Aromatic Plants

 by Ben Reade. The story goes that Nero’s palace was filled with doves that flew with perfumed wings: the collection and application of aromas continues to be a very important feature of the modern kitchen, though at NFL there has been attempt to match Nero’s style and more modern techniques like fans, or perfumed cushions under plates are cleaner and more efficient (if less charismatic). Mention has been made that flavour molecules are volatile, or aromatic molecules. In relation to food this is relevant  as they can become airborne at the temperature of the mouth (above 33°C) to then pass via the throat in ‘retro-nasal’ sensing to then be perceived by the brain as a part of flavour. At NFL, to help with and the creative processes, a list has been compiled of plants that have been embraced by New Nordic Cuisine, especially for their distinctive aroma. This list was assembled through … Read more

Sprechen sie Deutsch? Nordic Food Lab in Die Zeit

by Michael Bom Frost. Nordic Food lab featured in a large article on the interaction between science and gastronomy. It’s in Die Zeit’s science section. Interested readers with german skills can read it here: Auf dem Geschmack gekommen Die Zeit is one of Germany’s largest newspapers, located in Hamburg with a print circulation of around 500.000.

Yellow Pea Chiang Yu

by Ben Reade. Chiang is the Chinese prototype of the Japanese miso, and chiang yu is, directly translated, the ‘oil of miso’ otherwise known as soy sauce. Variations of which are a staple condiment for much of Asia, has an ancient history, the first written reports of precursors occurring during the 2nd Century (Huang, 2000). The first prototypes for the modern soy fermentations were carried out using meat and fish as fermentation substrates. The sauces would have been very dark with small particles of enzyme-digested meat in salt solution, and a high level of umami taste. These chiang yu prototypes would have been very varied and it is said that Confucious would not eat a food without its proper fermented sauce (Huang, 2000). The history of soy sauce most probably starts with solid soy bean fermentations which were subsequently diluted with vinegar (Huang, 2000). Now the common practice is to … Read more

Vinegar: From the Orleans Method to Food Lab Experiments

  by Ben Reade. The Orleans Method The most famous slow method of vinegar production is the old French technique, known as the Orleans method. In the Orleans method barrels are filled with wine and vinegar and fermentation is carried out slowly by the AAB, which will generally metabolise all the alcohol in a 9 % ethanol wine in 1 to 3 months. When fully acidified, the vinegar is racked off leaving around 12 L inside a 225 L barrel, which can then be filled up to around half full with fresh alcoholic ‘wine’. To make sure the AAB has enough oxygen available, holes are drilled through the ends of the barrel (then covered with muslin) and the barrel is only filled until half full, allowing the maximum surface area to be exposed to air. Because in the Orleans method the mother of vinegar is left in the barrel for … Read more

Umami Arising from Salt Rich Fermentations

  by Ben Reade. Salt rich fermentations can be used to create high level of umami taste. Often the salt shuts off most possibility for microbial activity, so enzymes perform most of the protein breakdown required for umami taste. These enzymes may be naturally in the fermentation substrate (endogenous), or may be added (exogenous). To add, many salt rich fermentations, especially those which will later become sauces, regardless of how delicious they might be are brown in colour are not very photogenic – so photos today are really a bit random. Salt rich fermentations are often used in creating food products that are both rich in acid (especially lactic acid, as many species of lactic acid bacteria manage to live in salt rich solutions) and in umami, due to the enzymatic activity on proteins (especially in legumes, meat and fish). Some yeast species are salt tolerant (eg. Zygosaccharomyces rouxii) meaning … Read more

Umami and Dashi

by Ben Reade. In 1825, Brillat-Savarin wrote in the ‘Physiology of taste’ about ‘osmazome’ which he described as “the purely sapid portion of flesh soluble in cold water… …the most meritorious ingredient in all good soups”. He was, we assume, writing of what is now known as theumami taste.The word umami was suggested in 1908 by the Japanese chemist Kikunae Ikeda. Umami is a composite word constructed from the Japanese words ‘umai’ – delicious and ‘mi’ – essence or taste (Mouritsen et al 2011). High levels of umami are found in a number of products familiar to (although certainly not all originating in) the Nordic region. Notable examples include mature hard cheese, cured anchovies, fish sauce, yeast extracts, tomatoes, soy sauce, meat stocks, cured meats, bottarga and fish liver. The umami taste is principally due to monosodium glutamate (glutamate, MSG or, when used as an additive in Europe, E621) and … Read more

Taste and Flavour

  by Ben Reade. “The Creator, in making man eat in order to live, persuaded him by appetite and rewarded him by pleasure.” (Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, 1825) In this section we explore flavour, focusing on using the available scientific knowledge to help chefs and other food industry professionals to develop new concepts, techniques and recipes. As chef Andoni Luis Aduriz of the famous Basque restaurant Mugaritz writes (in collaboration with Arboleya et al (2008), “cooking and science are well placed to work in harmony for both the development and realization of innovative and [healthy] dishes.”While studying how, at NFL, scientific knowledge can help chefs utilize the full potential of ingredients, novelty should not be pursued for it’s own sake. While new techniques can and should be used when relevant, these are tools to achieve an end, the end being more important than the means (Adria et al 2006).  Components of … Read more

Practical Guide to Yeast Extraction

by Ben Reade. Love for the umami tasting compounds that yeast extract can give led NFL to investigate the process of making yeast extracts; the secrets of which are closely guarded by the flavour industry. Our aim was to produce a delicious yeast extract that could be useful in food production. Yeast is a an underutilized waste product of the brewing industry (Ferreira, 2010), however, if waste yeast is taken from the bioethanol industry it may not need to be debittered as it contains no bitter chemicals (especially humulene) from the hops used to make beer. Other uses for waste yeast include the manufacture of Single Cell Proteins (SCP), a term coined in the 1960s to define microbial biomass from fermentations. SCP have been shown to be promising in filling a global protein deficit although currently most waste yeast is used as animal feed (Ugalde and Castrillo 1992). During the … Read more

Lactic Fermentation

  by Ben Reade. ““Desert without cheese is like a pretty girl with only one eye”” — Jean Anthleme Brillat Savarin (1825) Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) fermentation (F) plays a major part in traditional food processing technology all over the world. LAB produce lactic acid, a gentle tasting acid which can lower the pH of a food making it uninhabitable to other types of microorganisms. LAB F contributes to preservation, flavour and texture of foods. LAB is used to describe species from many genera, most commonly Lactobaccillus, Lactococcus, Leuconostoc and Streptococcus thermophillus. (de Vos, 2005).  Certain taxa of LAB are also responsible for the production of bacteriocins, chemicals that inhibit the growth of other bacteria, the example of this par excellence being nisin. Nisin and other LAB produced bacteriocins have been shown to be effective in the prevention of many pathogenic species (Ross 2002). LAB is the type of F occurring in sauerkraut,  yogurt or kefir, … Read more

Hello Sweetness!

  by Ben Reade. Vintage Carrots and Apples Sweetness, one of the basic tastes, is of vital importance to cuisine. Although table sugar (sucrose) is generally seen as the basic ingredient and reference point for sweetness, NNC tends to steer away from overly sweet dishes, preferring to use little of no table sugar and taking sweetness from other ingredients, which are relevant to the region. Examples are given below of sources of sweetness which are or are becoming relevant to New Nordic Cuisine. The highest concentration of sugars found in nature in the Nordic region comes form honey. There is a huge variety of honeys, each with it’s own peculiar characteristics. Depending on the flowers from which the bees have been harvesting nectar the honey will contain different aromatic molecules, giving the honey drastically different organoleptic characteristics. Honeys vary in viscosity, texture and aromatic profile; considerable variation exists between different … Read more