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Well, this is it. I never intended to write a final post on how this blog changed me personally, and what I’m going to do next, and am sticking to that feeling. So, goodbye.

Ok, that may be a bit harsh, but when starting and keeping up this blog I tried to stay away from (not saying I was successful all the time) hundreds of exclamation marks, a super friendly attitude that seems to exist only on blogs, feelings of the day and endless personal paragraphs on ingredients at the beginning of posts. If I would have to summarize why I started this blog it comes down to a ‘big fuck you’. A fuck you to the endless cooking shows and cookbooks making everything ‘easier’. Those shows where someone chops half an onion and 1 second later has cut 10 of them. Or someone using pan after pan and then not show the enormous clean up afterwards. It’s all so easy! Yes that’s an exclamation mark. My life would indeed be very easy if I could edit it to will and remove, like Hitchcock said, the dull bits. I cook simple food most of the time,  but what’s wrong with more challenging stuff from time to time and the Roux brothers guiding you through your attempts.

Lastly, my blog is a fuck you to the word ‘impossible’.

Now it may seem I’m some angry guy, but next to a pissed off reaction to a part of the contemporary food world, I started this blog out of love. The moment The Big Fat Duck Cookbook arrived at my doorstep I had a crush on it. I still lovingly caress it from time to time. It has so much soul, I just had to cook from it. For me it’s the exact opposite of the Alinea cookbook for example, which I find derived of any type of personality.

When I translated my love for the book in actual cooking I thought why not document my attempts, so someone else may have some help seeing my results. I hope it did.

Now that the book is finished I’ve been getting a lot of questions what’s up next. I can safely say I will not start another cookbook blog. I loved cooking from the Fat Duck Cookbook, but am sort of relieved the days of a permanent Fat Duck space at the back of my mind are over. Days of just messing around with food are here again. Lately I’ve been cooking from the Momofuku cookbook, a book I love for the same reason I love The Fat Duck Cookbook, it possesses tons of soul, in an attempt to get more familiar with the flavors of China, Japan and South Korea. I no longer want to be clueless when standing in a Japanese produce store and wonder what all those brightly colored packages contain. So, my plan was as simple as when I just started cooking. Grab a book (am not ashamed to admit they were from a certain Mister Oliver the first time around), pick out recipes and just make stuff. So far I made pork buns, rice cakes, kimchi, all the stuff for a bowl of ramen minus the actual noodles, XO sauce and more.

So, I’m just going to continue cooking and who knows what will come of it.

With the final words I want to thank my family and friends that helped me in my endeavor. Thanks! Also a thank you to all of you commenting on the posts.

Later.

All the Dishes

Specialty Equipment: food dehydrator – water bath – vacuum machine – digital thermometer – thermomix – fine digital scale – ice cream machine – mandolin – pastry cutters – PacoJet – refractometer – pH meter – electric slicer – pressure cooker – freeze-drier – rotary evaporator – (range of) molds – steamer – centrifuge

Specialty Ingredients: acid, citric – acid, malic – acid, tartaric acid – cacao butter – calcium chloride – carbonized vegetable powder, brown – crystallised violet petals – essence, leather – essential oil, almond – essential oil, Douglas Fir – essential oil, Frankincense – essential oil, grapefruit – essential oil, lychee – essential oil, mandarin – essential oil, rose – flojel 60 – gelatine (170 Bloom) – gelatine (200 Bloom), powdered – gellan f – gellan LT100 – glycerine – gold leaves – gold powder – golden Frankincense tears – gum arabic – liquid nitrogen – liquorice root, dried – liquorice root, sticks of concentrated – maltodextrin DE8 – maltodextrin DE19 – milk powder, skimmed – N-Zorbit M maltodextrin – nitrite salt – oak extract – oak moss extract – pectin, high methoxyl – pectin, nappage – pectin, yellow – popping candy – shimmer powder, blue – sodium caseinate – sodium citrate – sodium tripolyphosphate – soy lecithin – spray-dried apple granules – spray-dried carrot powder – sugar, fructose – sugar, invert – sugar, isomalt – TIC gums alginate 488T – tobacco, cavendish – transglutaminase – vitamin C – water, deionised –  whey powder (-  patience)

Days: 98

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Feel weird seeing all the work of 1 year and 2 months on 1 page. The funny thing is that I can remember a lot from every dish: preparation methods, what went wrong, what was difficult to make, stuff like that. I’m sure the information will be replaced by other pieces of info over time, but hell, I’ve got photos and accompanying texts to help me remember.

As far as the photos go I can clearly see I had no clue until the Orange and Beetroot Jelly, which I made during a photography course. From then on I tried to take better photographs, but didn’t have a tripod and lighting was a word I had not yet linked to taking pictures. The Roast Foie Gras ‘Benzaldehyde’ was the first plate I lid (with LED flashlights) with an end result in mind: replicating the shadow rich, dynamic quality of the photos in the book. I still wasn’t the proud owner of a tripod, so when taking the picture I juggled two flashlights and a camera, which would make every photographer chuckle. With the Beef Royal (1723), First Course recipe I owned a tripod and started to think more and more on the photos I was taking, leading in the end to makeshift setups with lights and boards that were lying around the house. I’ve never bought proper lights, or a proper (digital) camera for that matter, so am looking forward to buying some and see how the photos will turn out.

The purchase of a tripod went hand in hand with a change in my cooking. At a certain point you start to notice little details in the recipes and the presentations and this sneaks up in your cooking. The book will slowly and unnoticeably (to a certain point) turn you in a Fat Duck intern, afraid of a big bad chef who’s looking over your shoulder. The cubes of butter from the Flaming Sorbet are a prime example (forgive my ass for quoting myself): ‘During the crumble preparations I knew the cookbook had gotten to me. I’m at a point of no return. Precision is imprinted in my brain. My fingers act like somebody could strike them at any moment if I’m not precise. I was preparing cubes of butter for the crumble and noticed I was cutting them all in the same size and discarding the ones that weren’t. It’s only a freaking butter for a crumble mixture! In the end I got some control of myself and kept the ‘deformed’ cubes and chopped the rest of the butter with a slightly less rigorous regiment.’

I still feel very far removed from the level of the Fat Duck kitchens, but have definitely gotten a better understanding of the strict nature of translating these recipes to actual plates of food for paying customers (and a watchful world for that matter). I almost feel like making every recipe a second time to try and get better at this level of cooking (and do a better job on some earlier dishes), though I can safely say that feeling is squashed by the sheer fear of making the dishes again.

So, this is the end result that will have to make due. By the way I didn’t make the Eel Nichi recipe. Reading the introduction I get the feeling it was more of an experiment and going through the ingredients it probably was. I also found almost no information on this dish and wonder if it was ever served at The Fat Duck. I’ll consider making it if someone sends me all the specialty ingredients, but good luck finding them!

1. Cauliflower Risotto, Carpaccio of Cauliflower, Chocolate Jelly

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Sound of the Sea
Specialty Equipment: water bath, vacuum machine, thermometer
Specialty Ingredients: soya lecithin, sodium caseinate, N-Zorbit M maltodextrin, blue shimmer powder, brown carbonized vegetable powder
Days: 3 (1 month when making the ponzu)
Dish as in The Fat Duck:

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The final dish. I think I’ve easily spent the most time on this dish. Obtaining some of the ingredients was pretty difficult. I say ‘obtaining’, but ‘trying to obtain’ are better words to describe what I did. Cooking the dish itself is actually not that hard, but the thing is in freaking Japanese: thin mouth soy sauce, rishiri-kombu, cod liver oil, shirasu, N-Zorbit M tapioca maltodextrin, blue shimmer powder, brown carbonized vegetable powder, dried dulse seaweed, dried hijiki seaweed, tamari soy sauce, Japanese lily bulb, dried wakame seaweed, shiro shoyu, fresh Codium seaweed, fresh yuzu, fresh sudachi, katsuo bushi, soya lecithin, sodium caseinate. WWWWW-What?!!!

In the end I got to grips with the ingredients, but was not able to get every one. I hope thou can forgive me. Here’s a list of the harder-to-find/possibly unfamiliar ingredients and where you can get them if you were so inclined:

Dried dulse seawead / dried hijiki seaweed / dried wakame seaweed – Almost every Japanese store sells them, although I never encountered dried dulse seaweed and dried it myself.

Fresh Codium seaweed – This was in the end not too hard to find. Two fishmongers could order it, but they both had a minimum order of 1kg, costing 45€. I couldn’t find a store selling it in smaller quantities, so to keep the costs down (and not tip the scale to having been able to eat the tasting menu at The Fat Duck from the combined costs of this recipe) I skipped this type of seaweed.

Thin mouth soy sauce (usu kuchi shoyu) / tamari soy sauce / white soy sauce (shiro shoyu) – The first two are sold by Japanese stores, but the white soy sauce may be a bit harder to find. I’ve dedicated, all in all, days trying to find some. I went online (the ones that sold it didn’t send it overseas), to Japanese stores, restaurants and more. I’m still pretty pissed off thinking about it. I won’t rest until I have some in my possession, although I might not have any need for it anymore.

Rishiri-kombu – Kombu, the Japanese kelp used in dashi, is sold everywhere. There are however a number of varieties and must say I’ve never found rishiri-kombu. In one Japanese store I found almost all the varieties, but they didn’t sold the rishiri one. I used kombu labeled as ‘dashi kombu’.

Japanese lily bulb – I was mislead by the word ‘Japanese’. In fact the Chinese adore the stuff and you can find it in Chinese stores, sold as ‘fresh lily bulbs’. It is tasty as hell by the way.

Shirasu – Almost every Oriental store sells these baby anchovies in the refrigerated section.

N-Zorbit M tapioca maltodextrin – National Food and Starch sends out samples (thanks you guys!).

Blue shimmer powder – Not too sure what it is, but Mandy pointed me to edible glitter and it seems to be the same product. It is sold everywhere. I got it at Ebay, but the weather was not playing along. We’ve been seeing snow and frost like nothing before in early December here in Western Europe. It has affected air traffic, which means my blue shimmer powder is still in the mail.

Brown carbonized vegetable powder – Your guess is as good as mine.

Soya lecithin / sodium caseinate – The first is sold everywhere. I skipped the second powder because it is a foam stabilizer and found that at home it is not really necessary (see the Anjou pigeon dish). If you do want to get it check Ebay for ‘casein’.

So, with almost all the ingredients and some understanding of them all I started with the recipe. I made the ponzu 1 month before finishing the dish. It is made from sake, fresh yuzu, fresh sudachi, mirin, rice wine vinegar, tamari soy sauce, thin mouth soy sauce, katsuo bushi and rishiri-kombu. I substituted the citrus fruits with fresh lime and store bought yuzu juice.

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Mandarin Aerated Chocolate
Specialty Equipment: water bath, vacuum machine, thermometer, moulds
Specialty Ingredients: mandarin essential oil, cacao butter, yellow pectin
, tartaric acid, glucose
Days: 1
Dish as in The Fat Duck:

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Mandarin Aerated Chocolate attempt #1 ended in tears. It’s the only recipe I had to make a second time (although I have to refrain myself from redoing the first half of the posts), to look back without any regrets. I also just wanted chocolate to work with me for once in my life. No rest for the chocolate fuck-ups.

I reread the comments on some of my posts and decided to ditch the water bath altogether. Instead I opted for an au-bain marie and, thanks to a very handy tip from Mitchell, a hair dryer as weapons of choice. To melt all the crystals I heated the chocolate to 54˚C, as instructed in the book (where they use a water bath).

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All the white powders are only one part of the ingredients needed for the recipes of this book (see here where I got them). There is also the more traditional food fare: meat, fish, fruit, vegetables and many more. Regarding these type of food I feel really lucky with the stores in close proximity to me. You have a number of wholesalers in southeast Amsterdam with great produce. Walking these wholesalers I feel like a kid in a sweet shop. Quality cheeses, poultry, game, meat, fish, shellfish, vegetables, dried products, oils, vinegars, chocolate, it’s all there. On the top of my list is the chain Hanos, reminiscent of quality indoor markets in France. It sells lobsters, hand-dived scallops, Bresse chickens, Anjou pigeons, Livar pork, Iberico pork, baby vegetables, Valrhona chocolate, the products from Texturas and Sosa and all the stuff you’re not yet aware you’re going to need. Countless times I was in need of something, often sold solely in upscale specialty stores, and ended up scooping it up at Hanos. In the end it saved me a whole lot of trouble hunting down ingredients in places all over Amsterdam.

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