The title gives it away really. I bought Heston at Home, the book by Michelin starred chef and culinary loon Heston Blumenthal. By turns genius and hilarious- he encourages you to buy a sous vide as if £10,000 is pocket money, and suggests you buy a dry ice machine, but as I found out, his madcap ideas do bear fruit. Part of the reason I bought this book was to find out if he was a genius, or just a Damien Hirst style piss taker, laughing at the culinary establishment praising the emperor’s new clothes. I was almost disappointed to find out that he is a very clever, very talented chef, with ingenious ideas.
The seemingly disparate flavours combine in ways that make perfect sense, while being incredible, new experiences, it is rich as all hell, and by God it looks impressive. Yes, there are a lot of working parts, but only two involve active cooking- the majority can be done beforehand.
It’s totally worth it for the prestige of cooking Michelin star food alone, but definitely worth it to see what you can do with careful thought and brilliant originality.
NB- you will need a food thermometer, and an electric whisk (or a normal whisk and strong forearms)
- 300ml neutral oil
- 1tbsp wholegrain mustard
- 1 egg, plus one more egg yolk
- 1 vanilla pod
- 1 tbsp. white wine or cider vinegar
- 50g liquorice pieces
- 500ml water
- 1 sachet gelatine
- 2 salmon fillets
- Aromatics (take your pick, but a bouquet garni, onion, carrots and celery are all good!)
- 1/2 a grapefruit
- Balsamic vinegar
At least 6 hours before, but preferably 24 hours, put the liquorice in the water to soak and infuse. I did this at work in a bottle of water- it will look disgusting, but it’s worth it!
Next up, any time before you cook, make the mayonnaise. Add the eggs, mustard and a little salt to a mixing bowl (it helps to set this on a tea towel, to stop it moving), and start the whisk. Add the oil, a few drips at a time, until it’s fully mixed in, then a few more drips, and so on. As it starts to form into something that looks more mayonnaise like, you can start adding it in a steady trickle, until you have run out of oil. Once this is done, beat in the vinegar and the seeds from the vanilla pod. This will keep in a jar for about a week, and goes surprisingly well in a honey roast ham sandwich!
Take about four tbsp. of balsamic vinegar, and boil this in a pan until it has reduced by about half. Again, set this aside. All of these stages can be done well in advance, to avoid stress later!
Next, to make the liquorice jelly, put the water and liquorice in a saucepan and bring to a hard simmer for about 10 minutes. Pour this through a sieve into a bowl, then return to the saucepan. Bring it back to the boil, then beat in the gelatine until dissolved, and remove from the heat. allow to cool for a few minutes, then lay some cling film out flat on a plate, and pour over the liquorice jelly to set.
Finally, onto the salmon! This seems a little terrifying and risky, so if you are worried about food poisoning, do feel free to cook it more traditionally. However, of you’re feeling brave, this makes the moistest, flakes salmon I’ve ever had.
Chop your aromatics and stick them in a large pan, with enough water to cover the salmon. Bring it to the boil, then leave to stand for 20 minutes, until it’s collet again. While you wait, using the salmon as a template, cut two pieces of jelly to sit on top of your salmon fillets.
Slice up the flesh of the grapefruit too, into small nibble sized bits.
Put the water back on the hob, over a low heat. Using a thermometer, bring the water up to 50c. Put the salmon in, and bring it back up to 50c again. You want to bring the temperature of the thickest part to 45c in the middle. You’ll have to occasionally slip one out, and measure it, but I’d hazard it took about 10-12 minutes.
Plate it up on an artful smear of vanilla mayonnaise, with the jelly laid on top. Dot the grapefruit around it, and dot the balsamic reduction around. Serve with a little asparagus.
You just earned that Michelin star!