Specialty Equipment: mandolin, dehydrator
Specialty Ingredients: none
Dish as in The Fat Duck:
For some reason the parsnip cereal dish, a veteran of the tasting menu, is not included in the book. I thought it would be fun to try and recreate the dish without a recipe by my side and see what I would end up with. I was sure of two things. The cereal is made of pieces of dehydrated parsnip and the liquid is infused with parsnips.
For part one of the dish, the cereal, I flipped through the book and reread the dehydrated food items of a number of recipes, to guess which technique would be suitable for the parsnips. First I figured it would be best to use the technique of the beetroot discs of the Grapefruit Lolly recipe, because the boiled sugar could form a protective layer, keeping the cereal crunchy in a liquid. The problem is that last time it didn’t really work out, so I put aside the technique and settled on a good soak in a 50:50 sugar syrup.
I also warmed the simple syrup when I added parsnips slices to them, so they would cook a bit, which brings out their natural sweet flavor. I made the slices on a mandolin and then used a ring cutter to create small rounds. Looking back at pictures of the cereal as served in the Fat Duck I now realize, too late, that they have different shapes and sizes and the cereal seems to be shavings from the smaller, bottom part of the parsnip. I tried to avoid the inclusion of the woody core, but should have used them like in The Fat Duck.
After soaking the slices in the sugar syrup for a few hours I dried them in a dehydrator at 47˚C for a couple of hours. Drying them doesn’t make them go all wrinkly and take on the look of store bought cereal, so you have to give them a hand. I found that there is a small window between the start of the drying process and the finished product where you can alter the shape of the parsnip slices and they will get a rougher appearance. You have to make sure you don’t do it too early, or they will not hold their shape, or too late in which case they will break.
My slices took on an oval shape after soaking. Why? I have no idea.
As a liquid I used full fat milk soaked with thinly sliced parsnips in a vacuum bag. In the cookbook and on the Cooking Issues blog I read about dashi (and flavored oils), which are made at 60-65˚C, an optimum extraction temperature for kombu. I tried it, but with vegetables you really need a higher temperature to extract the flavor, so I would say 85-100˚C would work best. I also boiled the milk briefly to bring out, like the parsnip slices, the natural sweet flavor.
As a final step I let the milk sit in the fridge for 12 hours.
It was fun trying to deduct a recipe from photos. The flavor was ok, but not great (the slices stayed crunchy for the time it took to eat a small bowl). Like the Violet Tartlets, Edible Rose Bush and Hot and Iced Tea, this dish should be served as part of a menu, because as a stand-alone dish it doesn’t really work. It definitely didn’t suck, but I wouldn’t make it again.