Heston Blumenthal at Home
Is it really possible to cook like Heston at home? This is the question I asked myself when I ummed and aarhed about whether I should buy the cook book. I love watching his shows, but I always feel it is more for entertainment and interest value than for taking recipes and ideas to replicate at home. I never get to the end of the show and think I’ll try that for my next dinner party. So I didn’t buy it for a long time; then I got into a conversation on Twitter about it and the general consensus was it’s actually not too bad.
So I bought it. If nothing else, Heston Blumenthal at Home is another one of those hardback books that looks great on the book shelf. This book doesn’t contain many quick recipes. Even the recipes that I would consider for a week night dinner, are recipes that take a lot of preparation and cooking time. Take the chilli con carne for example. It is recommended that you brine the beans for 12 hours and cook the tomatoes in a pressure cooker then infuse them with the flavours from the vine. I don’t think I like chilli con carne enough to go to all the effort.
The first recipe I tried were the tea infused cookies. I adapted it slightly, but the main aspect of the recipe from Heston’s point of view was to make your own chocolate chip cookies. I wouldn’t do it again. It was time consuming, and once you have baked the cookies you cannot distinguish between the homemade and shop bought version.
Graham likes to cook, but doesn’t do it very often. When he does cook, he likes to push the boat out, so the likes of Gordon Ramsay and Heston Blumenthal always seem to take his fancy. So it was Graham that instigated the garden salad. This is a dish based on the edible garden that Heston made for one of his feasts. This was definitely a recipe that takes time and patience. The dish comprises of a mayonnaise type sauce, with olive ‘soil’ on top, into which you ‘plant’ the baby veg. There was nothing particularly difficult about it, but the olives took four hours to dry out to make the soil. We also couldn’t get hold of the cereal required to give the soil a bit of extra colour, so we added toasted pinenuts instead.
We managed to recreate this dish quite well I think, but I have to say the pictures in the book are a little misleading. In order to fill my relatively small terrine dish we had to double the recipe. The picture in the book is highly misleading. The number of vegetables that we could fit in the terrine dish were not enough to satisfy two people for an entree, so we ended up serving extra on the side. With a double quantity of sauce and olives we ended up with loads left over. We used some of the leftovers as a topping for grilled fish, and served some as a tartare type sauce with another dish, but the rest of it went off before we had time to eat it.
I would try this dish again for a dinner party as it does look impressive in the centre of the table, but I would have to make sure there are plenty of crudites on the side to fill up the guests.
Many of the dishes in this book also require equipment I don’t have, like a pressure cooker. There is however a whole chapter dedicated to cooking sous vide, or boil in a bag as I affectionately like to call it. This does require a vacuum sealer and a thermometer, so not accessible to most home cooks, but I am lucky enough to have one as it is also a great way of keeping meat and cheese fresh for longer.
As I don’t have a proper water bath I can only cook sous vide recipes that require a relatively short cooking time. This allows me to monitor the temperature of the water on the stove top. The rack of lamb recipe seemed perfect. Unfortunately there isn’t a great deal of explanation in the book about the best cut of meat for this. I chose an Australian rack of lamb, but in hindsight a Frenched rack of lamb would have been better. The meat was delicious but when you’re cooking at low temperatures in a bag the fat doesn’t render out so it was a little off putting.
The lamb was served with some yellow heirloom carrots that I found at the farmers market. Heston suggested glazing in butter, which was highly unhealthy but highly tasty.
There are still plenty of recipes that I’d like to try in this book, including the cauliflower macaroni cheese and the roast leg of lamb. There are also plenty of recipes that I’ll leave for Heston, including the egg and bacon ice cream and lentils cooked in smoke water. Definitely a book for the keen home cook with all the fancy gadgets, or someone who likes to read about the technicalities of cooking without necessarily making any of the recipes. And in answer to my original question, is it really possible to cook like Heston at home? I think it is, with a little confidence, time and patience.