Matt's Food Blog

Smoked Eel Parfait

After all my gelatin mysteries were solved I managed to give the smoked eel parfait a go. Tasted great and it turned out the technique suggested in the Bentley book worked a treat.

PVC plumbing pipes are used as molds like so (see pics below): cut your PVC pipe to the required length (for this I used 22mm pipe and cut it to 7cm lengths), then cut out a rectangle of acetate sheet large enough to be rolled into a tube that will fit inside the pipe and protrude a couple of centimetres (in my case these were 9cm by 7cm) – once the acetate is inside the PVC pipe cover the flush end with cling film and tape secure. The pipe thingies can now be used as molds: fill just up to the end of the pipe – when your filling is set just pull out the acetate and it will unfold from your perfect little cylinder of loveliness.

For this dish the eel was then wrapped in celery jelly which had its green colour boosted by spinach – I served it with a rhubarb coulis. The eel parfait was set with gelatin and kappa carrageenan, it tasted beautifully but subtly of the smoked eel – I didn’t get too much of the celery but it certainly looked great.

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Swine Haus!

Today was spent making a little house for the pig leg which has nearly finished its stint in the fridge – we’ll hang it in its little house from a tree for the drying to take place. Still have to pop the chicken wire on to protect the ham – but I think he’ll be nice and cosy in his wee haus.

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Holy Crêpe!

Well I know it’s puerile and obvious – but I still like crêpe based wordplay. This week we bought a cheap crepe maker – and I simply don’t know how I tolerated my empty crêpe-less life before. The thing is phenomenal (it’s a Breville VTP130 btw and ours cost £28). So far we’ve had cheese, cheese ham and pineapple, roast chicken with peas and mornay sauce – as well as lots of sweet crepes with fruits and maple syrup and golden syrup etc – totally and utterly scrumulous.

The recipe is loosely that from Larousse:

250g plain flour
500ml milk
3 large eggs
pinch of salt
1 tbsp vanilla sugar (optional)
pepper (optional)
20g butter

Sift the flour and add a pinch of salt (and the vanilla sugar for a sweet crêpe – for a savoury mix add some more salt and pepper to taste); whisk together milk and eggs and then whisk the liquid into the flour mixture. Leave in the fridge for at least 2 hours (this allows the flour to absorb moisture fully – resulting in a softer crêpe, according to Harold McGee). Before serving melt the butter and allow to cool, then sieve the mixture to get rid of lumps and fold in the butter. Then make delicious things.

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Gelatin Conversion Confusion

My friend Tom’s birthday looms, and to celebrate he’s organising a soirée. We’ll be cooking for about 12, more of that anon. One of the dishes I’m keen to try is from Brent Savage’s Bentley book. I’ve had it for a while and despite lots of great sounding stuff contained therein, I haven’t actually tried any of the recipes. I’ve long been tempted by the exquisite sounding ‘Smoked Eel Parfait with White Soy Dressing and Seaweed'; not only because of how I imagine it tastes: also on account of how cool the dish looks. The eel parfait is set in a cylinder shape, then wrapped in a thin film of celery jelly – looks like a liquorice allsort.

So I have my smoked eel – courtesy of Sawyers in Belfast (Lough Neagh smoked eel is a big deal it turns out – though most of it is exported – see here and here for interesting articles). I’ve also ordered some new carrageenans from Cream Supplies – who do a range of modernist ingredients. So really all to do was to get going with practicing the recipe – that’s where I hit the snag.

The book calls for two sheets of titanium strength gelatin. Well – I only have platinum strength, and it turns out that finding out how to convert leaf gelatin amounts according to class is more tricky to work out than I would have thought.

Gelatin strength is measured by bloom – the higher the bloom value the greater the gelling strength (or the less gelatin required to set the same amount of liquid). Gelatin leaves (or sheets) are sold classed as titanium, bronze, silver, gold and platinum. Additionally different leaves have different weights, and different manufacturers use slightly different bloom strengths. So to convert a recipe that calls for a certain number of sheets of gelatin of a certain type for use with another type of gelatin you need to know: 1) the weight per leaf of each type of gelatin, 2) the bloom strength of each type and lastly, a conversion formula. You will by now appreciate that this takes a little effort to work out.

Cue the fabulous Texture – A Hydrocolloid Recipe Collection which is put together by Martin Lersch at his Kymos blog, which has amongst it’s extremely informative pages a chart of gelatin leaves, the range of their bloom strengths, and a conversion formula. Unfortunately titanium strength gelatin is not included, though most sources that I can find suggest it’s around 100 bloom.

Here’s the formula suggested in Texture: $Mass B = \ Mass A (\frac{Bloom Strength A}{Bloom Strength B})$, where Mass B refers to the mass of the leaves you have, Mass A to that of the leaves in the recipe, and similarly Bloom Strength B refers to the bloom strength of the leaves you’re using etc.

Some sites suggest applying a square root to the fraction: $Mass B = \ Mass A \sqrt(\frac{Bloom Strength A}{Bloom Strength B})$ however Martin Lersch suggests the former works better for the bloom strengths he supplies. So putting it together is a bit of a hotchpotch, I’ll go with his initially as he’s clearly a legend given how comprehensive Texture is (see below for a table of info re different bloom strengths etc).

The smoked eel parfait recipe calls for two sheets of titanium strength gelatin, which earlier in the book he explains weigh 5 grams each. So putting all that together using our formula and the table below suggests the weight of platinum gelatin we need is $\ 10(\frac{100}{240})$ which is 4.2, and as the platinumn sheets weigh 1.7 grams that means we need 2.5 sheets: easy!

Leaf TypeBloom StrengthGrams/leaf

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Damson Wine & Sloe Gin

With some trepidation I decided on a whim yesterday to see what had become of the damson wine I’d started during autumn 2009. My fine friend Jonny had a slew of them and we had spent a lovely afternoon collecting them .

Jonny had fond memories of his parents and their friends using them to make jam and such like – my reminiscences were of the gentle pops of the airlocks coming from the row of demijohns near the fire from the collection of wines my dad used to have on the go. So full of enthusiasm and armed with a second hand copy of “The Boots Book of Home Wine and Beermaking” I set about stocking up on the kit and ingredients and got started. And then ignored the demijohns for months often considering that I should really do something about them.

Anyhow – back to the present. Poured a glass from the demijohn, had a sniff – followed by a tentative sip. I’d been expecting the worse – in fact had only tried it from a sense of duty to Jonny’s damson trees. The most I had hoped for was ‘not entirely repugnant’. So it is with considerable delight that I can report that it really is quite nice. A little sweet (too much sugar added prob) and a bit one dimensional, but tasting very much like damsons – almost like a liquor. I expect it’ll make a nice aperitif or perhaps be a great addition to a gamey sauce. Going to try and fiddle around with a specific gravity measuring thingummy to work out how alcoholic it is.

Other boozy projects at the minute include the sloe gin and vodka which are infusing in a dark place at the mo. I vaguely used the recipe from the front of the site – which is full of tips and alternative recipes in the forums section. We’d harvested ours during a weekend in October whilst staying at a friend’s place in Fermanagh. Niallasaurus gathered some too and used much less sugar for his concoctions – so we’ll compare notes when it’s ready in the summer. Delish. Here’s some pics of how the sloes are progressing:

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Deep Fried Sous Vide Egg Yolks

Having previously mucked around with using the water bath to cook eggs (mostly as a result of reading Under Pressure by Thomas Keller) I was thinking about how delicious the yolks turn out: creamy and with a beautiful texture – almost like a thick lemon curd. I’d been enjoying using panko for deep frying various things over Christmas and wondered about how to deep fry the yolks this way. Seattle Food Geek had beaten me to it with this post. They turned out beautifully and now I want to include them in everything I make, the acidity from the squeeze of lemon really boosts the flavours – scrumulous.

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Piggy Wiggy Woo – First Blood

Here’s the amount of liquid that has come out of piggy in just 24 hours! 407 grams.

Update: 27 Jan, after another 4 days there’s further 597 grams!

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Piggy Wiggy Woo

So today was day one of the first Scrumulous attempt to dry cure a ham. The idea is to have some cured meats ready for June, the shortest time that one can successfully complete the process is 4-5 months so we’re cutting it a bit fine. Having scoured the web and the various books I have which give recipes for parma type ham I settled on the really quite simple recipe from Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn’s now classic book Charcuterie, with some adaptions.

Their recipe uses solely cooking salt to cure the meat – I added some nitrite/nitrate curing salt and some phosphates. The curing salts preserve colour and flavour and helps combat the likelihood of baddies making their home in the meat. The phosphates promote the activity of the salt and encourage the development of the cured texture. I used the suggested scaling from Modernist Cuisine to guide the amount of phosphate (0.2% of the weight of the meat). For the amount of Cure number 2 (the nitrite salt I used) I use the scaling from the Ruhlman recipe for Blackstrap Molasses Country Ham. So that meant I rubbed the (boned out) leg with a mature containing: 1.6 Kg salt, 350g Cure 2 and 17 grams of the polyphosphate mixture I have.

pig leg unadorned

All very exciting, the process of rubbing the leg with the mixture being oddly pleasurable. I’ve popped it in a plastic container and placed some weights atop. Over the next 16 days (one day for each 500g of piggy leg) it will live in the fridge and I’ll be regularly draining it of all the liquid that gathers and keeping an eye to ensure all of the meat remains covered with a layer of salt. I’ll probably replace the cure mix once half way through too.

pig leg in his box

People take years to perfect this kind of process so, being uncharted territory as it is, we can but wait and see how it all goes…

Curing salts can be ordered from DesignaSausage and (who also supply the phosphates)


Scrumulous Returns…

Well what a disgraceful show that was. Although I imagine typical of nascent bloggers. An initial display of enthusiasm – giving way to apathy in the extreme. It’s been well over a year since the last Scrumulous post – however all things culinary have continued apace at Scrumulous central. My new resolve to get the blog back up and running should have plenty of material to get started with, including the arrival of Modernist Cuisine (I love that book) and the rather delicious badger bourguignon (with sous vide badger loin).

There’s several food related events to come this year which should provide significant challenges – more of that later. Earlier today I salted a leg of pork as the first step towards making prosciutto type ham so that seems like a good place to start.

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Wine Club the 1st…

Well I’m eventually getting ’round to posting details of our 1st wine club (now that the second evening’s imminent…).

We’ve decided to meet monthly to work through the exercises from Jancis Robinson’s How to Taste Wine Book.

The book starts with two chapters which serve as an introduction to the whole wine drinking endeavour: ‘Learning to Taste’ followed by ‘Practical Matters’ – which deals with topics such as storing and serving wine which glasses to use etc. The following four chapters deal with: white grape wines, white grape wines, strong and sparkling wines, and wine and food respectively. Lastly there’s a glossary.

The evening was super dooper…

Wines were suggested and supplied by Robert of the delectable Bay Wines in Helen’s Bay

We kicked off with blind tasting comparing a full bodied white with a lighter red… Well people were very good at telling the difference – until the nose clips were added to the mix: mayhem! People got it totally wrong, even when they’d been correct originally. Grated sweet potato and carrot were also an impenetrable mystery when tasted this way. We’d learnt our first wine club lesson about the importance of smell and sight to the tasting experience.

The white was a 2006 Chardonnay (Saint Véran: Terres Secretes), and the red a 2007 Beaujolais from Pierre-Marie Chermette: Les Griottes – they’d both cost £9.99.

Next we did two sweetness comparisons, three whites from bone dry to sweet:

A Château di Coing de St Fiacre Muscadet from 2008:Sèvre et Maine (£8.99)

A Pasquiers Sauvignon Blanc from 2008 (£7.99)

And a Piesporter: Peter Mertes Michelsberg from 2007 (£4.99)
Followed by three reds going again from fry to sweeter:

Burke’s of Bordeaux’s Bordeaux Superior Merlot from 2005 (£9.99) – this was a real hit on the night.

A Chilean Merlot: El Caballo from  2009 (£4.99)

An Australia McGuigans Black Label 2008 (2 for £10) – after the previous two reds this, along with the Piesporter were the only two bottles left with wine in at the end of the night…
Next time it’s acidity and tannins – yum. M

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