Heston. A chef so famous he needs only one name these days. Doesn’t hurt that it’s as distinctive as his wrap glasses and bald head. I love the fact that he advertises that he’s self-taught (as I am), but still manages to soar above the pack, hovering in the rarefied air of the truly great. (I never did that, but love to write about it now).
If you know the movie Julie and Julia, you’ll know that was a cross-generational cook-fest where a young wife cooks her way through Julia Child’s encyclopaedic French Cookbook. I’d recently bought Heston’s book, ‘Heston Blumenthal at Home’, and my friend and neighbour Jane was leafing through it.
“Ohh, these look good, Chrissy, I’d like to try a couple of these,” Jane said, saliva almost dripping. The photos are incredible. Works of art.
“Hmmm, I might have an idea….” I said as Jane looked at me, with fear in her eyes.
“Why don’t we do a Julie and Julia, but with Heston? Would that be fun?” I asked, and she rolled her eyes. “Maybe,” and not long after, we were planning a dinner party starring two of Heston’s ‘home cooking’ dishes.
My dad always used to say, “Hell is paved with good intentions.” So we dived into a hell of sorts. We looked at the first recipe we chose: Red Cabbage Gazpacho. It looked short – just one page of instructions. Can’t be too hard, now can it?
So we begin the organization. Jane decides she’s going to do most of it in her shoebox kitchen that’s packed to the gunnels while she renovates her house. She’s excited. Then we realise that the first page is just the cabbage part.
Ahhh. The mustard ice-cream that’s integral to the soup is further over. But, it’s half a page, so can’t be too bad. And one needs an ice-cream machine which I don’t have, so Jane it is. Here’s the Ingredients:
Red Cabbage Gazpacho
For the red wine mayonnaise
Large egg yolk
10g Dijon mustard
90g Groundnut or grapeseed oil
10g Red wine vinegar
15g Red wine
For the gazpacho
1 Red cabbage
1 Slice of white sandwich bread, crusts removed
20g Red wine mayonnaise (above)
30g Red wine vinegar
To finish and serve
¼ Cucumber, peeled, de-seeded and finely diced
4 Scoops of mustard ice-cream (see below)
For the red wine mayonnaise, it seems a pretty usual deal to me, and we combine the egg yolk with the mustard, then whisk in the oil to emulsify. Jane stirs in the vinegar and red wine and sticks that in the fridge.
So far so good. Then she insists on making the gazpacho, so I leave her to it. Cutting out the white core, (bitter) she has to head to a friend’s house to juice ¾ of the purple cabbage. But she doesn’t put the top on properly, so friend’s kitchen is purple and looks like the scene of a stabbing of…. Teletubbies?
She weighs out 250 grams of juice, and sticks the bread in it for two hours in the fridge. Instead of ‘just before serving’, she had to juice the rest of the cabbage and strain it into the cabbage juice we have already thickened with the bread, squeezed the bread out and discarded it. Oh well, it’s not for us mere mortals to question.
She tries mixing the juice and the mayonnaise, and somehow we manage to get that everywhere, but rescue enough and season that with vinegar and salt.
Then, it’s on to the ice-cream, which has been churning and doing its thing. Here’s the recipe for that:
360 grams of whole milk
140 grams Caster sugar – it says unrefined, but hey? Who’s got that here?
840 grams whipping cream
35 grams semi-skimmed milk powder (semi-skimmed??? OMFG, what next?)
120 grams Wholegrain mustard
10 grams English mustard
Place the milk, sugar, whipping cream and milk powder in a saucepan and heat, whisking until the milk powder is dissolved. Cool, and then add the mustards and whisk to incorporate. The ice-cream machine has to be really icy before churning, so the base is poured into the machine as it’s churning already. After about 20 minutes, take out the bowl, blitz the ice-cream in a blender and return for another go for about 10 minutes churning. This is exactly the method for my grandmother’s recipe only she used aluminium ice-cube trays… Not nearly as fancy.
Put into a sealed container and freeze for at least 2 hours before serving.
So, we’ve done the deeds, and now it’s time to serve. We place the cut cucumber in the base of some little bowls, a scoop of ice-cream, and then gently pour the ‘purple puss’ as one of the guests called it, over. It sort of goes a bit curdly, but we tackle this assault on our food senses, and decide that the trouble wasn’t all that worth it.
Sorry Heston! It was a bit underwhelming to say the least! Separately, they were pretty dreadful, and together, okay, but nothing I’d sell my left breast for. Perhaps a little more vinegar? Salt maybe? And the fuss and fiddle, well, I’d rather eat out….. Or plain old, good old-fashioned gazpacho. Marvellous stuff.
Have you tried a challenge like this, and used your good friends as guinea pigs? This was just the first course, and we made a Heston dessert for the last course, and that, my dear readers is for another time.