Feast of the Dead, Hastings, September 2016

Later this year, in commemoration of the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, we will be collaborating with long standing friends of Blanch & Shock, Dens and Signals.

More details are coming soon, but in the meantime here is a little teaser:

As night fell on 14th October 1066, thousands of men lay dead in a field. Some were English, some Norman, some Breton, or Belgian or Scot. And none would ever again see their families, their land… or their dinner.

We invite you to join us to conjure their ghosts, and to remember all those who fell in this most cataclysmic moment of our history.

Our team of performers and musicians will take you on an anarchic ride through the aftermath of a battle which still affects our daily lives. Expect an entertaining communal experience about the past, the present and the future.

We’ll serve a delicious and unique meal, inspired by eleventh century food, sourced from local suppliers.

Whether you're Norman, Anglo-Saxon, or just hungry - come dressed as a battlefield ghost, and ready to raise a glass to the past.

Lust, Sex, Brains with Guerilla Science, 8th February 2016

The excellent Guerilla Science will be hosting a night with psychologist Carlota Batres exploring the science behind human attraction, at the Book Club on Monday 8th February.

There will be science-based activities aplenty and they promise 'blindfolds, nibbles, dancing and a free scientifically-inspired cocktail on entry'.

We are contributing some savoury snacks and chocolates, all based on ingredients rich in carotenoids, on the basis that a diet high in carotenoids has been proven to make you appear more attractive. We'll be there to tell you about the food on the night.

For more details and to buy tickets head to the event website.

Spoon, Knife, Fork late at V & A

We are very pleased to be part of the programme for this month’s Friday Late at the V & A Museum on Friday 29th January.

We will be building a new version of our ‘Exploding Cake,’ which was originally commissioned by Icon Magazine. Part of the construction of the installation will take place during the the evening, and later the crowd will be invited to eat the installation.

There are some great people involved in the wider event, including Centre for Genomic Gastronomy, Honey & Bunny, New Dawn Traders and Kate Rich with the Feral Cafe project and many more.

It’s free to attend, details are on the V & A website here

Funded PhD in Food and Performance - deadline 5th May

Rice paper box detail, food for  Staying by Oreet Ashery, 2010

Rice paper box detail, food for  Staying by Oreet Ashery, 2010

We are very excited to announce that Roehampton University is offering a new PhD in Food and Performance, based in the department of Drama, Theatre and Performance, in conjunction with Blanch & Shock. The PhD will be supervised by Dr Josh Abrams, whose own research focuses on the restaurant as a site of performance. In addition, the candidate will spend research time with Blanch & Shock.

The deadline for applications is 5th May.

More information from Dr Josh Abrams:

We welcome proposals from applicants with research interests in any area linking performance and food studies, including but not limited to exploring the idea of food as an art practice, food’s function in the expression of ideas, questions around food and the performance of identity, food made in collaboration with other media, and notions of culinary authenticity. The applicant will have an involvement with Roehampton’s Interdisciplinary Food Studies Research Group.

For full funding and application details, visit

https://roehamptonfoodandperformancephd.wordpress.com/

Dalí Dinner at Guest Projects, 9th April 2015

Dali

Artist Dining Room

Thursday 9th April, 2015
£36.50 / £31 (student concession)

We have been asked to devise a menu for a multi-course dinner inspired by the life and works of Salvador Dalí for Artist Dining Room, a series at Guest Projects, a gallery and event space run by artist Yinka Shonibare MBE RA, near Broadway Market in Hackney. The dinner, hosted and featuring performance by artist Liane Lang, will incorporate some of the whimsical surrealism Dalí was famous for, as well as making reference to the emergence of 'Modernist' and 'Techno-emotional' gastronomy in Catalonia in the last decade.

We can cater for most allergies and intolerances if given enough notice, please choose the kind of menu you'd like from the dropdown menu on the Guest Projects booking page.

Hay Rice Pudding

Hay Rice Pudding

100g Pudding rice
50g Light brown sugar
1L Raw milk
50g Cultured butter
100g Cultured cream

1 Indonesian long pepper
A pinch of dry ginger, a sprinkling of caraway seeds and of cinammon.
A large handful of meadow hay

Roast  hay in at 160C for fifteen minutes. Toast caraway seeds, cracked long pepper and spices in a dry pan, grind and add to a pot. Add the milk and turn the heat on low. Add the roasted hay and cover with cling film. Heat until nearly at the boil (or the cling film blows off - whichever is sooner) and then leave to infuse for a couple of hours, off the heat. 

Melt the butter in a wide pan and add the sugar. After a minute, add the rice and stir over a low heat for ten minutes, until the grains have swelled a little and are translucent. Strain the milk and add it to the rice along with the cultured cream. When the cream has melted mix the rice well, pour the whole lot into a baking dish and bake for seventy five minutes at 145C. Grill the top for 3-4 minutes and let cool for about ten minutes

The rice pudding in the picture looks a little split, which it is, but I am not one to be offput by escaping hay-infused clarified butter.

Eat with plum jam.

Sourdough-pickled beet (II)

Twenty five days after burying seven beetroots in Mike Knowlden's High Easter sourdough starter, I dredged them out of their purple goo and gave them a scrub. They have battled outbreaks of amazing, gloriously coloured surface moulds, and suffered the fluctuating temperatures of my kitchen on recent sunny mornings. They are soft and squidgy, although the inside remains intact. Their smell is powerfully yeasty, and combined with the muddy and fruity flavour of beetroots, is almost like paint - sharply sour and sweet with a twang of acetone. There is something reminiscent of soap, and associatively they bring to mind some of the more extreme hoppy IPAs around at the moment. They are unsalted, so as not to limit the action of the yeast.  I have put three of them in a pot of live beetroot lactic brine, and I will roast a couple to see how caramelisation affects the sugar remaining post-fermentation.

Sourdough-pickled beet (I)

I’m leaving peeled beetroots in sourdough starter to pickle, inspired by a conversation with a chef at Kadeau in Bornholm, Denmark.  Not sure how long to keep them in, but there are seven to test, and the bread made with beetroot starter should be cool.

I’m leaving peeled beetroots in sourdough starter to pickle, inspired by a conversation with a chef at Kadeau in Bornholm, Denmark. 

Not sure how long to keep them in, but there are seven to test, and the bread made with beetroot starter should be cool.

Sloes

Slow sloe vinegar

Each autumn, English hedgerows are festooned with the lustered blue berries of the sloe, or blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), and every year, millions of them are infused into gin, which is a great way to enjoy them. But surely not the only way ? Inspired by an amazing and confounding dish made by the indefatigably innovative Rosio Sanchez, pastry chef at Restaurant Noma in Copenhagen, which consisted of discs of frozen sloe juice with brunost (‘Brown Cheese’ - caramelised whey cheese), I have been scouring the hedges in October and November to use sloes in cookery. The fruit is incredibly astringent, very aromatic, and hard as hell. They are supposed to be harvested after frost, which makes them softer and more easily processed. They recall cranberries in flavour, but with a distinctive complexity also reminiscent of port wine, in fact, it is said to have been used historically to make ‘spurious port' or to roughen actual port.

I recently made a ‘fast’ vinegar by adding a measure of 88% Baltik vodka to a bottle of sweetened and cooked sloe juice and innoculating the whole with live apple vinegar, which was brilliant, if lacking in depth and character. As is often the case, slowing the process down should result in a more complex vinegar, and so with my last batch of sloes (picked with the help of my ten year old nephew Reuben in Gloucestershire) I decided to go through the traditional method of vinegar making - fermenting the juice into a ‘country wine’, and then acetifying the wine.

I cooked the sloes with brown sugar in a vacuum bag for ten hours at 70C, primarily to extract as much flavour from the must, and secondarily to pasteurise and detoxify the kernels*. Given the realtively small amount of fruit I had, I made a second infusion of the must in water, reduced it slightly and added to the main amount. Since this was the first wine I have tried to make, I spent quite some time researching the process of alcoholisation and the systems of analysis - for which I finally got to use my new hydrometer and refractometer - and I was more rigorous than usual in writing down all measurements and methods, resisting my usual urge to just fling a bunch of things together, stand back and wait. 

I added some ‘SN9 Wine Yeast’ (Saccharomyces bayanus) which I happened to have in my store cupboard, bought for a bread making experiment. According to the manufacturer’ blurb, it is good for fortified and country wines and is robust enough to survive mistakes on the part of the amateur, which is nice coincidence.

Since I don’t own any actual fermenting vessels, I tend to use glass bottles from Duskin - a Kentish company who bottle a bewildering variety of single variety apple juices - for all my fermented drinks and kombuchas. They have a pleasant curve and it means I get to drink a lot of great apple juice. 

I have 1800g of liquid, with around 450g of sugar, .5g yeast, a handful of sloe must, and will add some crushed kernels after the first fermentation. I expect it to have turned to alcohol in between 7 and 14 days, and after that i shall open it to the air (acetification being an aerobic process) keep it at around 21C, and let it develop for a few months. It’s a long time to wait, especially if it is crap in the end, which is entirely possible. If it’s good, I expect it will become a prolific ingredient in my cooking.


* Like many members of the genus Prunus, the kernels inside the stones have a glycoside called amygdalin, which reacts to mechanical destruction by producing benzaldehyde (the aroma characteristic of bitter almonds) and hydrogen cyanide. Obviously the first is desirable, the second not so much..

Leftover Beef

Last cook of the year. Leftover BBQ’d dry aged Longhorn forerib, a stock of smoked beef bones, hay, chipotle, mushroom scraps, onions cooked in red ale, garlic and aged beef fat.

Last cook of the year. Leftover BBQ’d dry aged Longhorn forerib, a stock of smoked beef bones, hay, chipotle, mushroom scraps, onions cooked in red ale, garlic and aged beef fat.

Berry 'Jam'

Cranberries, dried blueberries, mulberry vinegar, long pepper, thyme, galbanum tincture

Cranberries, dried blueberries, mulberry vinegar, long pepper, thyme, galbanum tincture

Whey/Butter Showdown

For a Blanch & Shock event two weeks ago, I made a batch of butter to be served infused with fried mushrooms and seaweed, to make an umami spread served with butter - a distant relative of dripping served with bread. I inoculated 500 grams of Helsett Farm cream with 200 grams of their live crème fraîche, and left it to colonise the cream for three days and nights, at room temperature (around 21C during the day, dropping to 19C at night. I recently bought an incredibly cheap plate warming blanket thing from Lidl, which heats up fast, but lacks a variable control and claims to hit 70C, which would destroy the bacteria ripening the cream. Until I have put together a PID controller to regulate it, the temperature of my kitchen will have to suffice. I whipped the butter after chilling it briefly, draining the first and second waves of buttermilk that broke (to be used in an unrelated sauce) and then whipping the mass, with some of the buttermilk and 0.5% salt. The smell was extremely buttery, rich in what I have learned to recognise as diacetyl, an aromatic compound in butter. The taste was rich without being especially grassy or herbaceous like it might be in summer. I packed it and cooled it before it was later infused with powdered dulse and fried girolle and chestnut mushrooms. Two days later, and left with a decent amount of the butter, I added three large scoops to a container of live yoghurt whey to try and instigate a kind of bacterial showdown. It had four days in the fridge and then three days at room temperature The whey treatment has added a satisfactorily identifiable extra note, at once related and foreign to the butter, and an umami flavours have developed. The butter has no significant role to play at the moment, it having been an experiment, but will inspire me to look at the interaction of yoghurt and cream and whether they can collaborate. For now, it has been steadily disappearing, mainly spread onto bread from Brickhouse Bakery in Peckham. The final spoonful is around sixteen days old now, and, as has been the case with most of the butters I have subjected to such tests, it has started to drift towards being like a cheese. I will most probably end up in a bowl of scrambled eggs.

For a Blanch & Shock event two weeks ago, I made a batch of butter to be served infused with fried mushrooms and seaweed, to make an umami spread served with butter - a distant relative of dripping served with bread.

I inoculated 500 grams of Helsett Farm cream with 200 grams of their live crème fraîche, and left it to colonise the cream for three days and nights, at room temperature (around 21C during the day, dropping to 19C at night.
I recently bought an incredibly cheap plate warming blanket thing from Lidl, which heats up fast, but lacks a variable control and claims to hit 70C, which would destroy the bacteria ripening the cream. Until I have put together a PID controller to regulate it, the temperature of my kitchen will have to suffice.

I whipped the butter after chilling it briefly, draining the first and second waves of buttermilk that broke (to be used in an unrelated sauce) and then whipping the mass, with some of the buttermilk and 0.5% salt. The smell was extremely buttery, rich in what I have learned to recognise as diacetyl, an aromatic compound in butter. The taste was rich without being especially grassy or herbaceous like it might be in summer. I packed it and cooled it before it was later infused with powdered dulse and fried girolle and chestnut mushrooms.

Two days later, and left with a decent amount of the butter, I added three large scoops to a container of live yoghurt whey to try and instigate a kind of bacterial showdown. It had four days in the fridge and then three days at room temperature

The whey treatment has added a satisfactorily identifiable extra note, at once related and foreign to the butter, and an umami flavours have developed.

The butter has no significant role to play at the moment, it having been an experiment, but will inspire me to look at the interaction of yoghurt and cream and whether they can collaborate. For now, it has been steadily disappearing, mainly spread onto bread from Brickhouse Bakery in Peckham. The final spoonful is around sixteen days old now, and, as has been the case with most of the butters I have subjected to such tests, it has started to drift towards being like a cheese.

I will most probably end up in a bowl of scrambled eggs.

Grains Grains Grains

Rye grains I’m working through a list of whole grains, treated in the same way - 1.5 days soaking in water, dried a little and cooked in a frying pan with salted butter. The rye grains are chewier than the spelt, which although not unpleasant (they would be good in a porridge) is not the point of the exercise, which is maximum crunchiness. Next up: Oat Groats, Barley,  After that: Different liquids for the soak - vinegars, kombuchas, juices, wheys from buttermilk, yoghurt etc -  and different fats my collection of animal fats - oxtail, bone marrow, roast chicken, dry-aged forerib, super-aged raw butter to fry with.

Rye grains

I’m working through a list of whole grains, treated in the same way - 1.5 days soaking in water, dried a little and cooked in a frying pan with salted butter. The rye grains are chewier than the spelt, which although not unpleasant (they would be good in a porridge) is not the point of the exercise, which is maximum crunchiness.

Next up: Oat Groats, Barley, 
After that: Different liquids for the soak - vinegars, kombuchas, juices, wheys from buttermilk, yoghurt etc -  and different fats my collection of animal fats - oxtail, bone marrow, roast chicken, dry-aged forerib, super-aged raw butter to fry with.

Autumn vegetables

Four cool ingredients from the last month.
From the top -

- Beach rosehips (Rosa rugosa) from the autumn, previously frozen, and smelling of kiwi, banana and tomato. Nothing like roses.

- Cauliflower - One of the best things there is, in my world. To be pot roasted with hay and birch bark

- A potato variety I can’t remember the name of, but included because of it’s jazzy purple streaks.

- One of the many varieties of kale around at the moment - this one is biodynamic ‘seaweed’ kale from Brambletye Farm in East Sussex

South London Quinces

Two varieties of quince grown in the gardens of houses within half a mile of each other in South East London. Both are intensely sweet-smelling, the small one with a bright and almost citrussy note and the big scarred one with en ever-so-slight whiff of fermentation, which makes it smell something more like sea buckthorn. The fluff on the big quince must have quite a bit of yeast trapped in it, more so than the smooth one, and I will scrape it off this and a few others to start a quince mead.

Two varieties of quince grown in the gardens of houses within half a mile of each other in South East London. Both are intensely sweet-smelling, the small one with a bright and almost citrussy note and the big scarred one with en ever-so-slight whiff of fermentation, which makes it smell something more like sea buckthorn. The fluff on the big quince must have quite a bit of yeast trapped in it, more so than the smooth one, and I will scrape it off this and a few others to start a quince mead.

Grains Grains Grains (I)

Spelt grains Soaked in water for two days then dried a bit and fried in salted butter until they begin to burn. They are perfectly crunchy without being tough, hugely savoury and the darker grains have a similar taste to, and role as the intermittent burnt bits in popcorn, which is one of my all-time favourite ultra-specific niche flavours. It takes a very short amount of time to devour a bowl. The time management of this snack could be improved

Spelt grains

Soaked in water for two days then dried a bit and fried in salted butter until they begin to burn. They are perfectly crunchy without being tough, hugely savoury and the darker grains have a similar taste to, and role as the intermittent burnt bits in popcorn, which is one of my all-time favourite ultra-specific niche flavours.

It takes a very short amount of time to devour a bowl. The time management of this snack could be improved

New Dawn Trader

Tres Hombres image from New Dawn Traders

Cultures going on a voyage

Here are two of the three jars of starter cultures that I gave to Dr. Lucy Gilliam to take aboard the Tres Hombres, a 32 metre brigantine which set sail yesterday from Holland on a seven month voyage trace the Atlantic trade routes. The project New Dawn Trader has been following this route since 2009, hoping to explore the possibilities and ramifications of trading by sail power, all the while operating and living as sustainably as possible. 

Lucy will share the duty of cooking for the 20-strong crew from a tiny galley kitchen. I gave her three starters. The first is a sourdough culture, started in february with the yeast from two bottles of Kernel IPA and with the subsequent addition of wild yeast. The second jar contains a kombucha starter, born in Denmark aboard the good ship Nordic Food Lab with birch sap and a starter, and fed on Pu’er tea and raw cane sugar since April. The third jar (not pictured) is a ginger bug started in July.

The ship’s route takes her first to Norway, then over Scotland and Ireland before turning south for Lisbon. She will then cross the Atlantic to Brazil, and head north to the Caribbean then back east, and home,  via the Azores.

The project is still seeking funding for various activities, you can see what and how to contribute on IndieGoGo. Follow them on Twitter here, and you can read Lucy’s blog here.