El Bulli for you: restaurant sells its secrets to the masses
Monday 27 August 2007
It would take El Bulli, the Spanish restaurant that is regularly voted the world's best, 125 years to get through its reservations backlog for this year alone. But for foodies desperate to sample its pioneering molecular gastronomy, help is at hand.
For its chef, Ferran Adria, has distilled his secrets into a new range of ingredients that could make horseradish foams as much a staple of British Sunday lunches as overcooked roast beef and soggy Yorkshire puddings.
An East Anglia-based company has become the first in the UK to sell a line of natural food derivatives created by Ferran Adria and his brother Albert. The range, which was cooked up in the El Bulli laboratory in Barcelona, is initially on sale to the catering trade and that means even mediocre pub chefs can emulate the brilliance of Mr Adria. With tins of ingredients with wacky names such as Lecite, Algin, Kappa and Metil, cooks can create sizzling fruit jellies, spaghettis for the gluten intolerant made of pureed vegetables and water, and the solid cocktails that are El Bulli's trademark.
John Jackaman, of Infusions, which has the British rights to the El Bulli line, said: "The undisputed best chef is giving up his secrets. The beauty is it is actually very simple to reproduce much of what to many of us is unattainable - tasting the food of El Bulli."
One popular recipe is melon caviar, made using melon juice, water, two of the powders - which have been given the brand name Texturas - and a process called spherification. "It looks like tins of golden caviar. It pops like caviar when you bite into it but has a fantastic melon flavour," Mr Jackaman, 34, said. Another is a lime air that "looks like shaving foam on a plate and can be used to refresh the palate between courses".
Foams are the hottest craze to sweep professional kitchens as chefs seek to emulate Mr Adria and his British counterpart and friend Heston Blumenthal, whose Fat Duck restaurant vies with El Bulli for the top spot in the global culinary charts. Mr Blumenthal's latest menu features an oyster foam meant to represent "the mist above the waves". Proponents include Nuno Mendes, who runs the Bacchus restaurant in Hoxton, north London and Tony Flinn, of Anthony's Restaurant in Leeds. Mr Flinn's top dish is a white onion risotto with a parmesan air. "There's nothing better than finding something new to play with because without new ingredients to create new dishes you are just doing new versions of old ones," he said.
Mr Blumenthal aside, the "cappuccino" toppings made using carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide are failing to curry favour with many food critics, who are unimpressed by "chemistry" cookery. A A Gill warned recently that too many restaurants were choosing froth over substance.
Amateur chefs need have no such qualms, however, and this Christmas they too may get the chance to whip up some culinary alchemy. Mr Jackaman has plans to launch a Texturas gift pack, which he hopes Harrods and Fortnum & Mason will stock. The Texturas range is the closest Mr Adria has come to sharing the DNA of his dishes, which have more than a million people every year clamouring for one of the 50 seats in his restaurant in north-east Spain. El Bulli is open for six months a year and is booked up through 2008.
Although there are a number of El Bulli recipe books, Mr Adria has always stopped short of divulging his full techniques.
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