Heston Blumenthal on Recreating Lewis Carroll’s Mock Turtle Soup

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Mock Turtle Soup

If you’re on the hunt for a handy New Years recipe for the home cook, this is not your blog post. But if you’re looking for inspiration, take a listen to British chef Heston Blumenthal describe his Mock Turtle Soup.

Among Blumenthal’s restaurants is Dinner by Heston Blumenthal in London, where he recreates historic British meals. Think sixteenth-century meat fruit or spiced pigeon circa 1780.

Now Blumenthal has come out with a gorgeous and gargantuan tome detailing his research process. Historic Heston is so heavy that Good Food host Evan Kleiman used a wheeled suitcase to carry it to the studio for her interview with Blumenthal, and so delightful that it had KCRW staffers poring over its pages for days.

Will you be whipping up medieval English cheese cake or Restoration-era powdered duck?

Historic Heston Cover
Historic Heston (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Most likely not. But if you own a sous vide machine or a kitchen blowtorch, you might give some of the recipes a try, and as Kleiman wrote recently, the uncookable cookbook can still teach and tantalize.

Kleiman decided to focus her conversation with Blumenthal on one particularly complicated and intriguing recipe – Mock Turtle Soup, which Blumenthal fondly remembers from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, and which is traditional to New Year celebrations in Great Britain.

There was a time when serving real turtles was a sign of status in England; Mock Turtle Soup, made with calf’s head, became a stand-in for those who couldn’t afford the real thing.

Blumenthal describes the Victorian dish as stiff-upper-lip, but also a little dark and adventurous.

He tries to recapture some of that mystery, and pay tribute to Alice and the Mad Hatter, with a consommé of calf’s head and root vegetables in madeira and sherry. He reduces the consommé into a jelly, puts that into a rubberized watch mold, and wraps the result in gold leaf.

Blumenthal attaches a tea bag string to the watch and serves it in a jewelry box outfitted with a machine that makes a ticking sound. Inside the box are bits of calf’s cheek and tongue, along with truffles and vegetables.

The diner dips the fob watch into a teacup and pours hot water over it.

Got that?

At this point in the conversation, Blumenthal pauses and laughs.

“As I’m explaining this I’m thinking, Heston, you really need to get out more often.”

But we at Good Food will be curling up with a great book.

You can watch Blumenthal make Mock Turtle Soup in this video, and you can check out the recipe below.