The whole point of this recipe was to keep things as light and fresh as possible: I picked lots of cooling and refreshing ingredients and tried to find novel ways of processing and presenting them. And to do this I revisited some modernist techniques I’ve used previously and a new one I’d been looking to try: fluid gels.
The first iteration of this dish featured a raw carrot fluid gel but, frankly, it really didn’t work so I decided to try cucumber instead and it was much better being served uncooked. I don’t have a juicer which meant I had to improvise and this involved blitzing a whole cucumber in a blender, adding the pulp into one of my filters (cheesecloth would be fine too) and squeezing the hell out of it. It’s not the most efficient system in terms of yield but it’s quick and it works. One problem I did encounter was that I needed to add some liquid to the jelly whilst pureeing so it was a bit thinner than I’d wanted.
The main sauce also has a bit of trickery but not much, I used the same method as above to juice some celery (again, a lovely refreshing ingredient) and then made an emulsion in the blender with some grape seed oil and tarragon; I stabilised the sauce with xanthan gum so that it wouldn’t split and then on reheating I added a big hit of lemon juice to make it as zingy as possible.
The final unusual treatment was a brown butter powder made with tapioca maltodextrin: I really like the added texture you get from this technique and it actually solves a problem with buerre noisette which is that it doesn’t actually cling to the fish very well. In fact, I only realised afterwards splitting the butter and the tarragon up as I did was a sort of deconstruction of a sauce I’ve made with gurnard before.
Everything else is very simple, the broad beans and samphire are just blanched in boiling water before being tossed in some hazelnut oil; what’s strange here is that on their own the oil and vegetables don’t taste great together but combined with everything else they work really well. Also, the garnish of borage flowers give a lovely finish to the presentation and, looks aside, their cucumber flavour is a natural fit.
For the cucumber fluid gel
200g cucumber juice
3g agar flakes
For the celery-tarragon emulsion
100g celery juice
0.3g xanthan gum
50g grape seed oil
For the brown butter powder
10g tapioca maltodextrin
For the broad beans and samphire
50g broad beans, podded weight
5g hazelnut oil
5g lemon juice
For the red gurnard
4 small red gurnard fillets
For the garnish
- For the cucumber fluid gel, bring the cucumber juice to the boil and sprinkle in the agar in.
- Whisk continuously until it has dissolved, around 3-4 minutes.
- Pour the mixture into a bowl and leave to set in the fridge, around 20 minutes.
- Break the agar up and place in a blender and puree until smooth.
- Reserve the gel in the fridge.
- For the celery-tarragon emulsion, combine the celery juice and xanthan gum in a blender and blend in a few short pulses until the gum is fully incorporated.
- Add the oil and tarragon to blend and blend on full until emulsified. Reserve.
- For the brown butter powder, heat the butter over a medium heat until the milk solids have turned a nutty brown colour.
- Pour the melted butter into a bowl and add the tapioca maltodextrin.
- Whisk the mixture until all the oil has been incorporated and you are left with a fine powder, around 2-3 minutes.
- Place in an air tight container and reserve.
- For the samphire, bring a litre of water in a pot to the boil and cook the samphire for around 1 minute.
- Remove the samphire from the pot and place in a bowl of iced water.
- Add 50g of salt to the water and cook the broad beans for a round two minutes.
- Drain and place in the bowl of iced water along with the samphire.
- Whilst the broad beans are cooling, remove their tough outer skin and discard.
- For the red gurnard, season the fillets and seal in two vacuum bags.
- Cook in a water bath at 47°C for 15 minutes (roughly the time it will take for the fish to come to an internal temperature of 46°C).
- Heat a frying pan over a very high heat for 2-3 minutes.
- Remove the fish from the vacuum bags and dry with a towel.
- Add some grape seed oil to the frying pan and place the fillets skin side down for 15 seconds.
- Remove from the heat, leave to rest for 1-2 minutes.
- Meanwhile, drain the samphire and broad beans and reheat over a medium heat in the pan used to cook the gurnard.
- Remove from the heat and mix in the hazelnut and lemon juice (you may need more lemon juice to balance the saltiness of the samphire).
- Place the celery-tarragon emulsion in a small saucepan and heat gently.
- When heated season well with the salt and lemon juice.
- To plate, place a line of the samphire and broad bean mixture down the right hand side of the plate; place the gurnard fillets in the middle of the plate beside the samphire; make five dots of the cucumber gel on the left hand side of the plate; place a line of the brown butter powder from the very edge of the plate to the samphire; spoon over the celery-tarragon emulsion; garnish with a scattering of pea shoots and borage flowers.