Take a tip from Heston

Sweet truth: Val Christopher assembles a Heston-style dessert press
Sweet truth: Val Christopher assembles a Heston-style dessert press
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You’ve seen him on TV, making ice cream that tastes like bacon and eggs and topping plates of edible art with clouds of dry ice.

And anyone who dines out regularly knows what a huge influence Heston Blumenthal has had on any chef worth his Maldon sea salt.

The clever inventions of the Michelin three-starred king of molecular gastronomy have filtered down to many a menu.

But can the home cook ever such master such techniques and approach their dinner parties like mad professors?

Lakeland, the kitchen and home store so beloved by women there were queues outside when its Meadowhall store opened two years ago, reckon you can, given the right equipment.

They’re selling have-a-go Heston cookery kits at £44.99. Each contains virtually everything but the lab coat -pipettes, a syringe, plastic tubing plus 50 little sachets of powder.

Agar-agar, sodium alginate, calcium lactate, soya lecithin and xanthan gum, which are actually natural by-products, are the vital ingredients for changing liquids ranging from liqueurs, pureed beetroot, yoghurt, coconut milk and even Bloody Mary cocktails into foams, balls, pearls and spaghetti-style strands.

How easy is it to do a Heston? Me and my neighbour Val Christopher, a skilled cook, put a R-Evolution cuisine kit to the test - with mixed results!

The trickiest part was the new technology; you get a DVD instead of a cookbook. The man in the white coat doing the “cooking” makes it look incredibly easy, but after selecting our recipes, we had to keep stopping and starting the disc so we could write the ingredients and instructions down. We’re old-school.

We made crunchy Bloody Mary canapes, pouring a jellified vodka and tomato juice mix into celery stalks (a doddle, provided you keep the celery stable) and starters of goats cheese topped with discs of balsamic vinegar jelly, plus spherical tzatziki on platters of cucumber. The balsamic jelly was easy, really tasty and very effective. You pour it onto a plate, let it set and cut it out with a pastry cutter. But the garlicky Greek yoghurt balls emerged from their setting bath flavoursome but so mis-shapen they looked like mini cauliflowers.

We tried to make a garlic foam to go with some seafood, but failed dismally. Despite the man in the white coat making it look like child’s play, we couldn’t raise so much as a bubble. Our dessert, coconut milk jelly cubes topped with glowing golden orbs of French liqueur, looked good enough for any restaurant table, but weren’t sweet enough. I’d thought as we were making it that the lack of sugar could be a problem.

The resulting dinner looked impressive, but it had taken us three times as long to prepare and left us all hungry because the dishes were so tiny.

We have plenty of sachets left, though, and plan to use a sprinkling of Heston as fancy garnishes at future culinary sessions. It IS good fun - and it does bring in the compliments.