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?
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.
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.
Mock Turtle Soup at the Fat Duck
(Copyright 2013 Heston Blumenthal. Reprinted by permission of Bloomsbury.)
Makes 6 portions
At the Fat Duck we use two types of centrifuge to reduce the stock to a syrup, which allows the stock to reduce without the application of heat. Here I have suggested an alternative to reduce your consommé more easily at home.
To make our gold consommé watches, we add bronze leaf gelatine to this concentrated stock syrup, along with a 10-year-old Madeira. The mixture is dispensed into the watch moulds and refrigerated until set. Once set, the watches are gently covered with gold leaf and refrigerated until service. The watch is lowered into 40g hot water and then dissolves, creating an aromatic and richly flavoured consommé.
Infused Beef Stock
1.35kg Beef bones
400g Sectioned oxtail
50g Grapeseed oil
1.35g Diced lean beef shin
650g Peeled and finely sliced onions
5g Lightly crushed star anise
650g Peeled and finely sliced carrots
470g Syrah red wine
300g Cherry tomatoes, quartered
Preheat the oven to 180°c/350°F.
Combine the beef bones and oxtail in an even layer on a roasting tray and roast in the oven until golden brown, turning frequently.
Heat the grapeseed oil in a large pressure cooker and sear the diced shin in batches, until deep golden brown.
Remove the last of the browned shin, add the onion and star anise and allow the onions to caramelise. Once caramelised, add the carrots and continue to cook, stirring regularly until both are evenly coloured. Add the red wine and reduce to two-thirds of the original volume.
Add the roasted beef bones and oxtail and browned shin, followed by 2.4 litres cold water. Bring to the boil, skimming off all scum and impurities as necessary. Secure the lid of the pressure cooker and cook for 2 hours.
Allow the pressure cooker to depressurise and the stock to cool slightly before opening the lid. Pass through a fine mesh sieve and refrigerate overnight.
Remove the fat from the surface of the stock and allow to come to room temperature. For the next step the stock should be cool, but not gelled.
Whisk together the stock and cherry tomatoes and allow the flavours to infuse for 20 minutes. Strain the infused beef stock through a fine mesh sieve and refrigerate until needed. It should yield 2.5kg.
280g 10-year-old Madeira
140g Unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
1kg Button mushrooms, cleaned
4g Black peppercorns
Place the Madeira in a saucepan over a moderate heat, flame the alcohol and reduce to a syrup. Set aside.
Melt half the butter in a large pressure cooker and add half the mushrooms. Cook over a medium heat until well caramelised, then remove the caramelized mushrooms and set aside. Deglaze the pressure cooker with a dash of water; pour out and reserve this water.
Repeat this process with the second half of butter and the remaining mushrooms.
Make a secure muslin parcel with the thyme and black peppercorns and add to the pressure cooker along with the caramelised mushrooms, deglazing liquid, Madeira syrup and 2.1 litres cold water. Secure the lid of the pressure cooker and cook on full pressure for 30 minutes.
Allow the lid of the pressure cooker to depressurise and the stock to cool slightly before opening and strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Allow to cool and remove the fat that accumulates on the surface.
Transfer the strained stock to a large, clean saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce to 700g, then allow to cool. Refrigerate until needed.
2.5kg Reserved infused beef stock
700g Reserved reduced mushroom stock
25g Mushroom ketchup
420g Lustau Solera Sherry
335g White soy sauce
Combine all the ingredients and divide into 4 large sous-vide bags. Place all the bags in the freezer until frozen solid.
Place 2 perforated trays over deep containers and cover each tray with a fine-mesh filter bag or double layer of muslin. Empty the contents of each frozen bag on to the prepared trays.
Allow the stock to defrost and ice-filter in the fridge (approximately 2-3 days).
Once the stock has completely defrosted, discard the natural gelatin and impurities that have collected in the bag, and reserve the clear consommé that has filtered. It should yield approximately 2.6kg clear consommé.
Mock Turtle Consommé
2.6kg Reserved clear consommé
60g 10-year-old Madeira
Place the consommé in a large saucepan and reduce to 1.75kg over a gentle heat. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the Madeira.
This recipe yields more consommé than required for 6 portions, but it freezes well.
Mock Turtle Eggs
400g Swede juice
6–8 Drops red food colouring
20g Chardonnay vinegar
0.9g LT-100 (high-acyl gellan)
Gently heat a clean, dry sauce dispenser in a warm oven and ensure the tray of egg moulds is at hand. The egg moulds we use are plastic hemispherical chocolate moulds measuring 2.7cm deep and 3cm in diameter.
Pass the swede juice through a fine-mesh sieve. Add the red food colouring and mix to combine well. Place the coloured swede juice, salt and vinegar in a Thermomix and bring up to 90°c/194°f on a low speed.
Add the LT-100 to the Thermomix and continue to blitz on a medium setting for 2 more minutes. Stop the Thermomix halfway through to scrape down the sides of the jug.
Immediately pour into the warmed sauce dispenser and dispense very small amounts into each egg mould. A drop with a diameter of 1cm will suffice.
Allow the mock egg yolk to set in the moulds for 10 minutes before dispensing the white.
380g Turnip juice
110g Double cream
10g Fish sauce
0.8g LT-100 (high-acyl gellan)
0.2g Gellan F (low-acyl gellan)
0.8g Guar gum
Gently heat a clean, dry sauce dispenser in a warm oven.
Pass the turnip juice through a fine-mesh sieve and add to a Thermomix along with the double cream, salt and fish sauce. Bring up to 90°c/194°f on a low speed. Add the LT-100, gellan F and guar gum and continue to blitz on a medium setting for 2 more minutes.
Immediately pour into the warmed sauce dispenser and dispense the egg white onto the set yolks to fill the moulds. Place in the fridge to set.
Carefully unmould when ready to assemble and serve yolk-side up.
Pickled Turnips and Cucumbers
200g Chardonnay vinegar
1 Peeled turnip, diced into 5cm cubes
1 Peeled cucumber, sliced into 5mm slices
Combine the vinegar, salt and sugar in a small saucepan and heat until the salt and sugar has dissolved. Divide the pickling juice between 2 bowls and set aside until needed.
Add the diced turnips to the first bowl of pickle juice and allow to pickle for 15 minutes. Remove, drain and set aside.
Place the sliced cucumbers in a sous-vide bag, ensuring they are lying flat and in a single layer. Seal the bag in a chamber vacuum sealer under full pressure. Pierce the bag several times and repeat the process twice more.
Remove the compressed cucumber slices and dice into 5mm cubes. Add to the second bowl of pickling liquid and allow to pickle for 15 minutes. Remove, drain and set aside.
The turnip and cucumber should be pickled no more than 30 minutes before serving.
150g Lustau Solera sherry
50g Sherry vinegar
75g White caster sugar
100g Oloroso sherry
Place all the ingredients in a small saucepan and gently simmer on a medium heat until 79° Brix.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Scoop off the foamed head and pour the syrup into a squeezable dispensing bottle or piping bag until ready to assemble the sandwich.
2.5kg Tinned plum tomatoes in juice
150g Peeled and chopped onions
5g Peeled garlic
1g Ground ginger
0.4g Five-spice powder
20g Dijon mustard
30g Icing sugar
Place the tomatoes and all juices into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Cover with a cartouche and reduce the heat to a simmer. Allow the mixture to simmer for 10 minutes before removing from the heat and gently passing through a sieve. Gently pass the mixture through a second fine-mesh sieve, but do not crush the tomato seeds or skins, as this may cause bitterness.
Return the passed tomato juice to a clean saucepan and add the remaining ingredients, including a pinch of cayenne pepper, except the icing sugar. Bring to a rapid simmer and allow the mixture to reduce by half.
Remove the mixture from the heat and pass through a fine-mesh sieve. Return the mixture to a clean saucepan once again and add the sugar. Reduce to the consistency of ketchup (yielding approximately 210g), and remove from the heat. Allow to cool completely and refrigerate until needed. The ketchup can be frozen in batches.
Bone Marrow Salad
50g Rendered bone marrow
2g Sherry vinegar
2g Smoked anchovies
2g Salted capers
2g Flatleaf parsley
5g Peeled shallots
Bring the rendered bone marrow to room temperature and use a small whisk to whip it to a light, creamy consistency. Add the sherry vinegar and mix to combine well.
Finely brunoise all the elements and gently combine with the bone marrow.
30g Pasteurised egg yolk
10g Pasteurised egg white
17g Dijon mustard
25g Sherry vinegar
350g Grapeseed oil
Place the egg in a small saucepan of cold water over a high heat. Remove the egg after 5 minutes and plunge into iced water.
Combine this part-cooked egg, the pasteurised egg yolk, pasteurised egg white and Dijon mustard in a small bowl. Add half the sherry vinegar. Combine well, then transfer to a deep-sided container.
Process with a handheld blender, gradually add the grapeseed oil until fully emulsified. Add the remaining sherry vinegar to loosen the mayonnaise slightly. You will need 250g.
Egg White Mayonnaise
250g Reserved mayonnaise base
300g Hard-boiled egg whites, diced into 3mm cubes
Finely chop the chives and fold them into the mayonnaise along with the diced egg whites. Season with the truffle oil, sherry vinegar and salt. This recipe yields much more mayonnaise than is required for the sandwiches, but it is delicious and can be stored in the fridge for use on other dishes.
Egg Yolk Mustard
65g Hard-boiled egg yolks (approximately 4 eggs)
65g Sweet mustard (preferably Savora)
Pass the hard-boiled egg yolks through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl and add the mustard, combining well. Pass again through a clean fine-mesh sieve and refrigerate until needed.
Assembling the Sandwich
6 Fresh white bread slices
3 Well-toasted white bread slices
Reserved egg mayonnaise
1 Whole black truffle, finely sliced
Reserved egg yolk mustard
2 Peeled and cored cucumbers, finely sliced lengthways
Reserved tomato ketchup
Reserved bone marrow salad
Remove the crusts from the bread and the toast. Use a small heavy tray or large metal spatula to flatten the toast pieces into super-thin slices.
Spread the egg mayonnaise evenly on 3 of the slices of bread. Top with finely sliced truffle and carefully squeeze the gastrique in a zigzag on top of the truffle.
Thinly spread the egg yolk mustard on remaining 3 slices of bread, and evenly place the cucumber slices on top. Trim off any overlapping cucumber.
Carefully spread a thin layer of tomato ketchup on one side of the toast, and place the toast ketchup-side down on to the bread slices with the egg mayonnaise, truffle and gastrique.
Spread the bone marrow salad on top of the toast and place the bread slices containing the egg yolk mustard cucumber-side down on to the toast.
Ensure the slices are lined up neatly and trim any edges if necessary.
Slice the 3 sandwiches into quarters diagonally, with each sandwich yielding 4 neat, triangular sections. Allow 2 portions per person.
Elements in the Mock Turtle Soup Bowl
6 Reserved mock turtle eggs
Brined and cooked ox tongue, diced into 5mm cubes
Whole black truffle, diced into 5mm cubes
Reserved pickled turnip and cucumber
Golden enoki mushrooms
Black mustard seeds
When ready to serve, carefully remove the mock turtle eggs from their moulds and place each egg in the centre of a small bowl. Arrange alternating cubes of ox tongue, black truffle, cucumber and turnips in a circular fashion surrounding the egg. Top the egg with the enoki mushrooms and several mustard seeds and garnish with micro-parsley.
12 Reserved toast sandwiches
6 Dressed soup bowls
330g Reserved warm consommé
All the elements should be served at the same time. The warm broth should be poured into the dressed soup bowl, in which the mock turtle egg nestles between the diced elements.
The sandwiches are served alongside the soup to complete the tea party.