Anatidae rotundum… the latin term, perhaps, for that rare beast: the Fat Duck. The tasting menu was, certainly, an entertaining work of art, with some very delicious dishes; however, I couldn’t help but try to work out some of the magic behind the dishes, with a view to reverse engineering them.
Some dishes are – for most people – right out. My two favourites were – perhaps unsurprisingly for a physicist – those that featured liquid nitrogen. As a palate cleanser, a spoonful of whipped egg whites with vodka and green tea was frozen. Dusted with green tea and presented before you, it was designed to be eaten straight away in one go. It was quite the opposite of a taste explosion: the little cold meringue-like object implodes as it warms on your tongue, creating a delightfully clean taste.
The other ultra-cold dish came at the end: the bacon and egg ice-cream. A copper dish was placed beside our table into which eggs were cracked. These were no ordinary eggs, however: clever use of – I suspect – a syringe had replaced their contents with a simple custard base. This was poured into a dish and stired vigourously as liquid nitrogen was added. I’ve done simillar myself when – in an Engineering Department – I had easy access to the cold liquid. By virtue of being so cold, the ice crystals that form in the custard are very small and hence the resulting dessert is exceptionally smooth. This was presented to each of us on a piece of french toast with sweet tomato jam. There was a rasher of bacon: crystallised, in the manner one usually expects of fruit!
Alongside came the first dish I plan to recreate: Earl Grey jelly. This is simple: add gelatine to strong tea, perhaps a little sugar, and wait for it to set! Another dish, less easy, to recreate, was the “hot and iced tea”: down one side of a glass was hot tea, down the other a cold jelly. The trick here is to use gelan, not gelatine: it stays set at higher temperatures. Sadly, it’s also harder to get hold of.
Some of the other dishes might be achievable in the home kitchen, too: the vanilla mayonnaise easily so, and the combination of salmon and licquorice was intriguing. Making ‘wine gums’ from whisky should be achievable too! It won’t be the same, stripped back to the basics of mixing intriguing tastes and textures – the theatrical aspect of the dinner was, of course, important. I just wonder whether – come October – I’ll be able to justify Â£100 for the Fat Duck Cookbook…