Do try this at home: A simple kit lets aspiring Hestons make their own molecular meals

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

David Gerrie gets busy with agar-agar and soya lecithin...

Seemingly insurmountable challenges are a regular source of grist to my culinary mill. I choose not to spend my evenings and weekends fiddling with the oily bits on my car, smacking a small ball around the countryside or risking repeats of previous knee-knackering experiences in a flimsy thing they call a dinghy. I cook and, barring the odd chuck-it-at-the-wall moment, do so with some success. I have conquered such kitchen Everests as Raymond Blanc's iced Grand Marnier soufflé with candied kumquats and his fish with saffron potatoes cooked en papillote, as well as Marco Pierre White's mullet with ratatouille, tapenade sauce and sage beignets and the cholesterol tsunami of double chicken stock, double cream and foie gras butter that is sauce Albufera.

But other than applying varying amounts of heat to all things raw, I have never felt moved to dabble in the science of cookery, tinkering around with all those strange powders and processes. When it comes to culinary alchemy, I'm much more Simon Hopkinson than Harry Potter.

I have eaten incandescently good molecular food in northern Spain, but at home I recoil at the first glimpse of dots, drizzles, sneezes and, by far the worst offender, the painted stripe across the middle of the plate, most of which pass from palate to gullet to no resonant effect. Thus I have remained a molecular virgin, a stranger to all those zeitgeist techniques touted by chefs who know much more than I ever will, yet seem incapable of believing that just taking the basic ingredients, treating them with the care and respect they deserve and dishing them up in a familiar form will be better than deconstructing them to look like the bastard progeny of a lab boffin and an architect.

So I read with trepidation the news that the usually conservative folk at Lakeland now sell R-Evolution Cuisine. For £44.99, here's your chance to "do a Heston" and have a go at molecular cookery in the comfort of your own kitchen. And if you're looking for the perfect present for a foodie chum or want your guests to give an admiring chuckle and still enjoy the resulting taste as you unveil the results of your kitchen magic, this is funky option. It's a grown-up magic kit.

It's cute, too, with 10 sachets of agar-agar (a vegetarian gelatin substitute produced from a variety of seaweed), sodium alginate (another seaweed extract that emulsifies and increases viscosity), calcium lactate (an antacid), soya lecithin (to make dissimilar substances blend) and xanthan gum (a thickener and stabiliser). There's a slotted spoon for lifting globules out of liquid, a set of measuring spoons, pipettes, a food-friendly syringe, silicone tubes and a 50-recipe DVD.

Let's start with the DVD – and you have to. There are no written recipes, no dialogue from a witty/informative/glamorous/annoying chef. There isn't even a friendly face – just a pair of hands showing you the various steps and little on-screen boxes telling you what and how much of it he/she is using, all backed by what sounds like the music from an Eighties' porn flick.

Remembering my last encounter with a pipette was prior to a rather nasty incident in the school science lab, I opted for something slightly more mediaeval in the form of a Crunchy Bloody Mary, which required the boiling of vodka, tomato juice, Worcester sauce, celery salt and the mysterious agar-agar. Once cooked, the resulting mix is spooned into upturned celery stalks and left to set. Here's a big tip: to guarantee success, buy the biggest, deepest stalks you can find, otherwise you'll wind up with a very skinny filling and a stiff red pool on the plate. The taste? If you're bored with the liquid version, this is a pretty sexy way to serve a cocktail. The same goes for the Deconstructed Tomato Soup, which involves cooking another potion, using a syringe to force it through a silicone tube, squeezed on to your plate like spaghetti.

Never fear. We now move on to creating their Deconstructed Burger, which is nothing of the sort. It is a guide to making ketchup and mustard "caviar", ie small pearls of each substance, which you then arrange in bowls.The snag is, the minute you apply them to your burger, they immediately revert to what they looked like in the first place – brightly coloured, glutinous dollops.

Taste? Well, what would you expect?

On to Spherical Tzatziki. Here, we mix milk, calcium lactate, seasoning, olive oil, rice vinegar, chopped dill, yoghurt and crushed garlic, before dropping spoonfuls of it into our sodium alginate bath. Hurrah! Spherical globules are indeed forming "underwater". But then, trying to transfer them to a plain-water bath results in the spheres rupturing one by one, leaving a horrid, gloopy white mess, as if a blender had done battle with a couple of oysters and some gelatin. But don't even think about putting it down the sink – it won't go.

Garlic Foam was more successful and rather good adorning a grilled lamb chop. Water, milk, garlic cloves and soya lecithin are blitzed, producing a cloud of bubblesome foam, which goes well with crab.

More rejoicing when my Salt Prisms turn out rather well. Water, salt and agar-agar are boiled and left to set, enabling you to cut the resulting gel into shapes. A small cube proved yummy with a glob of thick chocolate sauce and toasted waffle. But Raspberry Ravioli (more blobs) and Curry Wind (foam) prove a disappointment, while Quick and Easy Bechamel uses chopped hard-boiled eggs and winds up looking like a rather messy egg salad. As for their version of a Screwdriver – well, each layer has to set for quarter-of-an-hour. And if you can wait 75 minutes for a drink...

Molecular masters: What they say

"It can be used to invent an infinite number of dishes."

Hervé This, who coined the phrase "molecular cuisine"

"Could you imagine people eating a painting — if they could introduce a painting into their bodies? It's probably the artist's dream, and we have the opportunity to do so."

Ferran Adria of el Bulli

"We do not pursue novelty for its own sake... We may use modern thickeners, sugar substitutes, enzymes, liquid nitrogen, sous vide, dehydration and other non-traditional means but these do not define our cooking ...We believe that cooking can affect people in profound ways, and that a spirit of collaboration and sharing is essential to true progress in developing this potential."

Ferran Adria, Heston Blumenthal of the Fat Duck, Thomas Keller of the French Laundry and Per Se explaining why they are not "molecular gastronomists"

"We all use sugar. And sugar — sucrose — doesn't grow in the form of white grains. It has to be processed. Yet sugar is okay. Sucrose is okay. It's only when you get to maltodextrin that people start saying, 'Wait a minute, that's going too far.'"

Heston Blumenthal of the Fat Duck

"This style of cooking, is a language, a code, and it can be intimidating. But only if you don't try to understand it."

David Chang, of the Momofuku restaurants in New York

"We need to really examine food, emotions, the arc of the dining experience, and in doing so we utilise technology where appropriate."

Grant Achatz of Chicago restaurant Alinea

"You get chocolate cake with jalapeno sorbet, but it's actually mole and it's savoury and then you pop a Miracle Berry ... the chocolate cake which was mole turns into a chocolate velvet cake, with this jalapeno sorbet which then tastes sort of sweet."

Homaro Cantu of Ing and Moto

Compiled by Will Hamilton

Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
i100
Travel
Suite dreams: the JW Marriott in Venice
travelChic new hotels in 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £30,000 Uncapped

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Day In a Page

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

    The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
    Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

    Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

    France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
    Sports Quiz of the Year

    Sports Quiz of the Year

    So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

    From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

    Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect