Friday, 14 November 2014

Sous vide by Victoria Glass

A couple of years ago my friend and fellow caterer gave herself the mammoth task of cooking the entire alphabet over the course of 12 months. Each supper club had a designated letter and every fortnight Vic and her partner invited a varied selection of like-minded gluttons into their home for bacchanalian feasts that sometimes had as many as 13 courses. Let's just say she likes to cook. She likes to feed people. She likes people to be happy.

So when I received an email stating that she was cooking an entire meal in the sous vide and would I like to attend I pretty much cleared my diary. As a chef I've cooked in a sous vide before but it's honestly not an instrument I've used a lot. Each item is carefully vacuum packed or wrapped and then submerged into the water bath to be cooked at a very precise temperature. The results are astounding. Vegetables taste as vibrant and fresh as if they were raw, meat cooks evenly from end to end and turns into an almost butter like texture, and the texture of fish changes completely until you get an almost cevicche texture with a piercing fresh flavour..

Now I'm going to be honest here, while I love the flavours and textures produced by the sous vide this is not a method of cooking that is ideal for the home due to a certain level of hassle.  As mentioned there's the wrapping and you still have to seal/brown the meat if you want it to have that lovely crisp texture on the outside. I think if you were cooking one element in the machine for a dinner party it would be fine, but the challenge here was to cook everything. And this led to time constraints that wouldn't be necessary under less contrived circumstances. That was fine for us guests through, we all got on famously and we had plenty of wine to get through and even had some indoor fireworks to play with, what with it being bonfire weekend.

It was a Sunday Lunch. Naturally I got home just before midnight!

The menu was divine.  Our hostess is a heavenly cook, and can match flavours better than anyone I know. She really outdid herself here. I think if there was any weak element for me it would be the starter, a game bird terrine that somehow lacked the coherent textures I was expecting. The ham that was used to line the terrine still retained an oddly raw texture as a result of the sous vide procedure. The flavours however were delicious.

The main course is where the fireworks really started. The most succulent piece of pork belly I've ever tasted was served with a toffee apple, liquid smoke fondant potato, smoked garlic and pumpkin puree and kale. All lightly covered with a pork and port gravy that looked like velvet and tasted like ambrosia.

And the finale? Well I'm just going to describe it you. I think the ingredients say it all. Bonfire toffee, rum and ginger creme caramel using the sous vide machine as a precise bain marie. Creme caramel is my favourite dessert in the world, and since I've now shamelessly stolen her recipe this is the one I shall make forever more.

Sous Vide Bonfire Menu

Milli Taylor's spinach, fennel and cumin ricotta cakes 
from her new book, Party-perfect Bites.

Game Bird Terrine: pheasant, pigeon, partridge and guinea fowl 
(Apparently James I couldn't be contacted immediately about 
the gunpowder plot because he was off on a shoot!)

Pork belly served with toffee apple, liquid smoke fondant potato, 
smoked garlic and pumpkin puree, kale and pork and port gravy

Bonfire toffee, rum and ginger creme caramel

Milli's lovely spinach, fennel and cumin ricotta cakes.
Served with a glass of sparkly, naturally.
Game bird terrine

Pork belly served with toffee apple, liquid smoke fondant potato,
smoked garlic and pumpkin puree,
kale and pork and port gravy

Bonfire toffee, rum and ginger creme caramel
with dessert wine

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