We liked the taste of smoked water, so the 'logical' next step was to try to freeze it. The ice doesn't smell smoked, but as it melts it releases the subtle smoky aroma which is only recognised as it reaches the back of the tongue.
To welcome guests we wanted to create an atmosphere of warmth and comfort, which baking (cakes especially) can bring about. A nut bread recipe from an old Women's Weekly magazine brought back memories of Sunday afternoons in late autumn, and we trusted it would convey some of these memories to our guests. It is served with a carrot-orange syrup, a traditional flavour pairing that needs no molecular analysis to be confirmed…
This recipe was composed through a series of incremental tryouts and accidental discoveries. The pairing of peppers and popping sugar is most surprising, while apple wood and sun-dried tomatoes combine to make an almost meaty depth and 'savouriness'.
Pairing smoke and egg yolk produces an intense umami experience, complemented by the crunch of the tea-stained shell and smoothness of the mayonnaise.
This dessert is usually served during the Chinese winter festival (??). It is also served during other Chinese festivals to indicate togetherness or reunion (??).
Why did we choose this dish? A note by the head chef of Open Sauces, Maja Kuzmanovic: “When I asked Andi Strauss if he had suggestions for the kind of food that would illustrate his toast, he said: make something that looks dirty but tastes delicious. I was reminded of a delicious light ginger soup that I ate in a small desert cafe in Singapore. When I received my order, I thought they might have swapped my soup bowl for a bowl with dirty dishwater. I dared taste it and it was delicious! Perfect recipe for Strauss. I never made this soup before Open Sauces, so I found a few recipes online and picked the one with ingredients that would make the soup look the dirtiest, but taste intensely aromatic.”
Pleasure is what makes life valuable. It is what provides the motive among sentient creatures to engage in life-sustaining activities. —Herbert Spencer in The Big Fat Duck Cookbook (Bloomsburry, 2008)
To make this dish, we consulted the chocolate tree from the Food Pairing website (http://www.foodpairing.be) and chose a few matches that seemed appropriate to make a familiar yet sumptuous and memorable closure to the Open Sauces dinner. Ginger, coffee, olive oil and matcha tea were the chosen candidates. We served a spoonful of the mousse with small rolls of Persian fairy floss on a stick. The dish used the euphoric properties of chocolate to excite everyone’s endorphins, returning us to our childhood memories of times at the circus, or a summer sideshow. It also gave everyone a bit of a sugar rush so they could get up and make it home safely. The result was a success – after twelve courses, some diners were asking for seconds and even sneaked into the kitchen to lick the pots clean!
While the Open Sauces diners milled around after dinner drinking coffee (Feral Trade, Blue Mountain and Kopi Luwak), tea (Feral Trade, milky oolong, jasmin and osmanthus) and digestifs (calvados and grappas), we served petit fours along with two small, fiery things to stimulate the digestive combustion – a strong minty mouth freshener and aromatic oven-dried paan leaves – directly onto the diners’ tongues.
The first amuse-bouche at Smoke & Vapour playfully questions the boundaries between food and waste, celebrating the culture of cooking with leftovers. In this course, organic potato peel is fried and smoked as an alternative to crisps.