Tag Archives: Heston Blumenthal

From my bookshelf – Family Food: A new approach to cooking

By the time you read this, I will be on my way to the international airport, bound for a Cuban holiday. I am hoping to discover some new dishes and ingredients as part of my trip, and come back inspired to create some new recipes to share with you all. I have set up posts to publish while I am away, so as long as technology doesn’t fail me, you should still receive your weekly Passionfruit Project fix.

This week’s post is dedicated to a review of the book ” Family Food: A new approach to cooking”, by Heston Blumenthal. This is the first recipe book Heston published, before he shot to prominence with his celebrity-chef television career and around the time The Fat Duck restaurant in Bray started to win awards.

I was lucky enough to have lunch at The Fat Duck many years ago now, and it still ranks as one of my best foodie experiences, along with dinner at Tetsuya’s. Heston is known for his unique approach to cooking, quite often combining scientific principles in his cooking methods. This book is removed from the high tech principles Heston has become famous for, and instead focuses on classic, simple cooking suitable for the whole family, young and old alike. It talks a lot about how to get children involved in cooking and interested in food, but it is also a handy reference for anyone wanting to brush up on their cooking techniques, fill in any gaps, find some new inspiration or rediscover a classic dish. In this book Heston’s passion for food shines through, and he covers a full spectrum of dishes, from how to fry the perfect egg to strawberry soup.

A quote to give you a flavour of the book, “One of the main ambitions of this book is to bring children into the kitchen, and one of the best ways to do this is to make cooking as approachable as possible” from the Children’s tip in the section “Risotto”. The below recipe is quite labour and time intensive, and combines some unusual ingredients, but there are also plenty of more traditional recipes if you aren’t feeling like experimenting. I will confess, I haven’t actually attempted the below recipe, or tried the strawberry and black pepper combo that many chefs seem to be a fan of. I included the details to give you a sense of the book.

What I was cooking this time last year: Mini smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels (please note, Glick’s has moved)

Family Food book Heston Blumenthal

Strawberry Soup

* This recipe is from the chapter “Desserts” by Heston Blumenthal  in “Family Food: A new approach to cooking”.

“This recipe is part of a dish that is on the menu at the Fat Duck in season. Do give it a try, but please do it in the strawberry season. As well as quality, there is something quite magical about eating this during the English summer. Make sure that you buy the fruit no more than a day in advance, as they deteriorate really quickly.

* Children’s tip
Show the children how to spot a good strawberry – bright red in colour with a vivid green stem. Check that there are no blemishes or bruises on the strawberries. Contrary to popular belief, large, uniform strawberries are not a sign of quality. More often than not they are a result of laboratory-controlled agriculture.

If orange-flower water is not available, use rose water, which most chemists sell. Both of these ingredients are optional. You might want to omit the flower water the first time that you make this, as it could be too perfumed for your kids. Although, having said that, orange-flower water is still used to make a soothing sugared child’s drink in many parts of Europe. In Spain, it is also put on children’s pillows to give a comforting night-time aroma.

This recipe may seem rather lengthy, but the results will not disappoint. The concentration of flavour is amazing.

The strawberry juice can be omitted, although it is great as a base for making drinks or for pouring over ice-cream. It can even be added to the rice pudding recipe on page 305. It does keep very well.

* Tip
Even if you are a bit short of time and cannot do this recipe, you will be surprised at how much the flavour of the strawberries can be heightened just by sprinkling some unrefined caster sugar over them half an hour before serving. If you have not read it already, have a quick read of the findings of a recent experiment regarding strawberries on page 71.

Remember, when preparing strawberries, to hull them just before you macerate or use them. Do not wash them before hulling, or they will absorb water, destroying their taste and texture.

Try this recipe replacing the strawberries with rhubarb – it works brilliantly.

If doing the whole recipe, including the juice begin the day before. Some muslin will also be needed.

For the strawberry juice

  • 500g strawberries
  • 1 tablespoon icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water

Wash, hull and quarter the strawberries, put them into a metal bowl and sprinkle them with the icing sugar. Set this bowl over a saucepan of very gently simmering water, cover with cling-film, and leave for 1 1/2 hours. Pour the contents of the bowl on to a large piece of muslin set over a bowl. Tie up the corners of the muslin and hang up over the bowl to catch all of the juice.

For the soup

  • 500g strawberries
  • 1 tablespoon unrefined caster sugar
  • strawberry juice (see above)
  • 1 orange
  • 1 lemon
  • 125ml fruity red wine
  • orange-flower water to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil

Hull and quarter the strawberries and put them into a bowl. Add the sugar and pour over the strawberry juice, leave this mix to macerate for 2 hours.

Zest the orange and lemon, taking care to discard all of the white pith which would make the liquid bitter. Juice the fruits and reserve.

Meanwhile, bring the red wine to the boil and immediately flame it with a match, or better still, a blowtorch. When the flames have cased, add the zest and juice of the orange and lemon and boil to reduce the mixture by half. Strain this liquid and set aside to cool.

In the liquidizer, combine the macerated strawberries with the red wine reduction and blend.

Finishing the dish is the fun part, as it involves the taste-buds. Add the orange-flower water, about 1 tablespoon to begin with. A little more sugar may be needed along with some orange juice, depending on the ripeness and quality of the strawberries. The important thing here is to keep on tasting to get the right balance. Give the soup a really good blend and finish off by adding the black pepper to taste.

Now there are the following options:

  1. Hang the soup in muslin again overnight. This will produce a wonderfully concentrated essence of strawberry.
  2. Pass the soup through a fine-mesh sieve.
  3. Serve it as it is, adding extra strawberries for texture if required.

To serve, dribble over a little best-quality virgin olive oil. Finally, if feeling adventurous, finish the dish by sprinkling over some freshly picked rose petals!”

Strawberry Soup recipe Family Food Heston Blumenthal

What is your favourite go-to cook book? Has this post inspired any new ideas?


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Filed under Berries, Book Review, Pudding, Recipes, Rhubarb, Soup, Strawberry, Sweet

Liebster Award nomination

I am honoured to announce that I have been nominated for a Liebster Award by a fabulous blog I have been following, Life is Like a Dumping. Thank you Gen for the vote of confidence. I tried to find out where this award originated from, but was unable to track down details. It is a great way of getting to know other blogs though.


Liebster Award: The rules:

  • Post 11 random facts about yourself.
  • Answer the 11 questions made by the person who nominated you.
  • Create 11 questions for the bloggers you pass the award to. Choose 11 bloggers to pass the award to and mention them in your post.
  • Go to their blogs and let them know that they have been nominated.
  • No tag backs.

11 Random Facts About Me:

  1. As much as I am a foodie, my favourite food of all time would have to be Nachos. The version of nachos we are familiar with here in Australia is not authentic Mexican, it’s not glamorous or sophisticated, but the perfect combination of textures and temperatures and my all time favourite.
  2. My favourite ingredient or flavour would have to be lemon. I add it to most things and love the citrus tang it contributes. I try to make sure I use the zest as well as the juice whenever possible. I also freeze zest for later use if it isn’t required for the recipe I am making – frozen lemon zest is great to add to a glass of sparkling mineral water.
  3. I am a pescitarian, in that I eat a vegetarian plus seafood diet.
  4. I am Australian, I was born in Sydney and grew up in the Blue Mountains. I have lived in London for three years.
  5. I have been lucky enough to travel to 31 countries and counting.
  6. My first overseas trip was to visit a friend who was working in the Maldives. The Maldives is an Islamic country made up of lots of clusters of islands. I saw quite a different side of the Maldives to the one most visitors experience, I did spend a bit of time at an amazing resort with the whitest sand and amazing fish, but I also go to explore the capital island Malé, and Villingili, and went on a safari boat for a week travelling to some very remote atolls.
  7. My next trip overseas is to Thailand, which I am lucky enough to have been to before, but my next new destination will be Cuba in November.
  8. I am not sporty but I did get my PADI scuba diving licence in Dahab, Egypt, diving in the red sea.
  9. Seahorses are my favourite animal (and the reason I learnt to dive and have a fish tank).
  10. I had my first job was when I was 14. I worked as a kitchen hand at a local guest house, Pegums (no longer in existence). I quickly progressed from being in charge of the dishwasher to helping with food preparation and being in charge of the deep fryer. My favourite part of the job was plating up dessert, I would always try to plate up extra because I got to take the leftovers home with me (and quite often mum was waiting up to see what was on offer so I would have to share my spoils with her).
  11. I have a fierce sweet tooth, as a result lots of my recipes are sweet. I have been known to be able to polish of a family block of Cadbury chocolate in one sitting, or a mars bar for breakfast when I was younger.

Questions for me from Life is Like a Dumpling:

1. What is your favourite book? Shantaram by Gregory David Robert. I was very daunted when I first picked up this book due to it’s mamoth size, but I felt like I had lost a friend when I finished reading it. If even a fraction of the story actually happened (it is a true story), what an amazing life. One of those books that stays with you long after you’ve finished reading.
2. What is your most memorable dining experience? Lunch at the Fat Duck restaurant in Bray, England, headed up by Heston Blumenthal (at the time ranked as the Best Restaurant in the World). A truly amazing experience, and one I was lucky enough to share with my parents who were visiting me in the UK at the time. I love Heston’s approach to food, although am too daunted to try many of his scientific recipes at home.
3. Favourite cuisine? Mexican. What Australians know to be Mexican food is actually more Tex Mex (nachos is one such dish). I discovered authentic Mexican food when I travelled to Mexico a number of years ago, and love the vibrancy and freshness of authentic mexican food.
4. What is your favourite meal of the day? Dinner time is my favourite meal of the day. I love a lazy weekend breakfast, but during the week breakfast is a bit more of a struggle as I can’t stomach eating first thing when I wake up. Lunch is good, but dinner time is where I unwind from the day and have the chance to be a bit more creative.
5. What is your least favourite food? Within my pescitarian limits, there isn’t much I won’t try or like. Although, I don’t like Vegemite, I can’t even stand the smell of it – very un-Australian I know.
6. Do you prefer cooking for yourself, or others? If I am experimenting I like the freedom of only having to cater for my own tastes, but I do also love to cook for others. My place at the moment is small, but I still have managed to cram quite a crowd in for Easter Sunday lunch or a dinner get-together.
7. Favourite blogs on the internet? Non foodie blogs include Seth’s Blog, Changing What’s NormalUnclutter and The Art of Nonconformity. Foodie blogs include Chocolatesuze, Nosh On It, Greek Vegetarian, Food Stories, Melbourne Food Snob and Chez Chloe.
8. One place you would love to travel to? One place that has been on my list for a while is Cuba. I’ve booked my tickets and will be off in November. I’m not sure about the food in Cuba given it is a communist country and still subject to rationing, but I want to get there before Castro goes (although if you believe some of the conspiracy theories he’s already gone) and everything changes.
9. Casual dining or fine dining? It depends. I love the excuse to dress up and taste amazing food that only fine dining allows. I also love to eat good quality fish and chips on the sand at the beach straight from the paper wrapping with my fingers.
10. Salt or pepper? If I could pick both I would, but if forced to choose, I think it would have to be salt. Salt works wonderfully in sweet or savoury cooking.
11. Spicy food: yes or no? Absolutely yes. I love spicy food. Spicy doesn’t always need to mean hot, but I do like things pimped up in the chilli stakes too. I enjoy learning about the history of spices, for instance nutmeg originated from Indonesia and was responsible for the Spice Wars between the British and Dutch for many years. I also enjoy experimenting with native Australian spices.

I’d like to nominate…

  1. One Wet Foot
  2. The Melbourne Food Snob
  3. Emily Cooks Vegan
  4. Chocolate Suze
  5. Lucy’s Friendly Foods
  6. The Little Loaf
  7. Lemongrass and Ginger
  8. Chez Chloe
  9. Food Stories
  10. Cook Up A Story
  11. Dinner of Herbs

Questions for my Nominees:

  1. Where did you learn or who taught you to cook?
  2. What is your favourite kitchen gadget?
  3. What is your favourite flavour combination?
  4. Sweet or savoury?
  5. What is your most memorable meal and why was it memorable?
  6. What is on your foodie wish list?
  7. What is your secret indulgence dish you cook for yourself when no one else is around?
  8. What is a recipe you can make in your sleep or on auto-pilot?
  9. What ingredients are you experimenting with or inspired by at the moment?
  10. Who is your favourite TV chef or cook and why?
  11. What is your favourite foodie smell?

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