Heston’s touch of gold at the BBC Good Food Show

Posted on Tuesday, 18th November 2008

One of the billed highlights of the BBC Good Food Show, held at London’s Olympia from the 14th to the 16th of November, was ‘The Cookery Experience’ where a line-up of celebrity chiefs had been called in to present. There were some big names, including Nigella Lawson; James Martin, host of Saturday Kitchen; and John Torode, of Smith’s of Smithsfields and a judge on Masterchef.

Heston Blumenthal of The Fat Duck was also part of the line-up, and I couldn’t help but go along to hear what radical alchemistic culinary tit-bits this esteemed chef would offer to a live audience. Whilst I suspect his approach to food isn’t for everyone, by combining the science lab with a kitchen, you can’t help but acknowledge that he’s revolutionised cooking and that he pushes both the boundaries of technique and the limits of sensory perceptions.

At the BBC Good Food Show, Heston featured excerpts from his 2007 Christmas Special broadcast last December on BBC2, Heston’s Perfect Christmas Dinner. In the programme, he had invited six celebrity guests to dine in a car park which he had filled with frosted Christmas trees, and also presumably with lots of outdoor heating. For that dinner, he was inspired to draw on some of the traditional symbols of Christmas: gold, frankincense and myrrh, which he incorporated as part of his starter. In search of frankincense, he travelled to the lost city of Ubar in Oman which historians speculate is possibly the earliest shipping outpost of frankincense in the world.

From the bark of a frankincense tree, he extracted its sap, and for his starter he used the extract to create frankincense tea. The tea was then poured over an edible gold-plated bullion, filled with veal stock at its core. When the hot tea came into contact with the bullion, the latter dissolved to create a richly flavoured broth which was then consumed using a spoon crafted from the bark of a myrhh tree.

Back to the BBC Good Food Show, and each guest present was given an envelope containing a transparent sliver of gelatine set with the sap of frankincense from the same tree in Ubar that he had used to create his Christmas dish.

The flavour was quite complex, and tasted slightly bitter and quite peppery, with an aftertaste that stayed with me for well over an hour. Also in the envelope was a small wafer, the same as the one which had been included in the Christmas crackers that he presented to his guests on the programme, and which “tasted like the smell of a baby.” Made from milk powder, vanilla, pistachio and a touch of cream, it tasted like, well, the smell of a baby.

The presentation also covered some of the other dishes that he cooked during his Christmas Special. He also talked about one of his most recent creations, his Fat Duck dish – the “Sound of the Sea”. This is a seafood dish, and each diner is to wear a set of iPod headphones which play the sounds of the sea as they eat this dish. The effect is to enhance the taste by tapping into your audio senses. Towards the end of this segment he also revealed that this was perhaps one of the dishes that he was most proud of having created in his career.

During question time at the end, one person in the audience asked if there was anything he couldn’t cook, which he initially responded to by playfully pretending to walk off stage. His verbal response was that even if you don’t achieve success with your first attempt at a recipe, repeated attempts will ultimately achieve for you the results you desire. For a man who taught himself to cook, and then went on to earn three Michelin stars for The Fat Duck, it’s easy to believe that this is truly his ethos.

Web: http://www.bbcgoodfoodshow.com/

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