Nixtamalisation: the secret of the tortilla

Researcher: Santiago LastraStart date: 20 April 2015End date: 25 June 2015 Overview My goal was to find a formula for Nordic people to be able to use different local grains and seeds for making tortillas, opening another dimension of flavour and texture using this alkaline cooking process from Mexico. The basic recipe for making nixtamalised corn involves cooking the kernels in a 1% calcium hydroxide (Ca(OH)2) solution at 80˚C for 1h, removing from the heat and steeping for 16–18h in the same solution, then rinsing and grinding/blending into the dough, or masa. The cooking and steeping times will vary according to the size and structure of the chosen seed/grain/legume, but the resulting flavour and texture will be unmistakably tortilla-like. It was said thousands of years ago that the Indians of Mexico were made from corn. Appropriately then, the corn tortilla has been and is my home country’s staple food. Traditional Mexican cuisine, as many … Read more

Cooking with Alkali

Researcher: Alec BorsookStart: June 2014End: August 2014; ongoing Overview Alkali cooking techniques are largely underexplored in contemporary kitchens. This post is a basic overview of what alkalis are, what they do, and how they can be useful.A notable fact is that calcium hydroxide (Ca(OH)2), one common alkali, can be made quite easily in kitchens by burning eggshells, whose calcium carbonate is then converted into calcium oxide (quicklime, CaO), which can be ‘slaked’ with water to become calcium hydroxide. Acidity comes in many delicious forms. Much of the research performed here at the Lab concerns our unending search for them, from our exploration of sour wild things to our investigations of the possibilities of lactic and acetic acid fermentations. Acids can balance flavours, providing brightness and cutting through richness, or they can make you pucker your lips in a delight bordering on pain. But what about their chemical opposites, the alkalis? … Read more

Lost Linden

by Josh Evans. Our linden flower season is over. The heavy, abrupt summer rains spent the last couple weeks flushing every yellow blossom to the gutters, oxidised and sole-sticking. It’s made me think of last summer, when one of our interns, Pete, was working on sourdough bread. One day during July, when the linden trees were in full bloom, he foraged some around the city to inoculate a sourdough starter. There was a bunch extra so he stuck them in the dehydrator to dry. They grew stickier, their sweet nectar intensified. One afternoon a few days later, quite spontaneously as these things often happen, Pete took some of these dried linden flowers, blitzed them to a powder in the thermomix, and added some water. It turned into a gel. It was quite a stable gel too. We smelled, prodded, tasted. The flavour was quite strong, compared to, say, linden flower tea. … Read more

Jellyfish

Researcher: Youngbin KimStart: July 2014End: August 2014 OverviewJellyfish, especially Moon jellyfish (Aurelia aurita), are overpopulating the Baltic and North Seas. Last summer we began investigating the culinary potential of this neglected but quite delicious species. This post outlines some existing cultural practices of using jellyfish as food in the world, and some of our attempts at giving it gastronomic context in the Nordic region. Jellyfish is defined as ‘A free-swimming marine coelenterate with a jelly-like bell- or saucer-shaped body that is typically transparent and has stinging tentacles around the edge’(Oxford dictionary online). Jellyfish live in all the world’s oceans, from the surface to the depths (Wikipedia). Their size varies from a few millimeters to 2-3 metres in diameter. All jellyfish are carnivores, and different species feed on different foods such as zooplankton, fish eggs, fish larvae, small fish, and even other members of the same species – all of which, … Read more