'We love to play with food. In fact, we love it so much so we've made careers out of it. When we cooked professionally, we started experimenting in our free time, teaching ourselves new approaches and embracing innovation to make food taste better.'
— chefs Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot, in the introduction to Maximum Flavour
Taking a standard recipe and seeing if they can improve it by experimenting with different ways to prepare it is just one approach adopted by this innovative pair who created Ideas in Food, a team that helps restaurants and food companies solve kitchen conundrums and teaches businesses to think more creatively about cooking. I like it!!
Reading the short publicity piece for this book, I was keen to learn more and it was statements such as those above and this next one that sold me on this book: 'Modern cooking, aka molecular gastronomy, has inspired many chefs and cooks to explore new ideas in the kitchen, which is a good thing. But some of its techniques can be too over-the-top for most home cooks — like using liquid nitrogen to freeze ice cream [for example].' And that is so true!
Instead, Kamozawa and Talbot play around with recipes, use pantry ingredients strategically, and take advantage of common kitchen equipment all in the name of delivering food with maximum flavour. They recommend that cooks 'experiment, taste and play with food' so that they can 'discover why cooking and eating are so fascinating and fun'. Sharing expert advice on everything from making gluten-free baking mixes and homemade cheeses and buttermilk to understanding the finer points of fermentation or sous-vide cooking, Kamozawa and Talbot chronicle their quest to bring out the best in every ingredient. With their help readers will learn:
• Why steaming potatoes in the pressure cooker before frying them makes for the crispiest French fries
• Why, contrary to popular belief, you should flip your burgers often as you cook them for the best results
• How to cook steak consistently and perfectly every time
• How to make easy egg-free ice creams that are more flavourful than their traditional custard-base cousins
• How to make no-knead Danish that are even better than the ones at your local bakery
• How to smoke vegetables to make flavourful vegetarian dishes
• Why pâte à choux — or cream puff dough — makes foolproof, light-as-air gnocchi
• How pressure cooking sunflower seeds can transform them into a creamy risotto
• How to elevate everyday favourites and give them a fresh new spin
Among the recipes that caught my attention are banana caramel ice cream (page 243), where the bananas are first cooked in a dark caramel to help break them down and release some of their natural pectins; slow cooked T-bone steak (page 177), where the meat is first browned and the fat caramelised before being cooked sous vide; and lemon roasted potatoes (page 125), where the spuds are nestled on a bed of onions and lemons, which then caramelise into a marmalade-like texture. Wow!
Kamozawa and Talbot have worked with both individual chefs and companies, such as No. 9 Group in Boston and Fourth Wall Restaurants in New York. Their company grew out of their blog, which they started in 2004 as a way to record their daily work in restaurant kitchens. They have featured in the New York Times, Popular Science, Food & Wine and Saveur, and speak regularly at professional conferences around the world.
Maximum Flavour by Aki Kamozawa & H. Alexander Talbot, Hardie Grant, $39.95. Thank you to the publicity team at Hardie Grant, and also to Aki and Alexander, for giving me the opportunity to review this title. I look forward to road testing the recipes in my kitchen, for I, too, love to play with food!
Cookbook reviews and interviews with food writers and chefs.