My friend Oli had been extolling the virtues of Heston Blumenthal for years – ever since he went to the Fat Duck for his 21st birthday in fact, where everything was “amazing” and “incredible” and “so good”. He raved about it for weeks, months even. When I went to Blumenthal’s lecture during Bristol University’s Centenary, I finally understood why.
Blumenthal showed us video clips of The Fat Duck dishes being created and explained the concept and science behind it all; very apt considering we were sitting in the University’s physics department and was accompanied by the lecturer who Blumenthal was working with. Every single thing that was plated up was done in a very specific way, meticulously, and every aspect of the eating experience (taste, texture, sight, sound, and smell) was covered.
Back in my kitchen
I considered the prospect of cooking like Heston. Having just started the Two Term Diploma at Leiths School of Food and Wine, I was fairly confident that the recipes weren’t going to be too taxing. After all, they were intended for the home cook. My only worry was the store cupboard of equipment that I’d need in order to attempt the tackle.
Sure enough, looking over the recipes a few days earlier, three of the four recipes were eliminated. Does the average household really own a pressure cooker or mincer? So it was on to the “boring old steak”.
It seems that the average weight of sirloin in Waitrose lingers around the 200/300g mark, a healthy serving but short of the 400/500g which the recipe asks for. I opted for one which had “seriously good marbling” but fell shy of 300g, vowing to adjust the cooking time to the lower end of the range.
Usually taking liberties with recipes, I followed this one to the T. The steak was brought to room temperature and air dried, the ingredients for the dressing were prepared and ready to go, the hot olive oil was rolling and the pan was smoking. As soon as the steak hit the pan, there was an explosion of sizzling followed by momentary silence every 15 seconds or so when it’s being flipped. While the steak started to take on a gentle colouring, I worked to avoid the spitting oil. Two minutes later, the ordeal was over and the steak rested happily on the wire rack as I made the dressing.
Sitting down to dinner less than 20 minutes later, my friend and I evaluated my hard work served up with a side of triple cooked chips (whatever else?).
The steak was on the side of rare but not at all bloody and where it was slightly more well done, it was somehow still tender. Despite the heavy usage of olive oil, the lemon and rosemary in the dressing lightened the whole affair and gave it a refreshing aromatic twist. I wondered if I hadn’t flipped the steaks, the dressing would have still made it work. But for a few minutes of work, the reward was certainly worthy.
The chips proved to be a bit of a distraction though – my friend would happily have had just a helping of those.