So Heston Blumenthal has been entertaining his viewers (me) with some more fascinatingly cringe-worthy television with his/Channel 4’s latest Mission Impossible (or as someone else puts it, his Michelin Impossible). Brief: take
world’s UK’s quackiest chef, put him in places where he does not belong, turn on liquid nitrogen, watch.
That is, watch him try to feed hay-smoked mackerel paired with blueberries to a naval submarine crew who normally subsist on a full fry-up and something ‘comforting’, like steak and yorkshire pudding, followed by shortbread and custard (or some such) – every day. (This is HB trying to regenerate their tired, overfed, brain cells.)
Watch him get BA passengers to begin their in-flight meals with a nasal spray, which causes much nasal gunk to drip in the general direction of gravity, which is also in the general direction of their actual food trays: not pretty television. (This is HB trying to rehydrate their dehydrated noses so they can taste their food better.)
Generally he ends up looking like a tosser for the first 38 minutes of each 45 minute episode, until he finally cottons on to the (big) difference between the world inside his restaurants and the world the rest of us live in. Like that a naval submarine crew don’t have time, space, money, or any bloody interest in on-site hay-smoked mackerel and blueberries, but they respond very well to a good ol’ Irish stew (sous-vided for a couple of months, naturally). Or that BA passengers quite like to eat something they can recognise as food while they are hurtling through the air, like a good ol’ shepherd’s pie (taste-powered by the secret addition of seaweed, since umami is the only flavour that doesn’t get lost in the sky. Naturally.)
Each of these institutions has supposedly recognised that the food they deliver is shite, and each is genuinely (supposedly) looking for a real-life solution to that problem. And in the end, food-mentalist HB ends up being a totally wasted commodity, because the solutions he creates that can actually be implemented are totally pedestrian. And by pedestrian I mean the kind of ideas that anyone with a food-brain who can also cross a street would be capable of coming up with. Problem: Fresh ingredients take up too much space on a submarine, and too much time to cook? Solution: Cook them on-shore and vacuum pack them for easy on-board storage in the fridge or freezer. I can’t decided if Channel 4 is taking the piss out of HB, or out of its viewers.
Then there’s his popcorn ice cream in cinemas. (This is HB trying to get people to stop eating popcorn.)
Well, ok, that sounds pretty cool actually. Genius Heston strikes again!
Except that if he spent a bit more time on Google, and less time in his science books, he would also have discovered that that’s hardly an *original* idea (WTF Heston?). I bookmarked a recipe for that AGES ago (last year) already – not to mention that in 0.14 seconds, Google comes up with 7,400,000 hits on it.
Well I finally made it the other day. It goes against all my popcorn instincts. You have to soak the things (in cream, sugar and milk), which means you have to listen to all their delicious crunchy airiness die a slow pffffft into a soggy mess. Then when you’ve really drowned them good and dead (30 mins to an hour), you have to sieve them and mash the life force out of them.
Then you turn that creamy, popcorny goodness into a silky smooth custard (with an egg and mild heat). Churn that custard when it’s nice and chilled (not forgetting a good slosh of vodka to prevent it from freezing too hard), and there you have perhaps some of the most deliciously counter-intuitive ice cream. Go ahead and serve that with some salted caramel sauce, as recommended, and also a fudgy ginger brownie, if you have one to hand. It’s so delightfully wrong it’s almost like having HB in your kitchen.
(Disclaimer: Sorry, Heston. I’m just grumpy because the Philosophe recently ate a piece of pork belly that was cooked in one of your kitchens for 52 hours. I really should have been there. But you are welcome to come and try my popcorn ice cream – if you can handle defeat.)