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.