Last year, we saw chef Andoni Luis Aduriz of restaurant Mugaritz demonstrate a couple of his high-tech, artful, playful dishes: his fool-the-eye walnuts, his artificial eggs. This month he presents the world with the Mugaritz cookbook, a striking glossy tome that sets forth the holistic, highly experimental philosophy of the restaurant in the Basque countryside.
The recipes, like descriptions of laboratory experiments or art installations, are not necessarily things you’d want to try at home (although there’s just enough detail that you could try, and I will!). Indeed, in the back of the book is a caveat: “A number of the recipes require advanced techniques, specialist equipment and professional experience to achieve good results.”
Really they are most effective as springboards for considering what’s possible. The book (and the restaurant) flattens the often cited but rather false dichotomy between cooking that embraces interesting technological effects and cooking that embraces the marvels of the natural world: both elements are integral to every recipe here. The chef forages weird plants from the meadow and combines them with ingredients like fumed silica and liposoluble dye, and the result, while highly esoteric, is very good.
Here is an example recipe:
Evoking a spring morning: Latxa ewe’s milk ice cream, sun-ripened red fruits, mild textured anise herb buds
0.5 g hazelnut essence (extract)
500ml still mineral water
1g fumed silica (Aerosil)
5g albumin powder
1.5g hypromellose (HPMC)
100g maltodextrine (plus extra for sprinkling)
The Ewe’s Milk Ice Cream
1.3 litres fresh ewe’s milk
60g atomized glucose
7g anti-crystallizing agent
20g inverted sugar
35g powdered milk
The Red Fruits
12 red raspberries
12 yellow raspberries
12 x assorted varieties of strawberry
16 leaves basil (Ocimum basilicum sp.)
16 leaves anise hyssop (Agastache anethiodora)
16 leaves fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
16 x assorted varieties of mint (Mentha sp.)
The Lightness: Dissolve the hazelnut essence (extract) in 150ml of mineral water. Mix the Aerosil and albumin in a mortar. Add the hazelnut essence and water to it and mix well. Vacuum pack this mixture and leave it to stand in the refrigerator for 6 hours. Pour 30ml of mineral water into a saucepan. Dissolve the HPMC in it and bring the mixture to 175°F. Add another 120ml of cold mineral water and mix well. Vacuum pack this mixture and leave it to stand in the refrigerator for 6 hours. Combine the two preparations in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat at maximum speed. Meanwhile, make a light syrup with the maltodextrine and the other 200ml of mineral water. Heat it to 237°. Drizzle the syrup into the mixer bowl when the preparation being beaten has reached a considerable volume and continue beating until well mixed. Place the mixture on a greaseproof (wax) paper as a series of irregular compacted mounds of a similar size. Leave them in a hot cupboard at 130°F for 6 hours.
The Ewe’s Milk Ice Cream: Boil the ewe’s milk. Put it in an ice bath until the temperature is reduced to 105°F and add the sugar, salt, atomized glucose and the anti-crystallizing agent. Whisk the mixture until the additives dissolve. Add the inverted sugar and powdered milk and stir again. Heat the mixture to 185°F. Remove it from the heat and strain. Quickly chill this ice cream base in an ice bath.
The Red Fruits: Wash the fruit in a plentiful solution of cold water and food disinfectant, then rinse under plenty of running water. Halve the larger fruit and keep the smaller ones whole. Set them aside at room temperature between damp paper towels.
The Herbs: Cut the herbs and keep them in iced water until you reach the kitchen wash them in a solution of water and food disinfectant and keep them between damp paper towels until ready to serve.
The Flowers: Collect the flowers and place them between damp paper towels in the refrigerator until ready for use.
Presentation & Finishing
Spread the ewe’s milk ice cream with a rubber spatula on a frozen plate to look like a carpet. Sprinkle the extra maltodextrine over the ice cream and arrange the red berries and the herbs on top. Cover the plate with fragments of the lightness, taking care to give the dish volume.