People who think food is made from the heart, tasted with love, with ingredients measured in pinches and dashes, might feel out of place in Mukul Tanwar’s kitchen at Le 15 Patisserie, Parel, Mumbai, where he recently conducted a workshop on molecular gastronomy. With white powdered substances in fancy packages, intimidating space age machinery and weighing devices that measure even 0.1g accurately, it’s more laboratory than kitchen.
“Molecular gastronomy is about the process of cooking. We use science and different kinds of equipment. The chefs do work in laboratories,” says Tanwar, showing off a mixer that does 10,000 rotations in a minute. “Just like an aircraft,” he adds.
Tanwar has trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and was recently in India for a visit. While working at a restaurant in Paris, Tanwar, also an engineer, found himself interested in the science of food. He worked at Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck, a Michelin-starred molecular gastronomy restaurant in England, for a few months and has been working at perfecting his science since then.
Not many of us have had the opportunity to dine at the temples of molecular gastronomy such as El Bulli or The Fat Duck—our exposure to this food science is possibly limited to fruit caviars bursting in our mouths or hot soup topped with chilled foam. We asked Tanwar to demonstrate some easy DIY molecular gastronomy procedures that will not require jet-engine strength machines.
Peanut butter powder
Malto is a tapioca starch and absorbs the oil and fat content from any fatty product. You can add it to mayonnaise, peanut butter or even flavoured oil. The butter will turn into a powder consistency, but melt in your mouth. Mix wasabi and mayonnaise with Malto and make wasabi powder. Dust the peanut butter powder on cupcakes or serve chicken satay or crisps dusted with wasabi powder. No need for the extra bowl of dip.
50g peanut butter
Whisk together peanut butter and Malto till the mixture turns into
This dish might be called ravioli but the only connection it has to the Italian dish is the shape. Sodium alginate is an emulsifying agent derived from seaweed, and together with calcium chloride is used to create spheres of liquids or purées. When a spoon of juice or purée is dropped into this mixture, it turns into a solid-looking globule with liquid inside. You can use any vegetable or fruit purée. Serve the dish as an appetizer.
300g frozen green peas
12 ounces water
Some sea salt mixed with gold leaf
Blend the green peas and water in a hand blender to form a purée. Now strain the liquid and keep 16 ounces of the juice made after blending the peas and water aside. Add the gelatine and blend with hand blender. Refrigerate for 5 minutes.
Measure 32 ounces of water in a container and add the Calcic and blend. Leave aside for 2 minutes. Now take a spoon and pour the peas juice in the Calcic water in the shape of a ravioli. Leave inside for a minute and remove carefully with a spoon and immerse in plain water. Leave for a minute and place in a small serving dish. Top with a piece of sea salt wrapped in gold leaf and serve.
Fruit juice caviar
Use any ready-made juice such as Frooti or Slice or make a fruit juice using the method given for peas ravioli. For caviar, use a syringe to pour drops of the liquid into the Calcic water. Remove the caviar using a straining spoon. Top your ice cream and other desserts with the caviar and feel the burst of liquid in your mouth.
Delicately flavoured airy foam can be made with any kind of fruit or vegetable. This can be served on its own in a glass or topped on another dish. Use it to top cocktails or soups. “You can turn any liquid into foam using the soy lecithin. Just like milk foams because of the natural lactose present (in) it,” says Tanwar.
25 ounce water
10g soy lecithin
Cut the muskmelon into pieces, place in a bowl and add water. Purée the fruit using a hand blender and then strain it. Add soy lecithin to the liquid and blend again till the liquid turns into foam.
The ingredients and tools used in molecular gastronomy can be found online at www.chenabimpex.com and at Nature’s Basket stores across the country, for Rs2,500 or above.