Posts Tagged ‘Heston Blumenthal’

The science of BBQ

Friday, April 4th, 2008

Photo by spielzimmer via (CC).

Eric Devlin over at Home of BBQ interviewed me via email about BBQ and molecular gastronomy. The topic should be of interest to the readers of Khymos as well, so I post the questions and answers in extenso here for your benefit.

Q. Martin, thank you for taking the time to discuss the science of BBQ. Before we get into ‘low and slow’ cooking, can you tell us a bit about your background and your interest in food?
I have a PhD in chemistry and currently I’m working as a research scientist. When I first became interested in the connection between food and chemistry in the late 90’s, I searched the Internet without finding much information. I did however find some very interesting books in the faculty library, including Harold McGee’s “On Food and Cooking – The Science and Lore of the Kitchen”. Having found books about the subject, I soon started to give popular science presentations. In 2004 I was invited to attend the “International Workshop on Molecular Gastronomy” in Erice, Sicily. This was a great experience and I enjoyed meeting many of the scientists, writers and chefs involved with molecular gastronomy. The website I’ve put up, Khymos, is in many ways what I would have liked to find at the time I became interested in the subject.

Q. Over the past few years we have been hearing quite a bit about how food cooked over a hot flame can have increased carcinogens. Would food that is cooked for a longer period of time over a lower heat be safer?

The carcinogens are formed when meat gets burnt, so although you’d like to use high heat to get the Maillard reaction going (which gives you both flavor and color) you don’t want to overdo it. But even if the meat gets a little burnt, it is a good thing that for the carcinogens, as for all other substances, the poison is in the dose. So if you eat grilled meat every day you should be concerned about this, but for most people I think overeating poses a much greater risk!

Q. Serious BBQ cooks like to produce a ‘bark’ when preparing pork for their pulled pork dishes. Usually the natural ‘bark’ of the meat is enhanced by the sugar found in the dry rubs that are applied. Is there any other method that could be used to achieve or increase those results? Maybe an egg wash prior to cooking?

There are several processes which contribute to the flavor formation. First you have the sugars which caramelize. As you correctly state, this is enhanced by adding sugar to the rubs. Furthermore you have the Maillard reaction were sugars react with amino acids to form a host of compounds which contribute both flavor and color. Even though the Maillard reaction can take place at low temperature (such as in vintage champagne), things really speed up when temperature rises above 110-120 °C. Obviously to reach this temperature you’ll have to get rid of the water first. So using a dry rub makes sense. Apart from that it’s mostly about being patient. Use fresh spices, and where possible whole spices that you ground prior to use. The heat of the grill will toast the spices, thereby intensifying the flavor even more.

I must admit that I have never made nor tasted meat which was prepared with a “bark”, so I don’t dare to go into further details concerning how to improve it. The best thing would be to cook two pieces of meat in parallel, for instance with and without an egg wash to see which one comes out best.

Q. BBQ sauces vary greatly depending on region. Carolina sauces are often thin, while Kansas City and Texas sauces have greater viscosity. If a cook is making a sauce that comes out too thin, what recommendations would you have to thicken it?

You either have to take out some of the water by letting it boil over low heat in a large, wide pot, or you can add a thickening agent such as corn starch. If you use onions, these will help thicken your sauce if you let it boil for a while.

Q. In competitions, some BBQ pit-masters utilize a flavor enhancer called FAB B, which contains msg. The thought behind this additive is that after a judge has consumed numerous samples of the same category of meat, the additive will stimulate the taste buds and help to separate that entry from the rest. Can you recommend any other method of ‘waking the taste buds’ without detracting from the taste?

The problem with this explanation is that if everyone uses FAB, will there be any effect at all? If the idea is to rinse the mouth you would want something acidic which stimulates saliva production, some tannic compounds to bind proteins and perhaps some alcohol to help solubilize fats. Heston Blumentahl at the Fat Duck made a “Green tea sour mousse” from these guidelines.

But even so adaption and habituation occurs in all tasting. I’ve discussed this extensively in a blog post, and the easy answer is variation. Or more scientifically: increased sensing by contrast amplification. Eat something which is as far from meat as you can come, something which is cold, crisp, fresh and acidic (did someone mention a tasty salad?). This will make the next piece of meat taste much better!

Q. FAB contains the following: Hydrolyzed soy protein, vegetable oil (soybean and or corn, cottonseed), sodium phosphates, mono sodium glutamate, autolyzed yeast extract, disodium inosinate and guanylate, xanthan gum. They claim that it enhances natural meat flavors, makes your BBQ juicier, improves texture for better slicing and taste and increases yields. Would you believe that these claims are accurate? Would you recommend other methods to achieve the same results?

I would like to emphasize that MSG’s bad reputation is somewhat undeserved. MSG is the salt of a naturally occurring amino acids and is found in many foods. Parmesan and tomatoes contain lots of it (ever wondered why the Italians sprinkle so much parmesan on their food?). Protein and yeast are excellent sources for MSG and the related compounds listed, so I absolutely believe the claim that FAB will enhance the meaty flavors. When FAB is used in a marinade, the phosphates enhance juiciness and improve texture (more on this later). This is well documented. But even so, every chef should remember that FAB or other products can only make good meat better. Therefore you should pay close attention to the quality of the meat you use.

Q. What is a smoke ring and how is it created? What is the best method of producing a significant smoke ring?

When wood or coal burns, small amounts of nitrogen dioxide is formed which dissolves in the surface of the meat, thereby creating nitrous acid. The acid diffuses further into the meat, and when converted to nitric oxide it reacts with myoglobin to form a stable pink colored molecule.

Q. Is there a point of delineating returns, where a piece of meat will no longer absorb the flavor of the wood that it is cooked with? Are you wasting your time by adding more wood for flavor after a certain point?

Frankly, I don’t know. I think this question should be answered by a chef!

Q. How effective is brining and marinating such as pork shoulder or brisket? How much penetration can you reasonably expect? As competitors often work with a short time frame, is there a way to speed up the results of a marinade? And if alcohol burns off, what’s the advantage of using wine instead of juice? Does the alcohol “do” something before it burns off?

Marinades penetrate meat very slowly, so it should primarily be regarded as a way of adding taste to the surface of the meat (which it does very well). An exception here is chicken and fish which are more easily penetrated by marinades. To speed up marination, use water based, concentrated marinades and leave the meat at room temperature. Piercing the meat with a jaccard will allow the marinade to work from the “inside” as well.

It is perfectly fine to use wine in a marinade. The alcohol will dissolve some fat which can speed up penetration. Wine also contains organic acids which can have a tenderizing effect. Phenolic compounds (tannins) will react with meat proteins to form insoluble complexes which in turn makes meat more juicy and tender (even though the exact reason for this is not understood). Experiments have shown that red wine works better than white in marinades.

An interesting thing with marinades is that to maximize the water retaining capacity of beef, your marinade should not contain both acids and salt as this will in fact lower the water holding capacity! If you go for acids, you can easily add salt later on.

Brining, which is immersing meat in water with about 5% salt, does make sense as the salt helps untangle protein strands. This allows spices to penetrate the meat more easily, and it renders meat juicier. Furthermore it lowers the temperature at which the proteins become “cooked”.

Q. Would searing a piece of meat help to ‘seal’ the juices and allow for a more moist cut?

No. As Harold McGee pointed out, “searing is not sealing”. The only reason to sear meat is to get the Maillard reaction going.

Q. What recommendations would you give to someone that is cooking over wood in a smoker if they wanted to achieve a crisp skin on chicken?

In a smoker the low heat will only be enough to evaporate the water, but only very slowly turn the tough collagen into tender gelatin. To achieve this you’ll need a higher temperature, preferably temperatures around 80-90 °C. But even in a smoker there are a couple of things you can do to improve the crispiness. Use a chicken which has been dry-processed. Alternatively, let the chicken dry uncovered in the fridge for a day. Oiling the skin will improve the heat transfer. You can also pierce the skin to let the juices evaporate.

Q. Barbecuing is often seen as the art of taking a piece of meat that is tough and/or stringy and producing a tender, mouthwatering meal from it. What is it that occurs that renders a tough cut like brisket into a soft, enjoyable meat? Is there anything that can be done to enhance those efforts?

The muscle fibers themselves are tender, but they are held together by connective tissue of which collagen is most abundant. Collagen is tough, but when heated it slowly dissolves and forms gelatin which is very tender. Collagen in young animals dissolves more easily than that of older animals. Collagen starts do dissolve around 70 °C and at 90 °C it dissolves rapidly. But before the temperature get this high enzymes which are present in the meat will help tenderize it. These enzymes lose their activity between 40 and 50 °C, but when you barbecue at low heat the meat will spend quite some time below 40-50 °C.

Q. Why do some meats, after reaching optimal tenderness, seem to get even more tender the longer you cook, while others tend to get tougher if you cook past ideal time?

Preparing meat is more about temperature than time. If you like your beef medium rare you would aim for the center to be 55 °C. Continued heating will cause more proteins to denature and as the contract, water is expelled leaving the dry and rubbery. Unless you have prepared your meat at a temperature very close to the desired temperature of the center, there will be a temperature gradient. So even if you remove the meat from your heating source when the center reaches the desired temperature, the warmer outside of the meat will continue to cook the center as it rests, bringing it outside your desired temperature range. It takes experience to know exactly when to remove the meat from the heat.

Q. What’s happening to the meat during “resting”? Why is this recommended prior to cutting and serving?

Apart from the leveling out of the temperature gradient discussed in the previous question it is a very good idea let meat rest before serving, as this improves the water holding capacity of the meat. This in turn reduces the amount of juice you loose when you carve or slice the meat.

TGRWT #10: Pineapple and blue cheese

Friday, March 14th, 2008


Back from a trip abroad I can finally relay the announcement of the 10th round of “They go really well together”. The round is hosted by David Barzelay at Eat Foo(d) and the challenge this time is to combine pineapple and blue cheese.

In the list Heston Blumenthal posted on eGullet a long time ago it was pointed out that for this combination a certain level of ketones (molecules with a special carbon oxygen bond) for the combination to work. Since there was no further information I did some further research – and voilà – lists of odorants for pineapple and gorgonzola cheese have been published! But surprisingly there was no overlap between the compounds for which odor activity values (OAV) had been calculated. A possible reason is that only 12 and 15 compounds for pineapple and gorgonzola respectively where quantified so that OAV’s could be calculated (notice that it is the quantification which is really time consuming when doing this kind of research). Another point is that different experimental techniques where used in quantifying the volatiles. But regarding the ketones the gorgonzola article at least shows that “natural” (dry, crumbly) gorgonzola has higher levels of ketones than “creamy” gorgonzola.

To conclude, there is a possibility that the overlap in impact odorants for pineapple and blue cheese has not been uncovered yet, or that this combination can not be explained by overlapping impact odorants (and I should quickly add that this is of course the case for most flavor pairings we encounter in the kitchen!).

New book: Further adventures with Heston Blumenthal

Monday, February 25th, 2008


For some reason Heston’s follow up to to his book In search of perfection had passed my attention unoticed. Following the same scheme as in the first book, in Further adventures in search of perfection Heston examines eight classic dishes in great detail: Trifle, Baked Alaska, Fish Pie, Hamburger, Peking Duck, Chicken Tikka Masala, Risotto and Chilli Con Carne.

[Via Der Kompottsurfer]

TGRWT #8: White chocolate soufflé with caviar

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008


As a late (but just in time for the deadline) response to TGRWT #8 which was announced by Chadzilla in December last year – here is finally my write up on a recipe and a little on the background of this flavor combination which has become a classic in molecular gastronomy.

Heston Blumenthal introduced it around 2002 at The Fat Duck. It’s well worth reading what Heston wrote about this combination back then. He describes how salt can help bring out the flavor of many desserts. At one point he tried caviar and white chocolate – the effect was stunning. He then wanted to find out why this combination was so successful:

I gave some caviar and chocolate to François Benzi, who works for Firmenich, the flavourings and perfumes company based in Geneva. He was so surprised at the way that the caviar and chocolate melded together that he excused himself for half an hour while he tried to discover the reason behind the success of this union.

When he returned, the response was that both the chocolate and caviar contain high levels of amines. These are a group of proteins that have broken down from their amino acid state but not so far as to become ammonia. Amines contribute to the desirable flavours that we find in cooked meats and cheeses, among other things.

Some might object to using caviar but remember that there is no need to turn to sturgeon caviar as this species is endangered. I used caviar from Capelin which costs less than $4/€3 for a box of 50 g. As I have never tasted the “real” stuff I’m not the right person to judge about similarity or difference in aroma. And in case you also wondered about the terminology – roe is the fully ripe egg masses of fish whereas caviar refers to processed, salted roe. I decided to make a soufflé and based the recipe loosely on one of the soufflé recipes in my Larousse Gastronomique.


White chocolate soufflé with caviar
40 g white chocolate
30 g flour
1 dL milk
35 g caviar
3 eggs, separated

Melt chocolate on very low heat. Add 1/3 of the flour and stir, heating gently. Add a 1/3 of the milk and mix thoroughly. Add another 1/3 of the flour, then more milk and so on. Add finely ground nutmeg. Add 3 egg yolks and heat until right before the mixture sets (yeah – I admit – this is not very precise…). Then add the caviar. Beat egg whites stiff and fold them in. Pour into greased soufflé dish and bake at 220 °C for about 15 min.

Verdict: Aromas blend well together, but when eaten alone it’s perhaps a little bland. But I’m quite sure that it could be succesfully incorporated into a menu together with something acidic. The texture was nice, but the soufflé quickly falls together once it’s removed from the oven (I’ll have to post more on the chemistry of soufflés some other time – Hervé This has written a lot about this).

If you try to make this – note that white chocolate doesn’t behave excately like butter when you add the flour. It all got very thick, very fast – that’s why I started adding milk early. I also guess you have to be really careful when heating the whtie chocolate, but I didn’t do any stress tests here.

This is what the mix looks like before I folded in the egg whites.

For my first attempt at this recipe I used 20 g flour and 15 g caviar. The result was that the caviar sedimented before the soufflé had set, besides the fact that one could hardly taste the caviar at all. On my second attempt however, there was enough flour to keep the caviar suspended until the soufflé set. And one could actually also taste the caviar.


And now on to the chemistry behind:
I promised that I would come back with more information about the chemistry behind this pairing, but there isn’t very much information out there. There is one paper on aroma development in block-milk which used in the production of white chocolate. This paper lists a couple of volatiles, but only with their relative peak areas. Turning to caviar (or roe), there is a recent paper on flavor characterization of ripened cod roe, and this paper includes qualitative information about odor intensity.

Comparing the list of volatiles, the following volatiles which contribute substantially to the odor of ripened cod roe are also found in block milk (followed by odor thresholds in water, given in ppb, taken from this page):

2-butanone (50000 ppb)
2-methylbutanal (1 ppb)
3-methylbutanal (0.2-2 ppb)
pentanal (na)

Of these, the first has a high odor threshold, so it’s not likely to be an impact odorant in block-milk (and white chocolate). The methylbutanals however probably contribute to the overlapping aroma of roe and white chocolate. I didn’t find any threshold value for pentanal.

One group of compounds which was not mentioned in the paper on cod roe odor from 2004, but which was mentioned in a Russian paper from 1967 are amines (Golovnya: “Gas-chromatographic analysis of amines in volatile substances of salmon caviar”). Considering the fact that trimethylamine has a threshold in the range of 0.37-1.06 ppb, and that trimethylamine is found in block-milk suggests that it might contribute significantly to the odor of both white chocolate and roe. I guess the reason trimethylamine (and the whole range of other, closely related amines) is not found in the odor analysis in the 2004 paper has to do with the analytical method used.

The fact that amines are crucial is further supported by the Guardian article I quoted from in the beginning where Heston Blumenthal describes how he turned to François Benzi, a flavor chemist at Firmenich, to find out why white chocolate and caviar is such a good match. Benzi concludes that it is due to the presence of similar amines in white chocolate and caviar.

TGRWT #8: White chocolate and caviar

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007


For this round, Chad of Chadzilla chose one of the “classic” examples of pairings based on impact odorants – white chocolate and caviar. As pointed out by my fellow bloggers, this pairing has appeared in a number of MG inspired restaurants and was also featured in one of the episodes of the TV series “Kitchen chemistry” with Heston Blumenthal. The best thing of all is that you have all the time until January 1st to cook and blog about it! And don’t forget to check out the round-up of what to do with caramelized cauliflower and cocoa.

When time allows, I hope to post more on the chemistry of this pairing 🙂

Ten tips for practical molecular gastronomy, part 7

Monday, August 27th, 2007

Click here for full size image

7. Question authorities and learn from the experts

A thick, nicely bound cook book with marvelous pictures and a professional layout signals quality and authority. But unfortunately the nice wrapping is no guarantee that the contents is scientifically sound. I would guess that the searing/sealing myth and adding salt to water used to boil vegetables are among the most ubiquitious of the myths. The challenge for everyone is to question the procedures and explanations given in cook books and those that are inherited from your parents and grand parents. Most of them are fine, but some are not. In fact Hervé This has collected more than 20.000 so called “precisions” from French culinary books that he wants to test.

My seventh tip for pursuing molecular gastronomy in your very own kitchen is to question the cook book authorities, but also to learn from the experts in the field. The site Khymos originally started out as a listing of books and web pages that could be useful for anyone interested in molecular gastronomy and popular food science. When giving presentations it was more convenient for me to refer to a webpage than to have people taking notes of all the references. My own collection of books is constantly growing as you can see from the picture (I justed crossed the 100 cm mark), and I am more than happy to share with you my favorite books. Most of what I know about food chemistry and molecular gastronomy is from these books.


Molecular gastronomy should of course never become a theoretical practice only, so remember that “the proof is in the pudding”, as Nicholas Kurti, one of the pioneers of molecular gastronomy often said. Let taste guide your cooking and learn how to conduct simple blind tastings (more on that in part 8). If possible, do an experiment: if there are two or more procedures, follow them and compare the end result.

Despite the many books and articles that have appeared on food chemistry and molecular gastronomy there are still many questions that remain unanswered. Scientifically, molecular gastronomy is tremendously complex. The science of deliciousness lies in the cross section of analytical, biological, inorganic, organic, physical, polymer and surface chemistry. But even though describing and understanding what happes is difficult, everyone is able to judge the end result! This is quite intriguing and because of this it is possible to become an excellent cook – even if you don’t understand the chemistry behind in every detail. This makes me confident that there will always be an “art” and a “love” component in cooking, as Hervé This puts it in his definition of molecular gastronomy.


Check out my previous blogpost for an overview of the 10 tips for practical molecular gastronomy series. The collection of books (favorite, molecular gastronomy, aroma/taste, reference/technique, food chemistry, presentation/photography) and links (webresources, people/chefs/blogs, institutions, articles, audio/video) at might also be of interest.

Glutamic acid in tomatoes and parmesan

Friday, July 6th, 2007

Pure mono sodium glutamate from Taiwan

A recent article (found via Harold McGee’s News for curious cooks) featuring Heston Blumenthal as a co-author emphasizes the huge difference in glutamic acid contents between the flesh and pulp of tomatoes. Glutamic acid and it’s sodium salt (mono sodium glutamate or MSG) are responsible for the characteristic umami taste. On average the flesh contains 1.26 g/kg glutamic acid whereas the pulp on average contains 4.56 g/kg glutamic acid. Similar differences are found for several nucleotides which posess similar taste qualities. These differences can explain the perceived difference in umami taste between the flesh and pulp of tomatoes – and is worthwhile considering when cooking.

Those concerned about food with added MSG should read the chapter about MSG in John Emsley’s excellent book “Was it something you ate?”. First thing to note is that you can’t be allergic to MSG because our body needs glutamic acid to function properly. Emsley retraces the history of the Chinese restaurant syndrome (CRS) back to it’s roots in 1968 when a letter was published (R.H.M. Kwok, New Engl. J. Med. 1968, 278, 796) describing a series of symptoms experienced after having eaten at a Chinese restaurant. To make a long story short, in 1993 Tarasoff and Kelly reviewed previous studies and conducted a double blind test which led to the following conclusion:

… ‘Chinese Restaurant Syndrome’ is an anecdote applied to a variety of postprandial illnesses; rigorous and realistic scientific evidence linking the syndrome to MSG could not be found.

Following the publication, a critical reply was published by Adrianne Samuels, to which the authors have replied.

Anyway, it was in John Emsley’s book that I first read about the record levels of glutamic acid found in parmesan cheese: 12 g/kg! That’s nearly three times the amount found in tomato pulp. In some cheeses there is so much that it crystallises out in small white crystals visible to the naked eye. Think about this when you sprinkle your food with parmesan. And if you ever wondered why Italian food tastes so nice, now you know that MSG is one reason (but of course not the only one …).


Ten tips for practical molecular gastronomy, part 6

Sunday, July 1st, 2007


6. Learn how our senses work

Prolonged exposure to a flavor causes adaption and habituation, meaning that your brain thinks the food smells less even though it’s still present in the same amount. Back in 1953 Lloyd M. Beidler isolated nerves from the tongue of rats to study these phenomena. The nerves were situated in a flow-chamber through which aquous solutions with salty, sweet, acidic and bitter compounds could be flushed. The electric signal produced by the nerve was then recorded and fed to an amplifier and a plotter. Very simplified, the perceived intensity of the stimulus looked something like this (the curve is not to scale in any dimension and it’s my own qualitative interpretation of the data presented in the article):


After a short initial latency period a transient is followed by a slower prolonged decrement. There is even some nerve activity after the stimulus has been removed. What is interesting from a molecular gastronomy perspective is that the initial burst of taste quickly fades away – some call it fatigue or adaption. If the same stimulus is applied repeatedly, the maximum intensity of the initial taste burst decreases for each time it is applied. This is known as habituation and is illustrated in the figure below. As the time between stimulation of the receptor increases, the receptor recovers from the habituation and the intensity of the second stimulus increases to match the intensity of the first.


Adaption and habituation are also observed with odor. If you have used eau de cologne or perfume you might have noticed that you can smell it very well once applied, but after some minutes or hours you hardly notice it unless you sniff intentionally for it. The same applies for food.

Variation is the spice of life, and variation helps our senses to overcome adaption and habituation. More technically this has been referred to as “increased sensing by contrast amplification” which I think is a good way putting it. An illustrative example is Heston Blumenthal’s potato purée with small pieces of lime jelly (made with agar agar which is heat stable once it has set). The idea was that to avoid the adaption to the flavour and texture of the potatoe purée, small pieces of lime jelly would help “reset” the taste buds and thereby lead to an increased overall perception of the purée. I’m personally very fond of the variation provided by multiple component dishes. A curry sauce for instance is normally not served alone but alongside many other dishes: rice, dal, chicken/meat/fish, chutney, raita, nan, chapati, pakora, lime juice, salt etc. The different components contrast each other and help bring out the most of the meal.

Contrasts also help us smell better. When we sniff there is an abrupt change in the amount of air passing through our nose. More molecules pass the receptors and the sudden change in their concentration makes it easier to sense them. It has been shown that sniffing in fact gives an optimal odor perception.


Our senses are not unrelated, and there are many interesting articles illustrating this. For instance, adding color to make white wine darker or even red influences the perception of the wine aroma. Along the same lines, consider crystal pepsi which wasn’t a great success after all, probably due to the lack of color. With juice and soups it has been demonstrated that odors smelled through the mouth are perceived differently than those smelled through the nose. Similarily colors can either enhance of suppress the intensity of odors depending on whether they are smelled through the nose or through the mouth.

There are a number of odor-taste interactions. For example, through repeated pairing with sugar, odors become “sweeter”. We become better at detecting sugar solutions if strawberry aroma is added to them, but worse if ham aroma is added. And you shouldn’t be to surprised that both perceived and imagined odors influence taste (that’s right – think of strawberries, and sucrose will taste sweeter!). Heston Blumenthal uses this in the savory ice creams he makes. We associate the cold and rich mouthfeel of ice cream with something sweet, and this influences our perception of the flavour, making it sweeter. In general, the “sweeter” an odor is perceived, the more it enhances tasted sweetness and the more it suppresses sourness. Preliminary experiments suggest that even pure tastants have a smell.

A thing to consider when eating is that our body position influences olfactory sensitivity. And don’t forget that your emotional state also has an effect on the olfactory perception. Emotionally labile people are more sensitive to certain smells and less sensitive to others.

The examples of how our senses are not independant has some practical implications for cooking and eating:

Presentation is paramount, and it is worthwile to consider the art of food presentation. There is a lot to learn from food photography blogs and food blogs with good photos: still life with…, matt bites, 101 cookbooks, la tartine gourmande too mention but a few. Also check out the pictures submitted to the monthly food photography blogging event does my blog look good in this (google DMBLGiT to find out which blog hosts this month’s event).

Taste, smell, texture, mouth feel, temperature and appearance will all contribute to the overall experience when eating and drinking. But also the room, the atmosphere and the people present have an influence. I have previously mentioned the five aspects meal model which has been developed for restaurant settings and takes all of this into account.

Many of the ideas found in this blog post can be expressed in appetizers. With small, well prepared amuses bouche there is variation with every bite, creating excitement and anticipation.

And remember that average food eaten in the company of good friends while you’re sitting on a terrace with the sun setting in the ocean will taste superior to excellent food served on plastic plates and eaten alone in a room with mess all over the place.

Update: I submitted the picture of the cherries in the heading to the monthly “Does my blog look good in this” (or DMBLGIT for short) photo competition for food blogs – and guess what – the picture was the winner of the August 2007 round. This is a great honour, because there are so many good photographers out there with food blogs. Click to view the complete gallery of the August 2007 round.


Check out my previous blogpost for an overview of the 10 tips for practical molecular gastronomy series. The collection of books (favorite, molecular gastronomy, aroma/taste, reference/technique, food chemistry, presentation/photography) and links (webresources, people/chefs/blogs, institutions, articles, audio/video) at might also be of interest.

TGRWT #3: Strawberries and coriander

Thursday, June 7th, 2007


It’s time for the third round of the They go really well together food blogging event (TGRWT #3). Ingredients to pair this time are strawberry and coriander (coriander sativum, also known as cilantro in North America). You can use fresh leaves, whole seeds or ground seeds – it’s all your choice. Deadline is July 1st, so there’s still a couple of weekends left for you to do some experimental cooking. This round is hosted by Evelin at Bounteous bites, so check out her post with instructions on how to participate! She will also post a round-up in due time. And in case you’ve missed it, Tara has posted the round-up of TGRWT #2 featuring banana and parsley.

The first place I saw this combination mentioned at eGullet in a post by Heston Blumenthal. Six impact odorants have been identified for strawberry juice:

(Z)-3-hexenal (green)
2,5-dimethyl-4-hydroxy-3(2H)-furanone (caramel-like, sweet)
methyl butanoate (fruity)
ethyl butanoate (fruity)
methyl 2-methylpropanoate (fruity)
2,3-butanedione (buttery)

The paper “Character-impact aroma components of coriander (Coriandrum sativum) herb” by Cadwallader et al. (couldn’t find any link for this) presented at the 5th Chemical Congress of North America lists (Z)-3-hexenal (green/cut-grass) as an impact odorants based on AEDA (aroma extraction dilution analysis), so there is at least one overlap between the impact odorants of strawberry and coriander (shown below). Please let me know if you should find odor activity values (OAV) for the volatile compounds in coriander. A search at The Good Scents Company also gives many hits for strawberry and coriander.


If you have a hard time finding inspiration for this round, how about Mousses de fraises à la coriandre, Cupcake, Strawberry grapefruit dressing, Strawberry salsa or Strawberry spring rolls?

Good luck!

TGRWT #2: Banana and parsley

Tuesday, May 8th, 2007

It’s time for the second round of the They go really well together food blogging event (hereafter referred to as TGRWT #2). Ingredients to pair this time are banana and parsley, which should be an easy match compared to last round with coffee, chocolate and garlic. Deadline is June 1st, so there’s still a couple of weekends left for you to do some experimental cooking. The event and round-up is hosted by Tara over at Should you eat that, so check out her post with instructions on how to participate!


I’ve tried to track down the origin of this pairing. First place I saw it mentioned was by Heston Blumenthal at eGullet, and in an interview with The Independent Heston explains how he discovered it:

He gives an example of this creative process in action. “I was cooking rabbit stew for the kids last summer in France, lifted the lid and threw in chopped parsley and got a smell of banana.” Which prompted him to pair banana with parsley, and banana with tarragon. “It worked really well.”

I have found odour activity values (OAV) for parsley, but not for banana. A search at The good scents company reavels that (Z)-3-hexen-1-yl formate and linalool are present in both banana and parsley. When comparing the OAV data of parsley with a search for banana only at The good scents company oct-1-en-3-one and (Z)-hex-3-enyl acetate were also found. Please post a comment if you have more data on the volatile compounds of this pairing and their OAV values.