Balsamic Caviar

Last Christmas, I was given a Molecular Gastronomy Kit. I wanted to explore kitchen science a little more, and using this was a nice way to try some different things, without getting into the science too deeply. The kit itself is well put together- sachets of various chemicals, syringes, pipettes, tubing, and so on. It also comes with a DVD, demonstrating the recipes (although annoyingly no printable recipes), so you can see exactly how everything is done, in a true Blue Peter “here’s one I made earlier” style. Watching with fascination all of the strange things being created, one of the things that initially caught my eye was the recipe for “balsamic caviar”. Drops of balsamic vinegar are given much more surface tension to create little balls, looking and feeling a similar way to real caviar.

The main reason I got excited about this though, is that I could actually see a use for it as part of a meal, rather than creating something that is little more than novelty value. A good few of the recipes were just that: here’s something that has the texture and looks like an egg, but tastes like mango with vanilla milk. Even though this is fun, it’s important to keep a general view towards gastronomy. In modern culture, we can often overemphasise one part of gastronomy- like having environmentally friendly, organic food- and forget that it is just part of the meal and the culture we should have towards food. Getting swept up by new tricks in the kitchen is another example of this- if what you produce isn’t a great meal, it doesn’t matter how much science is in it, the meal is still bad. So, hopefully the balsamic caviar would be somewhere where I could apply science to make the food better, as well as more exciting. The target was an hor d’oeuvre- balsamic caviar and red pepper mousse on melba toast. Hopefully the balsamic caviar would be a way of taking the acidity and flavour of balsamic vinegar into this dish in a way you couldn’t do normally.

Some of the leftovers on a cracker

Making the balsamic caviar is actually pretty straightforward, if you have the right kit. First, put a small bottle of olive oil in the freezer for 45 minutes. Then, simply take 150ml balsamic vinegar and add to it 1 sachet (~3g) agar agar. Bring to the boil, then take the olive oil out of the freezer, and pour into a small bowl. Then, with a syringe, release small droplets of the hot vinegar into the oil, and it will form into the caviar. Take the freshly formed caviar out of the oil with a slotted spoon, and use some water to rinse it and help it separate. Put it into a bowl, and store in the fridge until you are ready to use it.

Overall I have been pretty pleased with results. The texture is good, and the desired acidity and flavour is there, nicely complementing the red pepper mousse. I’ve now done this recipe twice- the other use was in a mozzarella and tomato salad- and in both cases people enjoyed the novelty, as well as the taste. A nice first ‘molecular gastronomy’ recipe to try, I’m excited to see what else this kit can come up with.

Our balsamic caviar being made. Photo courtesy of Richard Kim.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Xanthan Gum and Strawberry Milkshakes « oxfood

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