Thursday 6 February 2014

Lakeland R-Evolution Cuisine Kit - experimenting in the kitchen

 Heston Blumenthal has made the concept of 'molecular gastronomy' famous; he is known for doing strange things with liquid nitrogen and creating highly imaginative dishes that offer the unexpected. This R-Evolution kit from Lakeland allows you to experiment along similar lines in the comfort of your own kitchen.

I got this for my birthday last year but hadn't found the time to use it until new year's eve, when I decided to try out a few techniques. The kit comes with several small boxes of different ingredients - agar-agar, sodium alginate, calcium lactate, soya lecithin and xanthan gum. You get 10 sachets of each so there are plenty. You also get some pipettes, a syringe, silicon tubes, plus some measuring spoons and a mini slotted spoon. There are a few recipes and diagrams inside a printed booklet but all the recipes are provided on a DVD. I didn't find this particularly convenient as I had to watch the DVD and scribble down notes which I could then take into the kitchen. Of course, that's no problem if you have a TV and DVD player in your kitchen, or you can play a DVD on your laptop and take that into the kitchen, but I knew I would need all my workspace for the recipes. I understand though why it is on a DVD, because the method for making these recipes is very unusual - not that complicated, but it would be quite hard to describe and it's definitely much easier to watch! The DVD allows you to look at types of recipes or go through each one at a time. Each demonstration video takes about five minutes but there is no voiceover, only music, and every so often words appear on the screen. I think this is because this kit is available in different countries and it makes it easier from a language perspective (i.e. probably cheaper) just to have one film with nobody speaking!

So having gone through all the recipes on the DVD, I decided I was going to make goat's cheese ravioles, frozen parmesan foam, and honey caviar. I'll give an approximate description of what I did, but you really need to buy the kit and watch the DVD!

Goat's cheese ravioles

Sprinkle a sachet of sodium alginate into 475ml water and mix with a hand blender until dissolved. Set aside for 15 minutes.

Mix 50g goat's cheese with 20 ml milk. Add 1/2 tsp calcium lactate and stir with a fork.

Spoon the goat's cheese mixture into the sodium alginate bath using an ice cream scoop and balls will form and slowly sink to the bottom. Leave for three minutes then rinse in a bowl of clean water by adding the goat's cheese and gently stirring it around.

Remove with a slotted spoon and dry on kitchen paper.

I served these as our starter on new year's eve, on a bed of lettuce and drizzled with balsamic glaze. I wasn't that keen on these though I wondered if it was because the goat's cheese I used was quite firm and I should have used a softer cheese like Capricorn. There was a kind of jelly like membrane on the cheese balls, which I'm not sure was supposed to happen, and even though I rinsed the cheese it did seem to have a slightly funny taste. I would try doing this again though as perhaps something went wrong on my first attempt.

Frozen parmesan foam

I decided to make chicken stuffed with cheese and wrapped in bacon as our main course, and serve the parmesan foam with the chicken.

Mix 300ml water with 400ml (not grams) grated parmesan and add the sachet of soy lecithin.

Mix with a hand blender, then pour into a saucepan.

Stir and bring to the boil then set aside for ten minutes. The mixture will turn into a foam consistency.

Spoon the foam out into a small bowl and freeze for one hour. 

 As I was faffing around a lot with the kit I wanted to keep the main course simple so I used this
 pesto soft cheese to stuff two chicken breasts.

I wrapped them in bacon, and baked them in the oven.

 When the parmesan foam has been in the freezer for an hour it is ready to serve - simply scoop out. You need to serve immediately after it comes out of the freezer, otherwise the foam deflates. I also found that having it next to hot food meant it melted fairly fast and I was left with liquid! But it was pretty cool and tasted nice.

 I also made some creamy mashed potato topped with crispy bacon to go with the chicken.

Honey Caviar

I served this on top of a particularly nice dessert that I saw on Fuss Free Flavours for a three-layer chocolate mousse.

 To make the honey caviar, put a cup of oil in the freezer for half an hour. In a small pan, mix 80ml water with 125ml runny honey and a sachet of agar-agar. Stir and bring to the boil.

 Remove the oil from the freezer. Pour the mixture into a small bowl and use the syringe to siphon some of the liquid and drop it a droplet at a time into the cold oil - small pearls will form.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the honey caviar from the oil, and place in a bowl of clean water. Stir around gently to rinse.

Place the honey caviar on top of the dessert to serve.

To get the recipe for this gorgeous chocolate mousse visit Fuss Free Flavours. 
It's a simple but delicious recipe; all you do is mix three types of chocolate with cream and allow each one to set in turn. I started off using this dark chocolate with orange:

Melt the chocolate with cream in a small pan

Pour into a small serving glass and allow to set in the fridge.

For the next later, I used a good quality milk chocolate:

Repeat the process with the chocolate and the cream

Pour the second layer into the glass once the base has set, and allow that to cool and set.

I used white chocolate for the top layer and once again melted it with cream.

 Pour onto the top of the dessert and allow to set.

 I placed the honey caviar on top as the finishing touch.

This was a delicious dessert and the perfect way to round off our meal.

I'd be curious to know if anyone else has used the R-Evolution kit and what you think. It was quite fiddly and while it was fun and had great novelty value, I'm not sure how much the results really added to each dish and I wasn't always 100% keen on the taste. I will definitely use this kit again as there are plenty of things I haven't tried to make, but it will have to be on a day when I have plenty of free time!

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