30 OUTSHINE Matthew Fort on technical tactics and the beauty of boasting E
Amuse-bouche: Quintet of spring vegetable purées served with lightly seasoned crispy potato trowels
xcuse me while
I fi re up my blowtorch, attend to my spherifi cation kit, and turn off the thermomix. No, I’m not using the liquid nitrogen today. I haven’t since our dog, Harry, knocked the container over and very nearly turned himself into a Norwich terrier ice lolly. Boasting? Of course I’m boasting. That’s what kitchen technology wars are all about, aren’t they? The chance to boast, the chance to shine, to produce something that no one else can because they haven’t got the gear. You used to be able to get ahead by discreetly adding that phial of artisanal balsamic vinegar or arguing over whether Jabugo ham was superior to Culatello di Zibello. Not anymore. These days it’s techno- wizardry that defi nes the culinary dinner party zeitgeist. It all began with fi re. When
primordial man or woman fi rst discovered that brontosaurus steaks tasted better broiled over fl ame than raw, you can bet your Pacojet that they boasted about it. ‘Eat it raw? How terribly last Tuesday.
Grilling. It’s all the rage, my dear.’ But it was with the Aga that kitchen
technology truthfully reached the modern age, and it is still a benchmark of kitchen aspiration. But what place does it have now, in the era of the induction hob, foam siphon and cooking app? For a long time, I was wedded to a gas
range of brooding magnifi cence and delightful personality. Then I moved house, got a range with an induction hob, and fell out of love with gas and into love with electricity. What a wonder my
induction hob is. It answers to my touch instantly. It obeys my every command. And it’s a dream to clean. And can I stop singing its praises?
No I can’t. Because by singing its praises, I am boasting, I am showing off my command of technology, my modernity and my superiority. That’s the thing with kitchen apparatus. Boasting about it is half the fun. Once upon a time people boasted of their microwaves. Imagine that! Then there were electric knives, food processors, blenders and bread makers. The march of advanced equipment to help domestic gods and goddesses has been inexorable. In recent years, kitchen wars
have really hotted up. Now there’s liquid nitrogen, centrifugal juicers, desiccators and who knows what other technologies pioneered by the likes of Heston Blumenthal and Ferran Adrià. Where they lead, other chefs will follow. And so will we. The water bath is a classic example. It started, as so many bits of technology do, in the
‘You used to be able to get ahead by discreetly adding
that phial of artisanal
balsamic vinegar…’ MATTHEW FORT
professional kitchen. While boil-in-the-bag cooking solutions have been with us for decades, now the water temperature is computer controlled, and we know that a 250g portion of haddock takes exactly 15 minutes at 125 degrees centigrade. So any dimwit can turn out perfect portions of fi sh. And there’s no washing up. Heavens, how did we manage before? Are you meaning to tell me you haven’t got one? Oh, for heaven’s sake. Buy one immediately. And then boast about it.
‘The thought of my next meal always gives me a shiny inner and outer glow.’
>Matthew Fort is the food and drink editor of The Guardian and judges the best dishes in the land in BBC’sGreat British Menu series <