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Monday, October 25, 2010

Molecular Gastronomy at Chef's Armoury, Rosebery

"I've got the perfect book for this," says Leigh Hudson at Chef's Armoury.

It seems highly appropriate that The Big Fat Duck Cookbook by Heston Blumenthal is used to depress the plungers of nine loaded syringes in a molecular gastronomy cooking demonstration called Tokyo Food Trends held for SIFF.

Loading the syringe with red capsicum puree

Tonight Pig Flyin' and I are guests at the preview class of this event, a chance to run-through the entire demonstration before the following four days of paying customers.

Perspex tray with capsicum caviar pearls

A perspex stand with nine slots at the top takes pride of place on the demonstration counter. Leigh gets the class underway with little introduction.

He loads nine syringes with equal measures of capsicum puree, thickened with sodium alginate. As he pushes the book down onto the nine syringes, individual drops rain into a tray of calcium chloride solution. The calcium chloride sets each drop so it looks like caviar pearls.

Capsicum caviar pearls

The pearls set from the outside in, and should only be left briefly in the solution so its core is still in a liquid state. This means when a diner bites through the membrane, it imitates a caviar pearl, with a surprise burst of liquid in the middle.

Collecting the pearls

The pearls are collected and rinsed briefly in plain water to remove the calcium chloride.

Making white soy foam

Capsicum pearls on sushi rice with kingfish sashimi and white soy foam

Our first dish of the evening is a sashimi plate, the capsicum pearls spilling over a sailboat of sushi rice and nori seaweed, anchored by a pat of fiery wasabi.

Soy lecithin has been used to create the puff of white soy foam that sits on two firm fresh slices of kingfish.

Tomato jelly with sesame sand, fresh tomato with homemade Kewpie-style mayonnaise

A cube of tomato jelly served with sesame sand is one component of the next dish. The sesame sand is made by baking a flattened mixture of melted isomalt and sesame seeds on a Silpat baking sheet, and then blitzing the biscuit in a food processor to create granulated sand.

The second plate is a simple wedge of seasonal tomato, super ripe and sweet, accompanied with a swirl of Chef's Armoury own homemade Kewpie-style mayonnaise. This Japanese mayonnaise differs from European recipes with its inclusion of yuzu juice, dashi powder and rice vinegar instead of lemon juice.

Making miso soup balls using reverse spherification

The demonstration moves to the process of reverse spherification. Instead of incorporating sodium alginate into a mixture and setting it in a bath of calcium chloride, the mixture is thickened with calcium gluconate and set in a bath of sodium alginate.

Miso soup with scallion oil

A miso soup (made using red and white miso) is set into a lustrous yolk that sits in a puddle of scallion oil. We slip the miso yolks into our mouths and laugh when it explodes with a salty umami miso soup centre.

Clack egg cracker

The Clack egg cracker is the kind of contraption that makes every food geek sit up and take notice. The silver hat is rested on top of a boiled egg and the metal ball is lifted to the top of the pole and then allowed to descend at free speed until it hits the bottom with a "clack".

Egg shells with their tops cut off

What it does is cause a stress fracture at the base of the helmet, allowing the top of the egg to be removed cleanly for fancy egg shell presentations.

Spooning dashi stock over the 64-degree egg

Leigh slips out the wobble of soft-boiled egg, replacing with a bed of rice, onions cooked in dashi stock and then placing the egg on top.

Chicken kushikatsu

Miniature oyakodon

Chicken kushikatsu, skewers of chicken fillet rolled in panko crumbs and deep-fried, arrive in miniature milk bottles. Leigh serves them with the egg, calling it his miniature oyakodon, a take on the traditional Japanese dish of simmered chicken, egg and onions served over a large bowl of rice. Oyakodon means "parent and child" and refers to the use of both the chicken and the egg in this dish.

Yuzu jelly with fizz

A palate cleanser of yuzu jelly sets our tongues tingling with fizzy citric acid and sugar.

Snapper with dashi, white soy and porcini soup

We move onto the elegant simplicity of snapper, a moist and buttery piece of fish resting in a dashi, white soy and porcini soup. Cubes of carrot and turnip are intensely concetrated, a characteristic explained when Leigh tells us each has been cooked sous vide, the vacuum-sealed bag eliminating any loss of flavour.

Yabbies in the frypan

A jostle of yabbies in the frypan look decidedly cute, even though Leigh had told us he'd bought them all live only that morning.

Yabbies lounging around

He perches the heads of the yabbies at the front of our plates, claws hanging over the sides as though they're escaping the steam from a relaxing soak in the bathtub.

Adding the mashed potato cream using an espuma gun

Yabbies cooked in miso butter with mashed potato cream

There is no hesitation not to use fingers when we're served our bowls of yabbies. After savouring the tail meat, we crack open the shells are prise the cavity and claws of their precious flesh. However the highlight is the mashed potato cream, a foamy puree that is lighter than air after being forced through an espuma gun, originally used to whip cream in the 1960s but now making a comeback as an indispensable device in the field of molecular gastronomy.

Green tea partfait with macadamia praline, green tea soil and red bean

Our first dessert is a wheel of smooth and airy green tea parfait rolled in a crunchy gravel of macadamia praline. Red beans are a little chewy but I don't mind the contrast in texture, and both the beans the green tea soil (mixed with isomalt and crushed) provide a welcome counterbalance to the sweetness of the ice cream and praline.

Make your own dessert

Our final activity is hands-on, an opportunity to construct our own version of black forest cake using ready-made ingredients.

Using the espuma gun

For the most part, our desserts look the same, an assembly of chocolate cake layers sandwiched with kirsch anglaise and chocolate mousse, but it does give each of us and opportunity to play with the espuma gun.

My black forest cake: chocolate cake and chocolate sponge layers
sandwiched with sour cherry gelatine disc, kirsch anglaise and chocolate mousse
topped with chocolate ganache, green tea soil and a toffeed maraschino cherry

A few towers topple before they make it back to the dining table but the components taste so good that presentation almost doesn't seem to matter. I'm intrigued by the use of charcoal powder in the chocolate cake. Leigh's assistant, Eddy, says it gives a natural black colour when baking, and is barely discernible in charcoal flavour.

It's an entertaining evening, and enlightening too. Maybe I should have paid more attention in high school chemistry all those years ago!

Grab Your Fork and Pig Flyin' attended the Tokyo Food Trends preview session as guests of Chef's Armoury. Tokyo Food Trends ran from Tuesday 19 October to Friday 22 October 2010.

View Larger Map

Chef's Armoury
747-751 Botany Road, Rosebery
(between Queen and Morley Avenue)
Tel: +61 (02) 9699 2353

Opening hours:
Monday to Saturday 10.30am-4.30pm

Congratulations to Eliza Jane who has won a copy of Ferran Adria's biography "Revinventing Food: The Man Who Changed the Way We Eat".

Missed out this time? Don't forget to enter the competitions still open:
(entries close Monday 25 October 2010) <- CLOSES TODAY (entries close Sunday 31 October 2010)

(entries close Sunday 7 November 2010)

> Win a Mexican/Spanish spice kit worth $50
(entries close Tuesday 16 November 2010)
19 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 10/25/2010 02:21:00 am


  • At 10/25/2010 6:58 am, Anonymous Trissa said…

    I'd certainly go crazy in a place like this! Is it possible to attend classes or was that by invitation only?

  • At 10/25/2010 8:09 am, Blogger Stephcookie said…

    I was expecting the class to be a little more hands on but the dessert you get to construct yourself sounds amaaaazing! And I totally want one of those egg crackers!

  • At 10/25/2010 9:15 am, Blogger Angie Lives to Eat (and Cook)! said…

    I wish I paid more attention in high school Chemistry too... I was always at the back of the class falling asleep. If only I knew what I could do with it... =D

  • At 10/25/2010 9:16 am, Anonymous billy @ a table for two said…

    Oh my , it was dangerous to be in that shop. I easily spent almost $300 within 10 minutes! Oops!

  • At 10/25/2010 9:54 am, Anonymous JanJan @ Cooking for My Love said…

    Wooh! This is amazing! Do they run regular classes?

  • At 10/25/2010 11:21 am, Blogger sugarpuffi said…

    that looks absolutely AMAZING! the capicum caviar got me so intriged!

  • At 10/25/2010 11:28 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    Omg your Black Forest Cake looks positively gluttonous - omnomnom..

    The food set-up is so beautiful. I really thought that was caviar and d that mash potato coming out like cake-top icing, just wow.

  • At 10/25/2010 11:53 am, Blogger OohLookBel said…

    Gosh, that looks like so much fun! I wonder if it's too hard to try at home...?

  • At 10/25/2010 12:17 pm, Blogger Karen | Citrus and Candy said…

    Awww we didn't get to play with any black forest cake. We only had one dessert :(

    It was certainly an interesting night but I was hoping it would be more hands on. And sadness - no appearance of nitrogen!

  • At 10/25/2010 2:23 pm, Blogger Laura said…

    how exciting, i'm pretty sure this would amaze me

  • At 10/25/2010 3:57 pm, Anonymous Tina@foodboozeshoes said…

    That all looked like so much fun! I especially like the cute version of oyakodon - inspired...!

  • At 10/25/2010 4:04 pm, Anonymous Hannah said…

    This is so totally beyond me, but I do have to say that it's all super pretty ;)

    And what I wouldn't give to try your leaning tower of blackforest cake!

  • At 10/25/2010 11:18 pm, Blogger Viv said…

    i love your photos of the yabbies hehe so cute. reminded me of sebastien from the little mermaid kinda. that miso soup thing is awesommeee! like scallops hehe

  • At 10/26/2010 12:11 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    i used to have a yabbie as a pet and then he ate all the plant life in the aquarium and my goldfish got sad -_-' but lols they just look so cute all lined up like that! and i want an egg clacker!

  • At 10/26/2010 2:59 am, Anonymous Danny said…

    Looks really cool, though slightly complicated...

  • At 10/26/2010 10:38 am, Blogger Sara @ Belly Rumbles said…

    Josh and I went on Friday night and we had a hoot of a time. It was nice to get hands on and Leigh is quite the entertainer. Expect to see lots of foams, soils, spheres and caviar from me shortly :) Way too much fun to have in the kitchen!

  • At 10/26/2010 2:36 pm, Blogger Anna said…

    Very VERY cool :)

    Those yabbies look like they're having bubble baths... hehehe

  • At 10/27/2010 11:49 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The boyfriend and I attended the Friday night one which Sara @ Belly Rumbles and Josh was at. There was heaps of laughing and a lot of fun. We were quite hands on and near mid evening we were all standing around the steel bench taking turns in trying out different things.

  • At 11/12/2010 6:15 am, Anonymous david said…

    These pictures look great! Amazing how much talent goes into preparing these wonderful plates.


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