Drink prepared using the molecular technique
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“I think it is a sad reflection on our civilisation that we can and do measure the temperature in the atmosphere of Venus….. We do not know what goes inside our souffles” - Nicholas Kurti (1969)
Cooking is an art with a strong scientific backing to it, and being a chef is all about science in the kitchen. This science of cooking is one step forward to enhancing our understanding in the pairing of foods.
Molecular technology is a technique where chefs use existing scientific methods to understand how the physical and physio-chemical properties of water can alter the taste and texture of foods. It allows chefs to look at food at a molecular level, breaking up flavours and tastes to define and dissect them and, in turn, understanding the science behind pairing flavours and exploring novel flavour combinations.
Rooted in the ideas of Nicholar Kurti (a scientist), Herve This and Harold Mc Ghee (a food writer), the idea of Molecular cooking took on a big way. Today, we have chefs who specialize in molecular cooking. In fact, the famous restaurant El Buli in Spain is open just six months of the year; the remaining six are dedicated to experimentation with food to create culinary wonders. Another one is Chef Heston Blumenthal’s ‘The Fat Duck’. In the Chef’s own words, “The idea behind all this dissection of flavours is to surprise, to re-invent and de-familiarise to sensory impact on the palate by isolating flavours and enhancing others.”
And it doesn’t just stop at solid foods – we also apply Molecular science to drinks! The label molecular mixology is all about taking known drinks, breaking them apart, then going through a tasting wheel to identify the flavours, then putting it all together again and building it differently but giving you the same drink on a whole new level. All this is achieved by using foams, jellies, fruit and spice caviars and a whole range of stuff. Have you tried a jellied Gin and Tonic and creating the fizzy feel with chemicals like agar agar, sodium carbonate with citric acid? Or your martini in mousse form with an olive on top or a jellied vermouth? Well, you can now.
A meeting with Molecular Mixologist Spike Marchant turned out to be an enlightening experience. It was from him that I learned how the foams, gels and tiny caviars are put to use. They are made from using natural products such as those extracted from soya or the alginates in seaweed to give particular textures and consistencies. The foams use egg whites and gelatine, the airs use soya lecithin, the caviars are pearls created by dropping a mixture of a flavouring compound with alginate into a calcium chloride solution that forms a 'shell' to give a caviar like look and feel.
Molecular mixology is all about experimenting. So raid your cupboards for jams and all kind of syrups that can be put to use. Take different teas, give your favourite drinks a twist, use spices, use lots of ice. The fun is all in the making and the presentation. It is that moment of theatre that engages imagination and expectation, so put your imagination to the test!
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