Cooking Heston Blumenthal’s Sous Vide Salmon with Bois Boudran Sauce and Crushed Jersey Royals recipe in the staff kitchen at work
Heston’s recipes have a reputation for being complicated, right? Multi-stage preparations, three-day cooking times and a myriad of bizarre utensils. His preosterous BFG chocolate cake recipe takes a couple of days and requires both a soda siphon and a vacuum cleaner to prepare.
A lot of Heston’s recipes can be a significant undertaking – with potential for plenty sweat and tears along the way.
This is a two-part experiment. Firstly, we’re going to try to replicate sous-vide cooking using the simplest and cheapest technique there is. Literally anyone can try this and it requires no special equipment at all.
Secondly, we’re going to see if, instead of our organised home kitchen stocked with of carefully selected equipment, we can make one of Heston’s dishes in the cramped and crappy staff kitchen at work. Available equipment is limited to a kettle and a microwave (and a toaster, which we won’t be using).
Here’s where we’ll be cooking our meal:
In this kitchen, that normally does no more than nuke last night’s pasta or rehydrate pot noodles, we’re going to have a go at preparing Heston’s Sous Vide Salmon with Bois Boudran Sauce & Crushed Potatoes recipe. We’ve made this before and we really like it. Wish us luck!
Actually the biggest hassle is dragging the clinking bag of ingredients and utensils into work.
Part 1: The Sauce
I don’t relish trying to pronounce “Bois Boudran” sauce, but I do love the story Heston tells about its creation: It was created by Michel Roux Snr for the fabulously wealthy Rothschild family. Yet it seems to be made up out of half empty bottles from the back of the store cupboard. The ingredients list is like something cobbled together by a drunk in an emergency. A sort of George’s Marvellous Michelin-Starred Medicine.
At first I contemplated lugging in all of these components, but then realised it’d be simpler (if less authentic) to measure out the individual components at home then combine them at work. Once I realised I didn’t have enough tiny bits of Tupperware to carry everything separately it became obvious I’d just have to cheat with this step.
This bit is only about mixing a few measured bits and bobs together. Give me a break.
Part 2: The Crushed Potatoes
Time to deploy bowls, knives and chopping boards for some actual cooking. The much-derided Jamie Oliver is our secret weapon here. Specifically, cooking potatoes in a microwave. It’s a 30 Minute Meals technique. For further info there’s no finer resource for Jamie’s (or Heston’s) cooking than Gary’s BigSpud blog.
The spuds are quartered for flavour absorption and faster cooking time, then zinged for 10 minutes in a bowl with rosemary, garlic and a splash of kettle-water. Giving us time to chop…
… the onion (standing in for the recipe’s shallots). Once the potatoes are resting these get 5 minutes in the microwave in a mug of olive oil.
During this bit I was very nervous about causing some sort of boiling oil explosion that’d leave me looking like Darkman.
Thankfully, I made it through unscathed (barring stabbing myself with a staple earlier in the day).
Now all we need to do is mix those oily shallots into the potatoes with some vinegar, mustard and herbs and then roughly mash the lot together with a fork.
Part 3: The Salmon
The salmon should actually be started around the same time the potatoes go on. You want a pieces about 150g. And a Ziploc bag.
Now we sous-vide cook the salmon, which basically requires a sink with a hot water tap. Even this kitchen has those. Oh, and a digital temperature probe. You didn’t think we’d get off that easy, did you? Slowly lower the unsealed bag into the water, this will squeeze the air from the bottom of the bag, then just seal it and stand back.
Are any of you Health & Safety fans? Been on a Legionella course? You’ll know your workplace tap temperatures should be set to around 60°C, more than ample. The salmon needs cooking to 45°, for which you want a full sink of water at around 50°. The temperature shouldn’t drop too far, but top up with boiling kettle water if you feel the need.
The fish came out once 15 minutes had elapsed. I suppose you’re thinking we wouldn’t be able to get the same crispy skin on ours, like they have in the book’s recipe?
Oh contraire, mon frère:
Admittedly a blow torch isn’t the best tool for this job, but I think I did ok considering. At least the results were presentable enough that I could serve the dish (to myself) crispy side up. Ta daaaaaa.
This was a triumph. I’m making a note here: huge success. It’s hard to overstate my satisfaction.
Of course, I wouldn’t recommend any of you try doing this in your own work kitchens. All the chopping and wiping and juggling (not pictured) make it a bloody awkward thing to attempt. Plus your co-workers won’t appreciate you putting the kitchen off limits for the better part of half an hour, which was how long this debacle took.
The dish, as we’ve said before, is a brilliant presentation of several familiar flavours. If you have the book this is one of the better dishes to cook at home. Or at work. (As you can see in the first photo we even managed to top it with rocket leaves, like they did in the British Airways Mission Impossible episode)
So, Heston Blumenthal’s cooking. A lot easier than you think.
If any of you do try this yourselves, especially at work, please leave a comment email us. We’d genuinely love to hear how you got on.