia (I like firework displays), but cooking at its highest standard with precision and care in which the ingredients are scrupulously picked from the best producers of each ingredient around the globe, and then prepared to perfection. (Pommery Mustered from Meaux, France, Jabugo ham from Huelva, Andalusia, Spain, Konbu from Japan,Lard.From Fausto Guadagni in ColonnataToscana, Pigeons from Anjou etc.). Still, all the time keeping the flavor taste and texture of each ingredient meticulously.
Two separate ingredients rarely or never assembled together in one dish are combined together because they contain a mutual chemical compound, Asparagine; (One of the 20 most common natural amino acids on Earth). Originally the dish was constructed of liquorices and asparagus both have very high content of Asparagine, combination that in Blumenthal words brings the Bitter sweet effect (bitter being the Asparagus and sweet the liquorice) but kitchens get “tired” of the same dish looking the same and tasting the same day in and day out, so changes are made with the “decor” or the secondary ingredient of the dish, but not with the idea behind the basic thought, or the essential core that combines the dish. We were served the Salmon poached in Liquorice, with Artichoke as a veggie bitter touch. Artichoke contains mostly phenolic compounds such as chlorogenic acid, but also asparagine and other substances. Connection re achieved!!!
The substance to this dish is a nice square of fillet of Salmon which is strong, fatty and “rich” enough to withstand the overpowering strength of Liquorice. And it works! The slice of pink salmon is cooked in “the Lab” (poached in a sous- vide bag under exact pressure of 60mbar at precisely 42ºC for around 25 minutes (puphhhhhhh) thank god there’s a restaurant with all that equipment, no wonder they reach near perfection in depth of cooking, texture, color, and consistency, but I must confess all that is not good enough if you don’t have a good sense of taste and that they do at the Fat Duck.Add the Vanilla mayo, the Golden Trout Roe, and the pink grapefruit individual fruit cells, (for acidic touch, which is also glorious on the plate as decoration), combine them all in one bite, and the balance as much as it is hard to predict is amazing this is a real achievement in taste of “paring the impossible” (Though I’m not mad on Liquorice, it’s taste and after taste, I was impressed.)I will Iet you into a small secret (I left myself some of the Chassagne Boudriotte), enough to go with this dish and they went famously together.
Our next serving is POWDERED ANJOU PIGEON (c.1720) Blood Pudding Potted Umbles, Spelt and Pickles According to British historian Joan Thirsk, this is a periods of excess cereals. In post-Black Death Europe, the smaller human population meant grains could be put aside for feeding birds; similarly, the low grain prices in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries also translated into increases of raising pigeons. Spelt which is basically a wheat species, was an important staple in parts of Europe from the Bronze Age to medieval timesDuring the Baroque era, English cuisine consisted of various breads, meat pies, fresh fruit, sweets and desserts. for the first time the dining room became a clearly defined space within a house dedicated to one particular purpose-the service and enjoyment of food and all the pomp and circumstance that can surround it. In the French manner, at each course all the different dishes were placed on the table at the same time and in exactly prescribed locations. The diners would help themselves to whatever was near at hand without moving the dishes, and if necessary pass their plates to their neighbors to get food that was out of their reach. At large dinners this meant that it was impractical for guests to sample all the dishes, so it was important to have an interesting selection of foods near each guest. And this is precisely what we have here,
a plate adorned with Pigeon Ballotine (powdered with Transglutaminase powder), pigeon and duck crunchy crackers, Pig’s blood black pudding, baby turnips and Grelot onions pickled in a foam of junipers berries brine, and a second violin a bowl of Potted Umbles mousse and puffed Spelt with some whole sautéed pigeon livers on top. As in the concerto where the violins rush after each other meeting at times in a crescendo of sounds the dish does the same in your mouth, the tastes and flavors separate and join together with volume and intensity that gradually increases and all the time keeping the deep dark complex flavor of this wonderful game bird.Just looking at the photo reveals the fact that the meat was cooked/prepared to perfection with the aid of the transglutaminase but the surprise of the dish is without a doubt the smooth black pudding with a rich chocolate ganache color, feel, and look which is also quite deceiving at first and cleaned off the plate completely at the end. Magnifique !
Before we start our desserts we are served the Fat Duck Palate cleanser, HOT& ICED TEA, Palate cleansers, by nature, are used in the middle of a meal to remove lingering flavors from the mouth so that the next course may be enjoyed with a fresh perspective and that is certainly required after the intensity of the pigeon & Co.
They use earl grey tea but the aroma flavor and medicinal effects of Lemon verbena infusion could be a winner here. You have to gulp it in one go and Yes it is both cold and iced at the same time and yes it is a jelly of tea using Gellan F. to form Tea flavored jellies, cold and Hot (over 70ºC) assembled vertically in a glass.
I is THE BIG FRIENDLY GIANT –THE BFG, THAT’S ME… (by Roald Dahl) Feast at the Fat Duck part 5
Our palates are cleansed and the first dessert TAFFETY TART (C1660) Caramelizd Apple, Fenne,Rose and Candied Lemon, is served.Not before we order our dessert wine. Not because I think it is necessary but because Spike usually does…so we order by the glass, Tokaji Aszú, 6 Puttonyos, Oremus, Tokaj-Hegyalja, 2000. As tokajis go this one is a youngling to the ones I would drink at home (I love good dessert wines), but I’m not chez moi (unfortunately, wine wise I mean). TAFFETY TART (C1660) I wonder what happened in 1660 or who wrote the recipe for this tart in mid 17th century England? This is really a wonderful desert to look at and of course to sample (which is not the right word to use) since we finished it to the last drop of anything. I think a photo of spike eating it will sum up our feelings.
The elegance which you see in front of your eyes is really the call of the WILD, into this wonderful dessert which is just at the right amount of sweetness (meaning not too sweet still crisp crunchy and fresh and voluptuous, I think it “speaks for itself.
As a matter of fact “toffee” (or “taffy”) is a relatively new word, (early nineteenth century). It must surely be related to “taffeta”, which has referred to a glossy fabric since at least the fourteenth century, ad for taffeta we find recipes for Taffety Tarts, which usually contained apple. It is a spectacularly fragrant version – the apple pulp scented and flavoured with orange, quince, rose-water, and violets, This recipe is first published in The Cook’s and Confectioner’s Dictionary” 1724) Mix a quarter of a Pack of Fine Flour, with a quarter of a Pint of Yeast, and as much hot Liquor as will make it into a stiff Paste, with two Pound of butter, the Yolks of twelve Eggs, and half a Pound of fine Sugar; make it up into small Balls, and then roll it out into thick Plates; wash round their Brims with Milk: Boil Pippins soft, peel them and scrape the Pulp from the Cores, mingle the Pulp with fine Sugar, a little Marmalade of Quinces, the Scrapings of candied Orange-peel, and Rose-water: Make up your Tarts, dry them in a warm Place, bake them, scrape Sugar, and sprinkle Essence of Violets or Roses over them, and serve them up.
So the cake we are served is a fine and delicate assembly of all that is described in the recipe above in a manner that makes sense. (I’ve read thousands of recipes and cooked from them, but the above C.1724 instructions, will amount to nothing that looks or tastes like a tart. Thanks H.B… for your High end of “tart couture”, it is indeed made in the finest tradition of Haute couture.
Taffeta (sometimes spelled taffety) The word is Persian in origin and means “twisted woven”, It is a crisp, smooth woven fabric made from silk or nowadays synthetic fibers. It is considered to be a “high end” fabric. This “Tart” is laid down in style and colors which resemble Elizabethan fashion
The Next desert is THE BFG Black Forest Gateau. During the 80’s you could find horrible BFG’s in every English supermarket or food chain which gave the cake a bad name and shivering memories down my spine – it consists of several layers of chocolate cake, with whipped cream and cherries between each layer. Then the cake is decorated with additional whipped cream, maraschino cherries, and chocolate shavings.But we’ve been in Victorian wonderland why can’t we be “thrown” into 20th century fantastic stories of Roald Dahl’s The BFG: One dark night, an orphan named Sophie is snatched from her bed by a giant, and whisked away to another world. Fortunately, her abductor is the Big Friendly Giant (BFG for short), a likeable guy who spends his time giving good dreams to children. He’s also the only one of his species who doesn’t eat humans, but as the smallest and weakest, he’s powerless to stop his brutal neighbors. As long as Fleshlumpeater, Bloodbottler, and all the rest are free, Sophie will never be safe, so she and the BFG concoct a plan to stop the evil giants and save humanity – once and for all!
This BFG is a Black Forest Gateau and it is not your everyday BFG, it is a fantasy of how this southern German dessert / cake: Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, literally “Black Forest cherry cake” should have always been it restores English German relations and gives a good name to the Black forest horrific landscapes that inspired Grimm’s fairy tales. Anyway it really burrows its name from the specialty liquor of that region, known as Schwarzwälder Kirsch(wasser) a kind of eau de vie or Schnapps distilled only from the Schwarzwälde region tart cherries. HB: ” the pastry chef at the Confiserie Gmeiner had told me that the cake should contain four tastes sweet sour salt and bitter” with contrasts in taste and colors,
add the Kirsch and sour cream ice cream and you have the complete requirements in a compact dolls house of 8 layers of various chocolates mousses and cherries hidden behind the chocolate dusted outer layer with an amarena cherry on top and as before the secret remains well hidden until the first bite of cut through the cake. This BFG restores this traditional cake’s reputation.You like wine gums? I do I always did not the sticky artificial flavor version we have today … The Whiskey Wine Gums in the “spirit” of wine gums, arranged over a map of Scotland Ireland (and one from the American Colony in Old Tennessee) all 5 wine gums, taste different in strong whisky flavors as if your having a deep sniff into a glass of well distilled spirit.
My favorite was No.2 West Highlands Oban-The little Bay and so it is, look it up in the Map.
With our coffee we receive a pink stripped paper bag (like the goodies bag you get on birthday parties) Called Like Kids in a Sweet Shop bag which contains sweets and “surprises” (all edible of course including the wrappers) and all tasting deliciously rascally. Each and every one winks at you with a childish mischievous look.
Well our dinner is over and we are happy, satisfied and amused and what more can you ask from a dinner I ask you and myself and to those who think I am new to these occasions, and that is why I am so thrilled by this joyous Lunch experience, rest assure I am experienced enough to understand how good it is to enjoy the work of an artists whose satisfaction is your joy. All the intricacies of this meal are directed with the thought that this is their mission and I say mission accomplished Spike and I and all the diners with whom we had eye or verbal contact where feeling the same. As for the restaurants requirements from themselves let’s have a look at their goals and see if they were achieved in our view:
ONE : Three basic principles guide our cooking: excellence, openness, and integrity. Check!
TWO: Our cooking values tradition, builds on it, and along with tradition is part of the ongoing evolution of our craft. Check!
THREE: We embrace innovation – new ingredients, techniques, appliances, information, and ideas – whenever it can make a real contribution to our cooking. Check!
FOUR: We believe that cooking can affect people in profound ways, and that a spirit of collaboration and sharing is essential to true progress in developing this potential. Check!
Allow me to wave off with (almost) ridicule and contempt those who have not been WOWed enough or those who suggest that the price is too high let me tell you that for this amount of thought, use of ingredients (some very expensive), amount of kitchen stuff work, number of stuff per diner, quality of glassware and silverware, and sheer 5 hours of contentious fun and enjoyment this meal is more than fairly priced!!! As a matter of fact it is rather inexpensive at around £150 plus service charge!We slid happily down the rabbit hole and came out through the looking glass, and on the day The Mock Turtle soup turned into a real, most precise and pure consommé of turtle, like the one in Babette’s Feast, the one you saw, read, heard about but would never be able to taste, and there it was caressing my taste buds and filled my heart with childish happiness, and so were all the other dishes served upon us with love and care guests deserve.
*Although not specifically mentioned I have used “The Big Fat Duck Cookbook” (a wonderful “cook book” by the way), as a reference and insight into the ingredients and ways of prep of most dishes and Mr. Blumenthal’s “notes” on the ins and outs of the Fat Duck dishes. Thanks H.B and all at the FAT DUCK, I know I have missed some of the dishes and I do intend to return this time for dinner (we had Lunch), after I visit the new venue Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in London.