Reminiscing About El Bulli Menu 2009…Salted Peanut and Corn Snow Wafers
I have a special affection for Spain, I feel truly at home when I’m there. They have exceptional food, brilliantly jaw dropping innovative chefs, fantastic architecture, art, produce and wine.
Last month Mr.P received a invitation to visit Barcelona and to have dinner at El Bulli, the best restaurant in the world.
I got home after a very long and hard day at work and when he met me at the door he was all nervous, yet he had done the housework, cooked dinner and even took my coat on arrival. All this is fairly uncharacteristic behaviour so I was obviously suspicious…he could not contain his excitement any longer so he spilled the beans. I think he thought I would go mad and be very upset as I did not get an invitation. I did not actually feel anything when he told me, I wanted to be jealous but could not be. The reason for this strange feeling was that I know that in my lifetime I will never eat at El Bulli. I have tried making a reservation for such a long time that the desire has faded…bizarre but true.
Mr.P had a fantastic time in Barcelona, visited the famous but secretive door No.7 where all the ground breaking work and development for El Bulli takes place, a visit to La Boqueria, stopped off at Happy Pills and finally a detour to Vincon a rather expensive but addictive shop if you are partial to collecting beautiful cutlery and presentation plates.
On his return it was fantastic to listen to his experiences and it sounded amazing. Food that you can see and taste without feeling it, herbs that give you electric shocks and all sorts of mad things. It seems that the food has its own intelligence and plays with your senses and mind. He said that you should not think that you will enjoy every single one of the 38 courses, some of the ingredients and textures were challenging, some were not to his taste but the experience was priceless.
The kitchen brigade seems to be countless, there are so many people working there, reportedly there are 2 staff for each diner…….that’s pretty impressive stuff. Apparently there are only five full time chefs and the rest are all volunteers wanting to work there for the experience, that is true dedication indeed!
The dining room layout is simple with heavy floral embroidered chairs, which is very Spanish and homely. So much so that it reminds me of my mums front room, which had very similar seat coverings.
There is something unique about this experience, it’s an amalgamation of old and new; science, emotion and perception without pretentiousness. A very well balanced act but there must be enormous pressure on Ferran Adrià’s shoulders to maintain this level of performance each year and produce food that is more increasingly dramatic and inventive. I take my hat off to him and his team, as it cannot be easy to come back year after year and deliver outstanding results time after time.
I wonder what triggers his thought processes, does he imagine the dish first or does he take a scientific approach by discovering the technique and then turning it into a dish? Wow all these questions are erupting in my mind when looking at the photos and menu. There is something rather seductive about the presentation of most of the dishes, I think his head must be a wild place to be in….crazy!
The thirty eight course menu adventure started at 8:00 pm and did not conclude until 2:30 am the next day…
The menu reads as follow:
sugar cane: mojito – caipirinha
handkerchief (the dish that we made where inspired by this course)
grape tea and cassis
potatoes in tempura
icy – cookies
“Joselito” ham and ginger canapé
truffle of truffle
tatar of marrow
cockles with yuzu
soya milk with soya
sea anemone with te trout roe
roses / artichokes
pinenut shabu – shabu
prawn two firings
sweet potato moshi with persimmon sorbet
puff pastry of pineapple
Mr.P literally bounced round the room when he related his tale of El Bulli, which left us with no option but to try and make a dish from one of the four El Bulli cook books that we have but barely understand. This would be my poor substitute for Mr P’s experiences. So the result was our own take on his “handkerchief” course. It turned out brilliantly and in true El Bulli style we served it in the simplest but elegant manner we could think of….
Salted Peanut and Corn Snow Wafers
- 50g raw popcorn kernels
- 2bs sunflower or peanut oil
- 100g raw peanuts
- Maldon Sea salt
- 140g fondant
- 100g glucose
Put the oil and popcorn kernels into a large saucepan and cook over a high heat, cover the pan with a lid and pop the popcorn. Once popped, season with salt and let the popcorn cool.
Place a silpat on a large baking tray before boiling the sugar.
Weigh the glucose and fondant into a medium non-stick saucepan, melt over a moderate heat, once melted increase the heat and boil till the sugar reaches 160°C.
Pour the boiling hot sugar onto the silpat and leave to cool at room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 200°C, dampen the raw peanuts with a sprinkle of water and dust with salt, spread the nuts onto a baking tray and cook them in the pre-heated oven until roasted but not too dark in colour. Let the roasted peanuts cool before crushing them using the pulse setting on a blender or lightly crush them in a pestle and mortar.
Pulse blitz the cooled popcorn to make them into snow flake like pieces.
Once the sugar is cooled completely break it up using a rolling pin and then powder the sugar using a very powerful blender such as a Thermomix.
Reduce the oven heat to 160°C and turn the fan setting off.
Line a baking tray with parchment paper and sprinkle the sugar powder evenly onto the parchment paper.
Bake it in the pre-heated oven for 3 minutes, sprinkle over the crushed roasted peanuts and popcorn snow. Scatter on more of the sugar powder and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes, until the sugar dissolves and forms a clear crisp sheet with the popcorn snow and crushed peanuts.
Let the wafer cool completely, it will be super fragile, snap into serving size pieces and serve as a canape or use as garnish on a dish.
Makes approximately one 30cm sheet
Food Fanatics Tip
Use the sugar powder as the foundation and then adapt this recipe flavours to suit your needs. I think that pistachio would be delicious and very colourful. You can make this either as a savoury or a sweet wafer.