On July 29th I turned 27. To mark this momentous occasion I was showered with gifts. HURRAH and HUZZAH!
Now, as you'll no doubt know, buying gifts for people is always a difficult task. But I let my friends and family off by asking for anything cooking related.
Abi (Mrs Phantom) bought me what is possibly the best thing I could have wished for. A compressed Nitrous Oxide dispenser and 100 NO2 chargers. Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "What the fudge are they and what application do they have?" Well, valued viewer I'm about to tell you.
An NO2 dispenser looks like one of those gadgets on the right. It's mainly used for making squirty cream. However, in the world of fine dining, the fashion is to include a foam alongside the main course, flavoured with a garnish.
How it works
Ok, in this example, which is dead easy to follow, I'm going to explain how to use it to create the perfect culinary foam. When I first had it, I couldn't find a decent tutorial on the net - so I had to piece together various snippets of information. This post is intended to help those that are in a similar position to myself 2 weeks ago.
To start you require juice or stock. This can be home-made or shop bought, but needs to be sieved to ensure that there are no bits. It needs to be as smooth as Leslie Phillips. For the purposes of this example I am going to use Tesco Orange and Banana Juice.
Dissolve a packet (or sheet) gelatin into some warm water. Leave it to dissolve, which should take 3-5 minutes. While this is doing, measure out in a jug the required amount of juice taking into consideration the amount of gelatin used to ensure it can set.
When the gelatin is dissolved, tip it into the juice and stir to ensure that it is mixed evenly into the mixture and leave it to set in the fridge. This should take between 30 and 60 minutes. When it is set and is in a jellied form, take it out of the fridge and get a whisk. Whisk it to break down the firm jelly into a 'goo' (I really struggled for a word there, sorry!). Place in the dispenser and fill it up with 3 NO2 chargers. You will need to shake the mixture between charges.
It's now ready to serve. You get a perfect foam, whipped, light, fluffy and most importantly flavoursome. Serve immediately!
NOTE: If you're a vegetarian, a gelling agent such as agar can replace gelatin and will do the job perfectly well.
Foam has many applications in cookery. It was first discovered (or rather invented) by Spanish Chef Ferran Adria, who is Head Chef at El Bulli, which was voted the best restaurant in the world, ahead of the Fat Duck in Bray.
On the 26th August this year, my grandmother turns 80. I will be cooking the meal for the whole family and foam will be used on the starter. At the moment it's looking as though it's going to be applied in a starter of Duck Breast, Watercress and Rocket and a Pomegranate foam. Duck and Pomegranate go together really very well, so it looks like a proper winner. I shall of course be updating the blog with pictures of the final result in due course.
If you want to try it out yourself, be prepared for a mixture of success and failure. Trial and error are the only ways to find out what goes with what. Though if you've a good imagination, you're off to a head start!
Foam I'm itching to try:
Coconut foam using coconut milk (heavily sieved!)
Beetroot foam (based on a recipe for Borscht)
Carrot foam (based on a stock, followed by blending and sieving heavily)