Cauliflower Risotto, Carpaccio of Cauliflower, Chocolate Jelly
Specialty Equipment: thermomix, fine digital scale, dehydrator, mandolin
Specialty Ingredients: sodium citrate, gellan, trimolene, deionised water
Dish as in The Fat Duck:
Flipping through the book I was wondering what recipe to start off with. Should it be a complicated dish, a relative easy dish (yes, they do exist) or find a middle ground? In the end these questions were not a determining factor, because I chose a dish that was close to my heart. In an episode of In Search of Perfection Heston gives his interpretation of the dish risotto, one of my favorite meals. He samples a range of rice and picks his main rice component, Acquerello. After this episode I was keen to try the rice, but never got around to it, especially because it is only sold in a few specialty stores.
A few months went by and I planned to visit my aunt and uncle, who live in a small town in Italy near Novara in the border area of the regions Piedmont and Lombardia. I realized the Acquerello farm must be close to the house of my family, since they are surrounded by rice fields and this part of northern Italy is responsible for almost all the rice production. I looked up the address of Acquerello and via Google maps I saw my family lived only 45 minutes away for the farm. I called Acquerello to see if it was possible to visit them and they were very friendly and said I could visit them any time during my visit to Italy.
So in the summer I went to the farm with my brother and nephew and hoped to get a quick tour of the farm. After finding the place, which is difficult with the lack of signs, we found it and were welcomed with open arms. We were not given a quick tour, but a long ass tour, where every aspect of the production was illuminated. After the tour each of us was given a few tins of rice, which I found very generous, because the rice is certainly not cheap.
So cauliflower risotto it is, with rice I personally brought back from Italy. First of, the two cauliflowers I bought for the recipe.
I did not start with these two babies, but with the chocolate jellies accompanying the risotto: discs of jelly and cubes of jelly. They consist of deionised water, cacao, trimolene (I presumed this is trimoline/inverted sugar), gellan F, salt and sodium citrate. Now that’s what you call a complicated jelly! The reason for gellan is that it is heat resistant, but more importantly, as described in the book, it gives a wonderful flavor release, it explodes in the mouth. All the ingredients have to be put in a thermomix and heated to 100°C, while the machine constantly stirs the mixture. This can also be accomplished by heating the mixture up in a pan, while constantly mixing it with a hand held blender, but the thermomix route is a much safer bet. The mixture will not burn to the bottom of a pan and there will be no lumps of jelly.
I poured the mixture for the discs on a large square plate and after letting it cool for a couple of minutes, I cut out a number of discs. I poured too much on the plate and ended up with thick discs, so that is something to watch in the future. First I cut the cubes with the square pastry cutter pictured in the photo, but that did not give satisfactory results. A sharp knife gives the cubes a smooth surface and well defined corners. With the jellies ready I started on the cauliflower.
First I made a stock by sweating florets of cauliflower, onions and garlic. This is simmered, removed from the heat and refreshed with cauliflower florets and cauliflower leaves.
Getting to the second cauliflower I first cut thin slices for the dried cauliflower. They were between 3cm-4cm, but I would try to cut larger pieces (which is pretty difficult), since they shrink considerably in the drying process (I forgot to take a picture when they came out of the dehydrator). The book states to dry them for 24 hours at 60°C, but mine were ready after 6 hours, so the 24 hours as stated in the recipe may be a bit too long.
Next I made a cream of cauliflower, based on cream and milk, and a velouté of caramelised cauliflower with curry.
Next came the carpaccio of cauliflower, made by cutting the stems in thin round on a mandolin. The easiest way to achieve a round shape is to use a small pastry cutter, but I was fresh out of those, so I used an egg holder and cut the stems in round shapes. Again, the discs may have been a bit too thick. After laying them in a circle they have to be frozen to break down the cellular structure to improve the texture.
The risotto base came next, which follows the traditional method of making a risotto. Here I used vermouth, chardonnay, onions, garlic and the cauliflower stock.
When the rice needs 5 more minutes of cooking the rice has to be poured on a cooled tray to stop the cooking.
To finish the mise en place I made beurre noisette and layed all the components out in the kitchen: risotto base, beurre noisette, mascarpone, chives, Parmesan cheese, cauliflower cream, cauliflower velouté.
Just before finishing the risotto I blended some raw cauliflower and passed it through a ‘muslin’ to obtain its juice. This is in my opinion a good way to go about: I use hair nets as muslin. They are cheap, the mixture flows through them at great speed and they can be tossed after use. I would definitely try them.
To finish the risotto I reheated it with some stock and mixed it with the stuff from the picture above and some cauliflower juice. To plate I spooned the rice on a plate, topped it with a chocolate jelly, put the carpaccio on top, placed 5 cubes of jelly on top, put the dried cauliflower in the middle, frothed the velouté, spooned it around the rice and dusted it with chocolate powder.
I must say the taste of the risotto is amazing; it has a real depth of flavor. The carpaccio and dried cauliflower give a variation in texture and a completely different flavor sensation. When I saw this dish on the internet I always wondered if the chocolate wouldn’t overpower the rest, but the funny thing is it integrates with the cauliflower, so there is no real chocolate kick. It is more of a bitter sensation than a kick of chocolate flavor. I would definitely recommend this dish. You can make the jelly with agar to skip on the specialty ingredients and the thermomix, because the flavor is amazing.
Hm, what to do next?