ArchiveFebruary 26, 2005

International Gastronomy Summit, Madrid Fusion 2005

I’ve just spent a mind blowing three days in Spain at the third International Gastronomy Summit, Madrid Fusion 2005. The theme of this year’s event was the meeting of East and West.
What an extravaganza – the latest techniques, culinary creations and ideas were presented by inspirational avant-garde chefs from East and West, under the umbrella of culinary fusion. 

Spain is in the vanguard of a culinary revolution. This movement is spearheaded by the energetic alchemist Ferran Adria, at his legendary restaurant El Bulli on the west coast of Spain. Adria may just be to the 20th Century what Escoffier was to former generations. He is a technological innovator, a truly brilliant chef who has succeeded in applying many industrial techniques to restaurant production in a revolutionary way. Many of his creations have not immediate connection to the type of food we do, but nonetheless it was intriguing. Restaurants must continue to innovate, otherwise they stagnate and both customers and chefs get jaded and bored. 

No fear of that at the famous El Bulli, and people are flocking to worship at the shrine from all over the world. The restaurant which is open from March to October, gets hundreds of thousands of requests for a table each year, but can only accept 8,000. At Madrid Fusion Adria demonstrated some of his new cocktails- passion fruit, mint and whiskey and hot gin fizz. For some he dispensed with the glasses and served the cocktail in a little bar of ice, others were served in spoons. 

Over a three day period I watched one excellent frenzied chef after the other do wild and exotic things.

Angel Leon from Casa del Temple Restaurant in Toledo in the heart of La Mancha is intrigued by fish. He originally came from Cadiz and still catches fish for his restaurant. For the past few years he has been studying the chemical and organic composition of fish. Apparently fish eyes have an amazing flavour, he cuts fish eyes open with a surgeon’s scalpel, he told us that seven eyes yielded enough for a delicious sauce to serve with one of his fish dishes. He then went on to make a stone soup for which one needs a rock from the bottom of the sea, he was quite specific, 35-40 metres below sea level – apparently there’s no pollution at that depth.

We didn’t get to taste the soup but by all accounts it was delicious.

Daniel Garcia and Paco Roncero did magic with olive oil, Daniel uses liquid nitrogen or what we call dry ice bowl (15 degrees below). He poured olive oil onto the dry ice through a strainer, the result resembled cous cous – hey presto! He added a little sprinkle of salt – now one can eat olive oil – he chooses the variety of olive oil meticulously , this one was made from the Arbequina olives. It enhances the flavour, melts in your mouth, delicious with a little bread, and garlic flakes for breakfast.

Next came popcorn made from olive oil. Daniel sprayed the oil from a foam container into the liquid nitrogen in a polystyrene box, the result was olive oil popcorn which he served with a dice of tomato, tiny croutons and micro greens – looked and I bet tasted delicious. For his next trick he put a stainless steel dish on top of the liquid nitrogen and poured extra virgin olive oil made from Piqual olives onto the tray. It froze into a sheet and then cracked into flakes which looked like white chocolate wafers. So now we have olive oil wafers. These were served with slices of apple, lychee puree and violet flowers, anchovies on carpaccio with flakes of olive oil.

As if this wasn’t dazzling enough, he then went on to make olive oil butter and emphasised that this technique reinforces the flavour, otherwise he wouldn’t bother doing it.

Paco Roncero from El Casino in Madrid has also been experimenting with olive oil. He commenced his presentation by making a hot mayonnaise with an emulsifier called santan rubber. He then went on to make spaghetti with olive oil, through a syringe into iced water. Next came ravioli made from olive oil which doesn’t melt. He filled it with a cauliflower puree and browned it with a blow torch and served it with salmon caviar on spoons. Finally, he added honey water to the olive oil, whizzed it in the Theromix and hey presto there were gum drops which he coated with citrus zest and sugar. By now I was deeply sceptical but Paco had made one for everyone in the audience, both texture and flavour were absolutely delicious. 

Senen Gonzalez the brilliant young chef from Sideria Sagartoki in Vitoria has revolutionised miniature cuisine and has made a name for himself with his revolutionary use of the grill and hot coals.

These chefs and at least another 20 who had participated in this event are in the vanguard of an exciting new food movement. Weird and strange as it may seem now, I have a deep conviction that at least some of their experiments and techniques will become mainstream within a few years, but somehow I hope we are spared the fish eyes.

It eventually occurred to me that there was only one woman chef – Elena Arsack, daughter of the much loved Basque chef Jean Mari Arzak. It was all very macho stuff, I wondered if this type of cooking was less appealing to women. Boys with their toys – Bamix, Theromix, Pacojet, siphons, syringes, eye droppers, misters, liquid nitrogen…….Many of these chefs have followed Ferran Adria’s lead and now have a laboratory beside their kitchens where they experiment with flavour combinations and textures and special effects. They have stretched the boundaries of ‘accepted’ gastronomy, forcing us to let go of our preconceived notions. In the process they have come up with some astonishing, startling and fun result. Sweet and or savoury dishes, ice-cold on the outside, hot in the centre. Combinations of sweet and savoury flavours hitherto unheard of. 

Having watched Andreas Madrigal, a crazy young chef from Madrid, career his way through 7 or 8 revolutionary tapas in half an hour demonstration. He sweetly described the best tapa as being like a good hug. I was so excited by his food and creativity that I mitched the lunch and took a 20 minute taxi ride to Balsac in Moreto, one of two restaurants he owns in Madrid. The food was sensational, combinations I would never try – I particularly remember a delicious anchovy ice-cream, served as part of a mixed tapa, also an unctuous sherry vinegar ice-cream. For interested food lovers, Spain is definitely where its at at present.

Olla Valenciana – (Cocido Mediterraneo) Valencian Stew

This delicious dish would be excellent for a large party.
Serves 10-12

500g (18oz) chick peas 
500g (18oz) chicken or turkey
500g (18oz) black pudding
250g (9oz) fatty bacon – unsmoked streaky
250g (9oz) lean pork
4 leeks
4 carrots
4 potatoes
4 white turnips
4 pears
½ white cabbage
4 sweet potatoes, optional

For the meatballs:
1 chicken liver
100g (3½oz) ground almonds
100g (3½ oz) lean pork, minced
white breadcrumbs
zest of 1 lemon
2 eggs
pine kernels, toasted and chopped
1 clove

Soak the chickpeas overnight in boiling water. (Always use boiling water for chickpeas.)

The following day strain the water off the peas. Fill a large pan with plenty of fresh water and bring to the boil. Put the chickpeas into a bag, add to the pot when the water boils. The chickpeas must not be taken from the heat before they are cooked, nor must the temperature of the liquid drop, otherwise the chickpeas will be hard. If more liquid is needed, ensure it is boiling. After a while, add the meats and bacon, followed by the vegetables. Cook the cabbage separately in some of the liquid from the chickpeas. (it is important to cook the cabbage separately to keep the flavours separate.)

To make the meatballs:
Mince the chicken livers finely. Remove a chunk of bacon from the pot, chop it up and mix it thoroughly with the liver. Soak the bread in the chickpea stock, drain it and add to the mixture. Grind the pine kernels in the mortar along with the lemon zest, spices and salt. Mix with the other ingredients and the ground almonds. Mince the pork and mix in along with the egg. Mix everything together thoroughly, then wrap the mixture in a single large cabbage leaf to form a parcel, or in smaller leaves to form little balls. Add to the stew.

To serve:
Group the ingredients on the plate in the following way: meats, vegetables, balls and chickpeas together at one end of the plate. If one large ball or parcel has been made, cut into 1cm slices.

Use the stock to make a soup by adding some noodles. Serve everything at the same time.

Ajoblanco with Apple – Ajoblanca de Almendras con Manzana

Also called Gazpacho Blanco
Many people are familiar with the tomato version of Gazpacho but this white version comes from Cordoba and is very nutritious.
Serves 4-6

250g (9oz) blanched, peeled almonds
4 tablesp. extra virgin olive oil
4 slices of stale bread with the crusts removed
2 cloves of garlic
2-3 teaspoons white wine vinegar
2 apples (or 1 bunch white grapes, or 2 slices of melon)

Mash the garlic and salt in a mortar, gradually adding the almonds until a smooth paste is attained. This can be done much more easily in a food processor. Soak the bread in water and mix into the paste along with the oil and vinegar.

Mix everything thoroughly, then add four cups of cold water. The soup should have a thick, smooth consistency. Add ice cubes if desired. The fruit should be added just before serving. Apple or melon should be diced and grapes should be whole.

The proportions of garlic, olive oil and vinegar are entirely a matter of taste. This will keep for 2-3 days in the fridge.

Carne con Salsa de Pinones Y Aceitunas

Beef with Pine Kernel and Olive Sauce
Serves 4

500g (18oz) beef, cut into 4-5cm chunks
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 medium tomatoes
4 cloves of garlic
50g (2oz) pine kernels, toasted and chopped
4 sprigs of parsley
100ml (3½ fl.ozs) olive oil
1 hard boiled egg
400ml (14 fl.oz) water or stock
1 teasp. sweet Spanish paprika
100g (3½ oz) pitted green olives 

Heat the oil in a large pan. Fry the beef until it starts to brown, then remove from the pan to put to one side.

Using the same oil, lightly fry the chopped onion, then add the paprika, followed by the water, fried beef, olives and some salt. 

Cover the pan and cook over a low heat until the meat is tender (45mins-1 hour in a casserole, 30 mins in a pressure cooker).

Meanwhile heat the tomatoes and garlic, unpeeled, in a non-stick pan, turning them frequently, until the tomatoes are softish and the garlic slightly roasted. When they are ready, peel the cloves of garlic, and peel and remove the seeds from the tomatoes. In a mortar, mash the pine kernels, parsley, garlic and tomato flesh, then add the mixture to the meat when it is cooked.

Lastly, finely chop the hard boiled egg and sprinkle it over the other ingredients. Boil for five minutes and serve.

Tortada de Almendras – Almond Meringue

500g (18oz) peeled, toasted almonds
12 eggs
575g (1lb 5oz) castor sugar
zest of 1 lemon
1 teasp. ground cinnamon
150g (5oz) white flour

1 teasp. ground cinnamon
50g (2oz) icing sugar

Finely grind the almonds in a mixer or food processor and set aside.

Beat the yolks of the eggs with the sugar, lemon zest and cinnamon until everything is thoroughly mixed. Beat the egg whites until stiff and then add the almonds as slowly as possible. Then add the flour and stir very lightly, otherwise the egg whites will fall. Finally add the eggs and sugar. Beat everything together very quickly.

Take a circular mould with quite high sides and grease with butter, then sprinkle with sugar to prevent sticking. Put the mixture into the mould and bake in an oven, preheated to 225C/425F/gas 7, for about 15 minutes until golden.

Leave to cool. Meanwhile, mix the icing sugar and cinnamon together and then sprinkle over the cake using a shaker, or cut a pattern out of a piece of paper, place over the cake, then shake the cinnamon and sugar over it separately to create a two colour effect.

Foolproof food

Fresh Lemon Ice Cream

This is a fresh tangy light ice cream, easy peasy to make and a delight to eat at the end of any meal winter or summer.
Serves 4

1 free range egg
250ml (9 fl oz) milk
130g (5oz) castor sugar
Zest and juice of 1 good lemon

Fresh Mint leaves and Borage flowers

Separate the egg, whisk the yolk with the milk and keep the white aside. Gradually mix in the sugar. Carefully grate the zest from the lemon on the finest part of a stainless steel grater. Squeeze the juice from the lemon and add with the zest to the liquid. Whisk the egg white until quite stiff and fold into the other ingredients. Freeze in a sorbetiere according to the manufacturer’s instructions or put in a freezer in a covered plastic container. 

When the mixture starts to freeze, remove from the freezer and whisk again, or break up in a food processor. Then put it back in the freezer until it is frozen completely. Meanwhile, chill the serving plates.

To Serve
Scoop the ice cream into curls, arrange on chilled plates or in pretty frosted glass dishes. Decorate with borage flowers and fresh mint leaves if you have them.

Hot Tips

This afternoon at 2pm at Ballymaloe Cookery School - Fingal Ferguson of Gubbeen Smokehouse will do a pork workshop at Ballymaloe Cookery School – curing ham and bacon, air drying, making sausages, salami, chorizo, pates, terrines – using the pig from snout to tail! 2.00-4.30pm €50 tel. 021-4646785 to book.

Diploma in Speciality Food Production – this is a new course commencing in University College, Cork - 11 April – 19 May. 
This course is intended for those who are interested in the prospect of developing speciality foods as a commercial venture or as a way of adding value to agricultural commodities. Would suit those currently in the speciality food sector as well as suppliers, buyers and retailers. For details contact Mary McCarthy-Buckley or Michele Daly, Food Industry Training Unit, Faculty of Food Science and Technology, University College, Cork. Tel -021-4903178 
Congratulations to UCC for taking the initiative in this area. 

Second National Food Fair 2005 – 8,9,10th April, Main Hall, RDS
This exhibition will be a showcase for food producers in Ireland and abroad with Food Village, Wine Depot, Super Theatre and Cookery Demonstrations with some of Ireland’s top chefs. To book a space – contact S&L Promotions – Tel 01-6761811  

Before Christmas there were two wonderful Farmers Markets and Craft Fairs in Athy, Co Kildare. The success of these has prompted a new weekly Sunday market 10am - 3pm in Emily Square, Athy, Co. Kildare - right by the Heritage Centre in the centre of town. Contact: Bernadette McHugh, 086 9191680 

Molly Malones Fresh Fish Market seafood stall, much loved by patrons of Carlow Market, can now be found in Tullamore square outside Bank of Ireland, Thurles Parnell St Car Park on Thursday, Port Laoise Leicester Square outside AIB Bank, and Market Square Tipperary and Clonmel on Friday. Also Bagnelstown Thursday morning and Bunclody Thursday afternoon. More details of other venues and freezer delivery call 053 42592, 087 4128046 or 087 2314752 (mention Ireland Markets please!)


Past Letters