Good Food Blog
My life on a plate: Heston BlumenthalPosted at 8:04AM, 19 July 2011 by Caroline Hire - Food editor, bbcgoodfood.com
Caroline Hire talks to world-renowned chef and owner of three-Michelin-starred restaurant The Fat Duck about prawn cocktail, freshly-squeezed reindeer milk and the best way to cook steak at home.
My earliest food memory is coffee ice cream from Regent Snack Bar on the Edgware Road on a Saturday with my sister. I was 6 or 7 years old. My gran used to take us to Church Street Market and at that age it was the last thing I wanted to do but the reward was we'd stop and get ice cream. There was this art deco ice cream parlour with a big plastic cone above the door.
The first thing I can remember cooking was for my mum's birthday. It was stuffed vine leaves. I was probably 10.
The great thing about food is it's so rooted in time, place, occasion and mood. There are things I've had that have stopped me in my tracks like the first time I had these red prawns from the Balearics. They're red when raw. You cook them very briefly. The tail meat is beautiful but it's the head: you get this warm brown liquid in the head. The Spanish go mad for it. It's like the most complex, nutty shellfish essence you can get.
Top piece of kitchen kit? A good knife. The other extreme to that is my current favourite: the rocket. It's a centrifuge. If you've ever spun a bucket of sand around as a kid, water goes to the top, sand goes to the bottom - it does that. There's a vacuum in there so water boils around 20C. You can get the most concentrated fruit purées and all you're doing is removing the water at a low temperature. It's got a great name and a purple light!
If someone asks me what's the most important ingredient in the kitchen, in terms of diversity, I say salt. Otherwise, there's a gelling agent called gellan gum. It's a heat resistant gel which we've done some magical things with like Salmon Poached in Liquorice Gel. We also do this Hot and Iced Tea that's split but you can't see that. Half of it's cold, the other half's hot. So when you sip it half your mouth feels hot and half cold.
One of the classic 'Duck' dishes is Jelly of Quail, Crayfish Cream and Chicken Liver Parfait, Truffle Toast and Oak Moss. You water the moss and this vapour comes out. You get the smell of woodlands from these oak films, like Listerine breath fresheners. That was inspired by Alain Chapel's Jelly of Pigeon and Star Anise: for me one of my life-changing gastronomic meals. I'd like him to eat that dish and I hope he would like it.
I've eaten leach that's gorged itself on goose blood, fried in parsley and garlic - that's not nice. The ovary of a sea cucumber, freshly-squeezed reindeer milk, the sap from a frankincense tree. Recently I did something for Fishy Feast - I went to Iceland and I ate skata which they leave to putrefy. The ammonia breaks down the flesh. It's a learned taste, the older generation eat it, the younger ones won't touch it. You eat it and you think it's off. Your throat goes 'urgh'. I couldn't swallow it. That's the most unpleasant thing I've eaten.
If I could swim in a bowl of anything it would be something quite light because I might end up drinking a lot of it. In case I got tired it couldn't be too gloopy. Something with a heady aroma: a consommé with black truffle. If I'm going to go, I'm going to go in style.
At the moment... We've got the Heston food range at Waitrose and some new kitchen gadgets, a rolling pin that you can control the thickness and probes.
I'm just finishing a book, Heston Blumenthal At Home. It's my own personal recipes with lots of tips and techniques. For example: when cooking a steak, flip it every 15 seconds, it's a brilliant way to get colour and even cooking. Don't pepper the steak beforehand as the pepper scorches, salt is okay. Leave the meat to come to room temperature before you cook it. All that kind of stuff. We start filming the accompanying series in about three or four weeks. Six half hour programmes and a one hour Christmas special. [On air: October - December]