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15 April 2015

So, the chef can use a tamis

It's been 527 days since I last felt moved to write. Time, but most of all inclination, have meant I basically stopped writing this blog. A poached egg and an avocado have made me return.

I happened upon The Jar Kitchen. The menu looked straightforward, the staff friendly and the room was light and airy.  The promise of poached eggs, avocado on sourdough with a side of smoked salmon was exactly what I needed. I was hoping for something solid but straightforward, front of house and the kitchen looked like they meant business, so I took a punt.

I suppose I should disclose at this point that I have a fetish about avocado on toast and in particular the one served at Prufrock. The avocados are always creamy and plump and served generously over pumpernickel bread or similar. It's doused with olive oil and confidently sprinkled with salt and chili flakes. It is my utopian ideal of Avocado on Toast.

Back to breakfast at Jar. When my food arrived, my heart sank. Instead of chunks of creamy Hass avocado, there was a green puree and the poached eggs were suspiciously translucent. Yes, some smart arse wanted to show he could use a sous vide machine. Simply poaching the eggs was not good enough, what these eggs needed was to be held at blah blah degrees for forty five minutes and then reheated in water. I was told this would make them perfect.

Inevitably it made the yolk gluey and they were cold. I don't know anyone who believes a gluey, cold yolk is a perfect yolk.

The exceptionally nice staff were quick to remove the dish and apologise. I could see that even the kitchen staff were frustrated. Soon enough round two arrived.

It was fine.  The yolks were still gluey because they had been sous-vided again, but at least they were warm. I was starving so I ate rather than moaned.

But my hunger didn't prevent me getting increasingly miffed by my lovely looking plate of food. Unfortunately, I wanted to eat it (see above re starving) rather than frame it. What I wondered, did the kitchen think the original avocado lacked that their pureeing techniques added? It turns they really pushed the culinary envelope by combining avocado, lemon, salt and pepper.  In other words, it was a puree for the sake of a puree. It was not about ingredients. It was about showing that the chef could use a tamis. 

Off the back of that breakfast I've pulled my finger out and backed Jonathan Meades' new book The Plagiarist In the Kitchen.  If you can't be arsed clicking the link, at least watch the video below. It is a bit worthy, but his point is simple and should be remembered by all. There is nothing new in the kitchen, there are tweaks here and there, but rarely is there meaningful innovation.

Last night I bought my first batch of asparagus of the season. It's hackneyed I know for people to venerate the humble sparrows grass (as hackneyed as calling it by another name). But simply steaming those stalks, dressing them with a bit of vinaigrette was utterly delicious. 

Leave the avocado alone, leave the egg alone. They're fine by themselves.  If you don't know how to leave them alone, nick someone else's recipe.

Comments

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I totally agree with you on this one. My problem with this is more to do with the untrained chefs who rave about this new technology (it's 200 years old by the way).

I really worry about cooking food for extended time at low temperatures without understanding what will happen to all the pathogenic bacteria present. I had a friend who was doing some lamb steaks and was going to sear them after sous vide rather than before. The EHO took a sample and the counts of pathogenic bacteria that came back from that one sample was scary.

Even the UK government hasn't got any evidence on what happens with food and pathogens between 40-C and 60oC.

All I know is I won't be doing any in the forceable future.

Steve Pepper.

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