Just over a decade ago Heston Blumenthal was browsing in a book shop and picked up a yellow paperback in the cookery section. It was a translation of the medieval French cookery book Le Viandier de Taillevent.
The name was familiar to him: “I knew that Taillevent was a three-star Michelin restaurant but I didn’t realise he was also the author of one of the first-ever collections of recipes.” He started flicking through and stopped cold when he read the instructions for one of the dishes.
“It was ‘How to roast a chicken and bring it back to life again,” he says, still sounding incredulous. Animal rights activists look away now. “It involved plucking the chicken while it was still alive, basting it, tucking its head in and rocking it to sleep.” Then it was put on a platter next to two already roasted chickens and served at the master’s table. “As soon as someone started to carve one of the chickens on the side, the one that was still alive would wake up and cry …” – Blumenthal gives an imitation of a very discomfited bird – “… and then run off the table. They would then put the chicken out of its misery, roast it and put mercury and salsa into its neck. When it appeared again at the table, it would make a clucking noise – brought back to life.”
Blumenthal was not planning to repeat the recipe at one of his restaurants. But it did spark off a curiosity about the history of cookery, which has resulted in his new book, Historic Heston Blumenthal, a collection of British recipes from the Middle Ages to Victorian times. What immediately struck him was the playfulness and theatricality involved in some of the dishes.
“They weren’t strictly recipes as we know them, more aide-memoires. So I’m sure there were a few fishing stories in there.” For the record, Blumenthal recreated the final part of the chicken recipe with the help of an academic from Imperial College, London. “It didn’t make a clucking noise,” he says, not entirely surprised.
He says the coup de théâtre was typical of medieval dining scenes. “There were no sound systems, no TV, no computer games – this was the entertainment.” Ostentation was an important part of sitting at the table. “Time and time again you see things like lumps of sugar appear on dishes, even though sugar was very expensive. It was simply done because you could do it.”
Blumenthal’s recipes in the book are not replications but use some of the ingredients and techniques as a springboard for his own ideas. “There are food historians out there who recreate the recipes with incredible precision … But I loved the idea of using the recipes as an inspiration, adding modern equipment and knowhow.”
Another revelation for Blumenthal was the discovery of such a rich heritage of cookery in a country that has, until recently, suffered mightily at the hands of critics for the perceived poverty of its cuisine. “There are still some French people who still think of how Britain was in the 1970s,” he says, a little feistily. “Don’t forget that the French call us les rosbifs because we taught them how to cook meat over an open fire.”
It was the Industrial Revolution, he says, sweeping aside much of the country’s rural heritage, that started a long decline in cooking standards. “It is really only in the last five years that we have rediscovered a sense of pride in our food.”
With that, he hopes, will arrive a new-found interest in the innovative and scarcely known recipes of Britain’s past. Dishes such as Meat Fruit and Rice and Flesh found fame at his restaurant Dinner, and he thinks the time is ripe: “We were doing some filming in Pudding Lane in London, and I was serving udder pudding, giving it to people to try, and they were up for it. Ten years ago there is no way they would have tried that.”
Blumenthal concedes that some of the recipes are not so easy to try at home. “Especially the mock turtle soup – that’s a monster! But the lemon salad, snails on toast – they are not too bad and really nice.” Just make sure they don’t flee the table before you’ve even started to eat.
Rice and flesh
Hash of snails
I first came across Meat Fruit (or rather Pome Dorres, which roughly translates as “apple of gold”) when the food historians at Hampton Court, Marc Meltonville and Richard Fitch, sent me a photograph of a recipe they had tried out in the palace kitchens. It came from the Harley Collection – a set of manuscripts originally amassed by Robert Harley, First Lord of the Treasury from 1711 to 1714, and his son, Edward.
Pome Dorres looked like an apple but was in fact minced pork that had been made into a ball, coated in a skin made from a paste of flour and green herbs, spit-roasted, then glazed with eggs and hazel-leaf juice. It was served to guests among all the other platters of food at feasts as a surprise – and was indeed served at one of the biggest of the period, celebrating the coronation of Henry IV in 1399. I took to the idea at once.
100g peeled and finely sliced shallots
5g peeled and finely diced garlic
15g thyme, tied together with string
150g dry Madeira
150g ruby port
75g white port
250g foie gras, veins removed
150g chicken livers, veins removed
2g curing salt
240g whole egg
300g unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
● Begin by placing the shallots, garlic and thyme in a container, along with the Madeira, ruby port, white port and brandy. Cover and allow to marinate in the fridge overnight.
● Remove the marinated mixture from the fridge and place in a saucepan. Gently and slowly heat the mixture until nearly all the liquid has evaporated, stirring regularly to prevent the shallots and garlic from catching. Remove the pan from the heat, discard the thyme and allow the mixture to cool. Preheat the oven to 100C.
● In the meantime, fill a deep roasting tray two-thirds full with water. Ensure that it is large and deep enough to hold a terrine dish measuring 26cm wide, 10cm long and 9cm high. Place the tray in the oven. Place the terrine dish in the oven to warm through while the parfait is prepared. Preheat a water bath to 50C.
● To prepare the parfait, cut the foie gras into pieces roughly the same size as the chicken livers. In a bowl, combine the foie gras and chicken livers and sprinkle with the salt and curing salt.
2kg mandarin purée
180g bronze leaf gelatin
1.6g mandarin essential oil
7g paprika extract
● Place the glucose and 1kg mandarin purée in a saucepan and gently heat to 50c, stirring to dissolve the glucose completely. Bloom the gelatin by placing it in a container and covering it with cold water.
● Allow to stand for five minutes. Place the softened gelatin in a fine-mesh sieve and squeeze out all excess water, then add it to the warm mandarin purée. Stir well until fully dissolved. Take 250g of the warm purée mixture and add the mandarin essential oil and paprika extract. Stir gently to combine and add it back to the mandarin mixture. Add the remaining mandarin purée and stir again to fully combine, before passing the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve.
●Allow the mandarin jelly to stand in the fridge for a minimum of 24 hours before using.
180g extra virgin olive oil
10g peeled and halved garlic
● Place the olive oil, herbs and garlic in a sous-vide bag. Seal under full pressure and refrigerate. Keep in the fridge for 48 hours before using.
● Mix well to combine and place in a sous-vide bag. Put the alcohol reduction, along with the egg, in a second sous-vide bag, and the butter in a third bag. Seal all three bags under full pressure and place them in the preheated water bath for 20 minutes. Carefully remove the bags from the water bath and place the livers and the egg-alcohol reduction in a deep dish.
● Using a handheld blender, blitz the mixture well, then slowly incorporate the melted butter. Blend until smooth. It is important to remember that all three elements should be at the same temperature when combined, to avoid splitting the mixture.
● Transfer the mixture to a Thermomix, set the temperature to 50C and blend on full power for three minutes. Pass the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve lined with a double layer of muslin. Carefully remove the terrine from the oven, pour in the smooth parfait mixture and place the terrine in the bain-marie. Check that the water level is the same height as the top of the parfait. Cover the bain-marie with aluminium foil.
● After 35 minutes, check the temperature of the centre of the parfait using a probe thermometer. The parfait will be perfectly cooked when the centre reaches 64C. This can take up to an hour. Remove the terrine from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature. Cover with cling film and place in the fridge for 24 hours.
● Remove the terrine from the fridge and take off the cling film. To remove the oxidised layer on top of the parfait, scrape the discoloured part off the surface. Spoon the parfait into a disposable piping bag. Holding the piping bag vertically, spin it gently to ensure all air bubbles are removed. Place two silicone dome-mould trays, each containing eight hemispheres 5cm in diameter, on a tray. Piping in a slow, tight, circular fashion, fill the hemispheres with the parfait, ensuring they are slightly overfilled. Using a palette knife, scrape the surface of the moulds flat, then cover with cling film. Gently press the cling film on to the surface of the parfait and place the moulds in the freezer until frozen solid. Taking one tray at a time from the freezer, remove the cling film and lightly torch the flat side of the parfait, being careful to only melt the surface. Join the two halves together by folding one half of the silicone mould on to the other half and press gently, ensuring the hemispheres are lined up properly. Remove the folded half of the mould to reveal a joined-up parfait sphere, and push a cocktail skewer down into it. Place the moulds back in the freezer for two hours (the spheres are easier to handle once frozen solid).
● Remove them from the mould completely, and smooth any obvious lines with a paring knife. Wrap the perfectly smooth spheres individually in cling film and store in the freezer. They should be placed in the freezer for at least two hours before.
Reserved frozen parfait spheres
Reserved mandarin jelly
Mandarin stalks with leaves
Reserved herb oil
● To make the fruits, preheat a water bath to 30C. Place the mandarin jelly in a saucepan over a low-to-medium heat and gently melt, ensuring the temperature does not rise above 40C. Place the melted jelly in a tall container and place the container in the preheated water bath. Allow the jelly to cool to 27C.
● In the meantime, line a tray with kitchen paper covered with a layer of pierced cling film. This will make an ideal base for the parfait balls when they defrost. A block of polystyrene is useful for standing up the parfait spheres once dipped.
● Once the jelly has reached the optimal dipping temperature, remove the parfait balls from the freezer. Remove the cling film and carefully plunge each ball into the jelly twice, before allowing excess jelly to run off.
● Stand them vertically in the polystyrene and place immediately in the fridge for one minute. Repeat the process a second time. Depending on the colour and thickness of the jelly on the parfait ball, the process may need to be repeated a third time.
● Soon after the final dip, the jelly will have set sufficiently to permit handling. Gently remove the skewers and place the balls on the lined tray, with the hole hidden underneath. Cover the tray with a lid and allow to defrost in the fridge for approximately six hours. To serve, gently push the top of the spheres with your thumb to create the shape of a mandarin. Place a stalk in the top centre of the indent to complete the “fruit”. Serve each meat fruit with a slice of sourdough bread that has been brushed with herb oil and toasted under the grill.
Rice and flesh
In the British Library there is a parchment scroll made of calfskin. Scratched upon it, in a spiky medieval hand full of curlicues and flourishes that make the script look almost like Arabic to the untrained eye, are just under 200 brief entries, from Grounden Benes to Payn Puf.
Some look familiar – Chykens in Gravey, Spynoches Yfryed, Tartes of Fysshe – and some have their own strange poetry: Fylettes in Galantyne, Pesoun of Almayne. Many more are, frankly, quite mystifying: Bukkenade, Paynfoundew, Blank Desire, Balloc Broth. This is The Forme of Cury, the oldest extant cookbook in English.
It was the title of this dish that first caught my eye as I looked at The Forme of Cury. Rice of Flesh: it had a ring to it (although I had to tinker a little with the name before putting it on Dinner’s menu, to avoid puzzling customers) and a disarming frankness, a bit like calling a dish Protein and Carbs. But the ingredients also quickened my interest, especially the rice and saffron.
Makes six portions
120g ruby port
600g red wine
1.6kg beef bones, chopped
1.2kg sectioned oxtail or calf’s tail, in 2.5cm pieces
100g rendered beef fat
1.2kg lean beef shin, diced
900g peeled and finely sliced onions
10g star anise
900g peeled and finely sliced carrots
240g sliced and cleaned button mushrooms
30g peeled and finely sliced garlic
2 bay leaves
50g flatleaf parsley
● Pour the brandy and ruby port into a saucepan on a moderate heat. Carefully flame the mixture with a blowtorch and simmer gently to reduce to 120g. In a separate saucepan, reduce the red wine to 300g using the same method. Set both aside to cool.
● Preheat the oven to 180C. Spread the beef bones and the sectioned oxtail evenly on a roasting tray and roast them in the oven until golden brown, turning frequently. In the meantime, heat a thin layer of rendered beef fat in a large pressure cooker and brown the lean diced shin in batches. Set aside.
● Add the remaining beef fat to the pressure cooker and cook the onions and star anise until lightly caramelised. Add the carrots, mushrooms and garlic and cook for a further five minutes, stirring frequently.
● Add the reduced alcohols to the pressure cooker, followed by all the roasted bones and meat. Pour 4.8 litres of cold water into the pressure cooker and bring to the boil, skimming off all scum and impurities. Add the thyme and bay leaves and stir the mixture one last time before securing the lid. Cook for two hours.
● Allow the pressure cooker to depressurise and the stock to cool slightly before opening the lid. Strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve, add the parsley and leave to infuse for 10 minutes. Pass the stock through a fine-mesh filter bag and chill in the fridge overnight.
● Remove and discard all the fat from the surface of the chilled stock. Heat the stock in a large saucepan and gently reduce to 15 per cent of the original quantity, yielding approximately 725g reduced beef stock. It is important to continue skimming the stock as it reduces.
● Once the stock has reduced, pass it through a fine-mesh filter bag and refrigerate until needed.
2.9kg chicken (approximately two birds)
115g peeled and finely sliced carrots
115g peeled and finely sliced onions
45g finely sliced celery
40g trimmed and finely sliced leeks
5g peeled and finely diced garlic
4g black peppercorns
20g flatleaf parsley
2 bay leaves
● Place the chickens in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil. Carefully remove the chickens and rinse and refresh them under cold running water. Place the chickens in a large pressure cooker and add 2.3 litres cold water. Bring to a simmer, skimming off all scum and impurities. Secure the lid and cook for one hour and 30 minutes.
● Allow the pressure cooker to depressurise and the bouillon to cool slightly before opening the lid. Add the vegetables, cloves and peppercorns to the bouillon, secure the lid and cook for 30 more minutes. Allow the pressure cooker to depressurise and the bouillon to cool slightly before opening the lid. Add the herbs and let them infuse for 30 minutes.
● Strain the bouillon through a fine-mesh sieve, then pass through a fine-mesh filter bag. Chill in the fridge overnight. Remove and discard the fat from the surface of the chilled bouillon. Refrigerate the bouillon until needed. The recipe yields approximately 2.3 litres chicken bouillon, which can be frozen in batches for future use.
Red wine sauce
295g red wine
105g ruby port
65g peeled and finely sliced carrots
15g finely sliced cleaned button mushrooms
10g peeled and finely sliced garlic
280g reserved reduced beef stock
0.5g black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
● In a saucepan, combine the red wine, ruby port, carrots, mushrooms and garlic. Bring the mixture to the boil and carefully flame the alcohol using a blowtorch. On a gentle simmer, reduce the mixture to one-fifth of its original volume.
● Add the reduced beef stock and peppercorns and simmer for a few minutes.
● Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the thyme, allowing it to infuse for five minutes. Add the bay leaf and infuse for a further five minutes. Pass the sauce through a fine-mesh filter bag and refrigerate until needed.
265g sliced onions
500g ordinary dry white wine
500g ordinary white wine vinegar
665g unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
● Combine the onions, wine and vinegar in a deep pan and place over a moderate heat. Stirring regularly, cook the onions until very soft, and until the mixture has reduced to approximately 230g. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in small amounts of butter at a time until well emulsified. Leave the mixture to infuse for 15-20 minutes, then pass through a fine-mesh sieve. Refrigerate the butter until needed. This recipe yields approximately 600g acidulated butter, which can be frozen in batches for future use.
1kg calf’s tail
30g grapeseed oil
● Preheat a water bath to 82C. Joint the calf’s tail and place the pieces in separate sous-vide bags, keeping pieces of similar sizes grouped together. Ensure that the pieces are all lying flat in a single layer to allow for even cooking.
● Empty the grapeseed oil into the bags and seal under full pressure. Place the sous-vide bags in the water bath for eight hours, then cool them in a large bowl of iced water.
● Once the temperature of the calf’s tail reaches 10-15C, open the sous-vide bags and remove the pieces. Carefully pick through the meat, keeping the small pieces of meat separate from the bones and cartilage. Discard the bones and cartilage and refrigerate the calf’s tail pieces until needed.
485g reserved chicken bouillon
30g extra virgin olive oil
250g risotto rice
90g white wine
● In a small saucepan, bring the chicken bouillon to a simmer. Place a pinch of saffron in a small bowl and pour a small amount of heated bouillon over the saffron to infuse. In the meantime, in another large saucepan, heat the olive oil and lightly toast the rice until nutty and light brown in colour. Add the white wine to the toasted rice, and once all the wine has been absorbed, add the warm chicken bouillon. Cook the rice over a moderate heat, stirring regularly. Once most of the liquid has been absorbed, add the small bowl of saffron-infused liquid to the rice and stir well. Remove from the heat and place in the fridge until needed. It is best not to prepare the rice base more than a few hours in advance.
Finishing the risotto
150g reserved chicken bouillon, plus extra if necessary
600g reserved rice base
35g finely grated Parmesan cheese
210g reserved acidulated butter, cubed and at room temperature
30 saffron strands
30g lightly whipped whipping cream
● Heat the chicken bouillon in a large saucepan and add the rice. Cook over a fairly high heat and stir in the mascarpone and grated Parmesan. Check the consistency of the rice – it should still have quite a bite to it. Add a little more stock, if necessary, to allow the rice to come together.
● Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the acidulated butter, saffron and salt as needed. Combine well and cover the saucepan with foil to allow the rice to rest for one minute. Return the saucepan to the heat and add the whipping cream. Adjust the seasoning before serving.
210g reserved red wine sauce
30 pieces reserved calf’s tail
● Heat the red wine sauce gently in a small saucepan until reduced slightly. Add the calf’s tail pieces to the saucepan to warm through gently. When ready to serve, divide the finished risotto between six shallow plates, spooning it into the centre of the plate and allowing it to spread evenly by rotating the plate.
● Place five calf’s tail pieces in a ring on top of the risotto, followed by a very small spoonful of the red wine sauce over each piece. Finish with several sprigs of red amaranth on each piece.
Hash of snails
Although in Somerset snails are traditionally known as “wallfish” and served with butter and herbs, in general the British have been fiercely resistant to the idea of eating snails. In old English cookbooks, snails are more likely to be found among the remedies than the recipes, as they were considered a cure for consumption.
So I was amazed to find a number of snail dishes in English cookbooks of the late-17th and early-18th centuries. In The Cook’s and Confectioner’s Dictionary, as well as Hash of Snails, John Nott includes recipes for dressed and baked snails.
Taking our cue from Nott’s original instructions, we gradually isolated a set of ingredients that would complement my refined version of snails on toast.
This dish needed a variety of contrasting textures, and I’ve learnt that snails benefit from quite high levels of acidity, so we put in caper berries, pickled walnuts, pickled pearl onions and crunchy deep-fried capers, along with thinly sliced fresh fennel (which goes beautifully with snails) in a walnut dressing.
Makes six portions
30 uncooked snails
15g peeled and diced carrot
15g rinsed and chopped leek
25g peeled and diced onion
10g rinsed and chopped celery
10g chopped fennel
2g peeled garlic
3g flatleaf parsley
1 bay leaf
2g black peppercorns
For the herb infusion
3g flatleaf parsley
● Preheat the oven to 120C. Rinse the snails under cold running water for 10 minutes. Place the snails, carrot, leek, onion, celery, fennel and garlic in a saucepan. Make a secure muslin parcel with the flatleaf parsley, thyme, rosemary, bay leaves and peppercorns, and place in the saucepan. Add enough cold water to cover the mixture and slowly bring to the boil, skimming off all scum and impurities.
● Remove the saucepan from the heat and transfer the contents to an ovenproof dish. Make a cartouche and cover the mixture with it. Cover the dish with foil and carefully place it in the preheated oven for eight hours to braise. Once the snails are cooked, remove the dish from the oven and remove the foil, but leave on the cartouche. Allow the snails to cool to 80C.
● In the meantime, create a second secure muslin parcel with the infusion herbs. Once the mixture has cooled to 80C, add the infusion-herb parcel and allow to infuse for 30 minutes, with the cartouche still covering the mixture, then remove and discard both muslin parcels.
● Once the mixture has cooled, strain it, reserving a small amount of liquid, and store the snails in a sealed container, along with the reserved liquid, in the fridge until needed.
100g peeled pistachios
15g pickled walnut juice (from a jar of pickled walnuts)
● Preheat the oven to 170C. Spread the pistachios on a roasting tray and lightly toast them in the oven. Remove from the roasting tray and transfer to a large frying pan over a high heat, ensuring they are spread out evenly. Stir the nuts to allow them to release their oils. Add the salt and pickled walnut juice. Cook until all the juice has evaporated. Remove from the heat and allow to cool on a tray lined with baking parchment. Store in a sealed container until needed.
French toast mixture
125g whole milk
65g pasteurised egg white
30g pasteurised egg yolk
15g English mustard
10g undistilled malt vinegar
● Combine all the ingredients and whisk until fully incorporated. Store in the fridge until needed.
300g unsalted butter
30g peeled and roughly chopped garlic
● Melt 50g of the butter in a saucepan over a gentle heat and add the garlic. Cook it, without allowing it to colour, until soft.
● Transfer the garlic to a deep-sided container and blitz using a handheld blender, adding the remaining butter gradually. Continue to blend until smooth. Store in the fridge until needed.
5g Dijon mustard
75g grapeseed oil
40g walnut vinegar
● Combine all the ingredients and whisk until fully incorporated. Store in the fridge until needed.
50g salted capers
250g grapeseed oil
● Rinse the capers under cold running water to remove all traces of salt. Soak in a small bowl of cold water for 10 minutes, then drain. Heat the grapeseed oil in a small saucepan and fry the capers until they are crisp and have opened like a flower.
● Drain the capers and reserve in a container. They should be prepared no more than two hours before using.
150g reserved garlic butter
30 reserved snails
● Melt the garlic butter in a pan and add the snails. Cook over a very gentle heat for three minutes. Season with salt and keep warm in the melted butter until ready to assemble.
125g finely shaved fennel
Reserved walnut dressing
150g reserved French toast mixture
6 slices white sourdough bread, sliced 1cm thick
30g pistachio paste
6g chives, finely chopped
60g reserved salt-and-vinegar pistachios, roughly chopped
30 reserved garlic snails
8 pickled walnuts, cut into quarters
8 pickled pearl onions, cut into quarters
8 caper berries, cut into quarters
Reserved fried capers
Micro-parsley and microfennel fronds
Cracked black pepper
● Preheat the oven to the grill setting. In a small bowl, combine the shaved fennel with a dash of walnut dressing. Set aside.
● Spoon 25g of French toast mixture on to each slice of bread, ensuring the crusts remain visible. Grill the bread on both sides until golden brown and crisp. Remove the toasts from under the grill and spread 5g of pistachio paste on to one side of each slice of toast.
● Sprinkle the chives on top of the pistachio paste, followed by 10g chopped salt-and-vinegar pistachios.
● Remove the warm snails from the melted butter and arrange five snails on each dressed slice, followed by five each of the quartered walnuts, pickled onions and caper berries. Top with the fried capers and arrange the shaved fennel on top of each toast.
● Garnish with the micro-herbs and season with cracked black pepper.
A popular Victorian dessert, served at Dinner with a strip of rich, sticky pineapple as a garnish.
8.5g fresh yeast
65g whole milk
310g whole egg
535g soft (T45) flour
60g white caster sugar
335g unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
● Place the fresh yeast, whole milk and 250g of the egg in a small bowl and stir to dissolve the yeast. Place the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a mixer. Add the egg mixture to the flour and mix at slow speed using the dough hook. Increase to moderate speed for 10 minutes, then check to see how much the gluten has developed. This can be done by stopping the machine, pinching off a small piece of dough and stretching it between your fingers. It should stretch significantly to a thin, transparent window, without snapping. If it doesn’t, continue to mix at moderate speed for five more minutes. Continue to do this until you are satisfied that the gluten has developed.
● Reduce the speed of the machine and add the remaining 60g egg. Allow to combine, then gradually add the soft butter cubes, continuing to mix until all the butter has been incorporated. Switch the machine off and place the dough in a large container that has been lined with cling film. Cover with cling film and allow the dough to rest overnight in the fridge.
● Remove the dough and roll it out to a thickness of 1.6cm. Cut the dough into 2cm-long pieces and return to the fridge for 30 minutes. Cut the dough into small square pieces that weigh approximately 12g each (you need 30 for this recipe; leftovers can be frozen). Place them on a tray and return them to the fridge.
● With plenty of flour on your hands, roll each piece of dough into a ball, using the work surface and the palm of your hand to help shape it. Place the balls crease-side down on a tray and transfer them straight to the freezer. Work speedily and in batches of 10, so that the balls are taken from the fridge, shaped and put in the freezer as quickly as possible. The brioche balls can be made well ahead of time and stored in the freezer.
75g demerara sugar
75g golden caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, seeds only
500g whipping cream
● Place the sugars, alcohols and vanilla seeds in a deep-sided container and blend for five minutes using a handheld blender. Add the cream no more than two hours before serving, and stir to combine. Seal and refrigerate until needed.
125g white caster sugar
Fine oak smoking chips
● Place 125g water and the sugar in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
● Place the cooled syrup in a container to make a layer no more than 5mm deep. Wrap the container in cling film and pierce two small holes in it. Keep the cling film nearby.
● Put ½ teaspoon smoking chips in a smoking gun, insert the nozzle into one of the holes and light the gun, allowing the smoke to fill the container. After 15 seconds it should be filled with smoke. Remove the nozzle and wrap the container completely in cling film. Leave to smoke for five minutes.
● Remove the cling film, stir the syrup well and repeat the process once more with fresh chips. Set aside in the fridge.
375g white caster sugar
95g unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
170g apple juice
● Place a large, deep pan over a medium heat and add a thin layer of sugar. As the sugar starts to melt and colour, swirl the pan gently and add another layer of sugar. Do not stir the melting sugar, as it may seize and form crystals. Do this until all the sugar has melted and is a dark golden copper colour.
● Reduce the heat and add the butter in stages, whisking well to emulsify. Remove from the heat and add the salt. Gradually add the apple juice, stirring regularly until the mixture is well combined.
● Return the pan to the heat and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Refrigerate until needed.
Reserved pineapple caramel
● Preheat the oven to 200C on the full grill setting. Remove the skin from the pineapple and slice it into six long pieces from top to bottom. They should be approximately 4.5cm wide and 3cm deep, and as long as the height of the pineapple. Trim the pieces until they look similar in shape.
● In the meantime, gently heat the pineapple caramel and set aside. Make small diagonal incisions on each pineapple piece. Brush each piece with the caramel and sear in a large non-stick pan over a fairly high heat to caramelise the presentation side.
● Place the pineapple pieces, incision-side up, on a roasting tray. Brush the pieces with the caramel and place in the oven for two minutes. Baste the pieces regularly with the caramel until they have grilled to a deep golden colour. Take care not to overcook them; they should still be slightly firm. Remove from the oven and set aside.
750g unsalted butter, melted
750g golden caster sugar
30 Reserved frozen brioche balls
Reserved cooking cream
Reserved roasted pineapple
Brandy, for brushing
Reserved smoking syrup
● Place the melted butter in a large bowl. Ensure that it is completely melted, but not hot. Place the sugar in a separate large bowl. Take five frozen brioche balls at a time and dip them briefly in the melted butter, then coat them in the sugar. Place the coated brioche balls seam-side down in a mini cast-iron pot. (The seam side will be slightly flatter.) Do the same with five more pots. You may need additional sugar.
● Cover the cast-iron pots with cling film and put in a warm place (20–24C) to allow the brioche to prove. This should take approx four hours. The environment should not be so warm that the sugar melts. The brioche will double in size and cracks will appear where the sugar crust splits. At Dinner, the tipsy cakes are transferred to a deck oven halfway through baking, which caramelises the cream. At home a similar solid-bottom heat can be achieved using a pizza stone.
● Once you are satisfied that the brioche has proved well, preheat the oven to 180C and place a pizza stone inside one side of the oven to heat up. Once the oven has preheated, remove the cling film from the cast-iron pots and place all six cast-iron pots in the oven, next to the pizza stone. Bake for 15 minutes. Carefully and quickly remove the pots from the oven, and, using a knife, make small incisions between the brioche pieces where they have joined. Ladle 25g cooking cream into the centre of each brioche pot and return to the oven immediately – but this time place the pots on the hot pizza stone. After five minutes, open the oven and ladle 15g cooking cream into the centre of each brioche pot. Close the oven door and cook for five more minutes. Repeat this process one last time, using 15g cooking cream. After the final five minutes, carefully remove the pots from the oven.
● To serve, brush a very small amount of brandy on top of the brioche and place on a suitable serving dish. Brush a little of smoking syrup on each pineapple piece, followed by a squeeze of lime juice, and place one alongside each pot.
‘Historic Heston Blumenthal’ is published by Bloomsbury on October 10. Blumenthal will be signing copies of ‘Historic Heston’ at Selfridges at 6pm on Thursday October 10. For further information please contact 020 7318 3678
FT reader offer
To order Historic Heston Blumenthal at the special price of £107 (RRP £125) visit www.bloomsbury.com/historicheston or call 01256 302 699 and quote the reference “GLR 9IM”
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