Molecular Gastronomy with Josef Zammit

            From the quasi-science of patisserie to the very much actual science of Molecular Gastronomy in the space of a few days was a bit of a head twister.

However our most recent guest, Josef Zammit of The Brown Bear in Naas brought such a down to earth and accessible view that by the end of the day we were all converted and changing our exam dishes to include an array of chemicals to shame any local apothecary.

Personally I was totally taken aback by how natural it all seemed. Molecular Gastronomy is just the next step on from using baking powder, or salt, or alcohol, or gelatine, or any of the other chemicals we use in the kitchen on a daily basis. He is also a huge advocate for DIY food. He makes Kombucha Tea and pickles and fermented Sauerkraut, all chemical processes.  He loves these things so much he refers to them as people.

“She needs to be looked after”

He showed us through several dishes he makes on a regular basis in his restaurant, the first was a Pea and Ham soup. Sounds simple and tasty right?

Well with Josef we learned nothing is ever that simple and rarely just “tasty.” He serves his Pea Soup with “fake peas” which are spheres of soup that burst in your mouth he makes from Sodium Alginate. He made a Ham powder from Tapioca Maltodextrin and the rendered ham fat. When eaten the powder melts on the tongue back into a flavourful liquid. We pannéd frog legs. We made a confit egg yolk using a circulator. A machine that keeps a body of water at an exact temperature for cooking.

Circulator

All of these processes incredibly interesting but nothing out of reach from the average cook. The end result was an exquisite dish comprised of so many different textures and flavours and temperatures that the diner is kept constantly at the edge of their seat wondering what indeed it is that they are eating.

Frogs Legs
Pannéd Frogs Legs
The legs after being deep fried. Note the exposed bone to make them easier to eat.
The completed dish. (left – “fake” and real peas, Back – Frog Legs, Right – Ham powder, Front – Confit Egg Yolk, Centre – Pancetta)

We also tackled one of his desserts, an iteration of which you can see at the top of the page. We re-used  a few of the processes used for the soup like the Maltodextrin but also introduced a few new techniques involving gels and sheets and mouses. The end result was a vast array of sweet materials with which we could construct our own versions of his desserts.

Chocolate Doughnuts with Raspberry Jelly, Raspberry Sheet, Chocolate Mouse, Chocolate powder and a sugar tuile.

           Josef is obviously someone who lives for food, for feeding people, for the joy of creating dishes that cease to be just a meal and become a work of art. He enjoys playing with peoples minds, to make going to dinner fun, to make it magic. Having worked with many great chefs in his time he has a very strong basis of knowledge to draw from, this is more than a job to him, it’s love, it takes everything he has. Molecular Gastronomy is just the next step for him and he encourages us to experiment and take that next step aswel. “Keep an honesty to your ingredients, to your products and try new things. It’s a playground out there, just don’t kill anyone okay?”

          Truer words about cooking were never spoken.

~ Mark O’Brien

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