Seabass with brown butter sauce

Brown butter sauce is a really chefy sauce, so easy to make and one you can add to your repertoire to impress your diners with. Brown butter is made with one simple ingredient – butter! It browns by cooking over a medium heat and slowly browning. It gives the butter a nuttier taste and when adding other ingredients such as capers and anchovies, it creates a flavoursome sauce that can be used for many different meats, fish and vegetables. The recipe creates a really crispy skin on the fish. Double the ingredients to serve 4.

Ingredients:

  • 2 seabass fillets
  • 1 tbsp. of plain flour
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 3 anchovy fillet
  • 1 tbsp. capers
  • 1 heaped tbsp. unsalted butter
  • Juice of ¼ lemon
  • 1 tbsp. of oil of your choice

Method:

  • Put the flour and salt on a plate
  • Cover the fillets in the seasoned flour and pat down the excess flour
  • Heat the oil in a non-stick pan
  • Gently lay the fillets skin side down away from you (so oil doesn’t splash back at you)
  • Allow the fillets to cook for several minutes with moving them around. Take a peek and when the skin is brown and crispy, then they are cooked on that side
  • Flip them over and cook for 1 or 2 minutes on the flesh side
  • At the same time as flipping the fillets, add the butter, the capers and the anchovy fillets
  • Cook until the anchovy fillets have melted. Stir them and move them around without touching the fish to break them up
  • Turn off the heat and add the squeeze of lemon juice
  • Place the seabass fillets on warm plates and top each fillet with equal amounts of the sauce
  • Serve with some steam fried vibrant greens

 

Advertisements

Chewing it over

Around 2- 3 million years ago, our ancestors started to use fire to cook their meat and tools to cut it. These small steps were some of the biggest lifestyle changes in human evolution.

chimpanzee chewing fruit Up until then, our ancestors had been ripping into raw meat with their teeth and tearing off huge chunks.

The chimpanzee is our closest primate and will spend up to half of its day chewing its food. It is likely our ancestors would have had to dedicate a large portion of their day also to exercising their jaws to survive – chewing through raw food to tenderise it so it could cut and ground by the teeth and eaten. As a result, our ancestors had large muscular jaws which took up a vast area of the skull.

In contrast, today’s humans have fairly small jaws and this is due to the use of those tools to help cut meat, and cooking to tenderise and soft it. Cutting meat up into more manageable portions meant that our ancestors did not have to spend so long chewing each piece of meat. Combine this with the discovery of fire and cooking to tenderise meat, render fat and connective tissue and thing became a lot more edible!  Therefore the process of eating was a quicker one, and the need for muscular jaws lessened as level of chewing diminished.

Taking time away from chewing meat meant that over time the jaw began to reduce in size.  This shift also allowed for more room for brain development. So basic tools and fire may have been a contributory in our development, especially of language skill which are associated with the larger brain of the homo sapiens (latin: wise person).

Why we chew our food

Chewing is essential for digestion and survival. Here comes the science bit:

Chewing secretes saliva which aids the breakdown of starches and fats through the enzymes contained within it. The act of chewing also sends neural messages to other parts of the body to begin the digestion process of the food. Digestive enzymes are released in the stomach also which will help break down the food and convert it to energy.

Our ancestors were on to a winner when they discovered the cooking and tools to begin softening and cutting their meat bacon sandwich into small portions. The act of cooking allows more nutrients to be accessed from many types of food than can be efficiently done eating raw food alone. And our tools allow us to effiently butcher the best cuts, and then cut them into edible portions at the dinner table!

 

Wolfing it down!

What this means is, that today we can theoretically spend a lot less time eating to get the nutrients we need into our system. However, that is not strictly the case – there are still processes in your body that need a bit of forewarning to signal that you are eating! they need to receive the signal that it is dinner time – so if you eat too quickly you’ve finished before they can get into gear.

Eating more slowly better for your health and weight!

Eating more slowly, or precisely, chewing a bit more (so the food almost dissolves in your mouth) is shown to have many health benefits – and it is good for the waistline too.

By chewing more, you take longer to finish you meal, your body has a chance to deploy all its signals, enzymes and digestive tricks to ensure you process your meal in an optimal fashion.

Your body is able to take what it needs more efficiently, and more importantly, you will eat less and feel fuller. For example when you eat the same size meal but chew a bit more your stomach has enough time to send it “full” signal to the brain and suppress further appetite. Your stomach also is dealing with smaller matter, so the enzymes and chemical processes work that little bit more extracting all the goodness from your meal.

Devolve to Evolve

So whilst we have evolved and developed cooking and tools to help us eat, our body has not fully caught up, and still appreciates the slower pace of life.

Don’t rush your meals. Take your time. Socialise, talk and savour your food in good company with friends and family. And remember to “chew your food properly” as our mothers would say!

Why we crave unhealthy food

Eating can be one of the most joyful experiences; there’s no doubt about that. As humans we are one of the few species who eat for pleasure. When we are completely full, when we don’t need to add on another calorie – we continue to eat purely for fun; because we enjoy it so.  Even though we have just eaten two hearty courses, we will often reach for the dessert menu to complete the eating experience.

Eating for happiness

When we eat something that we enjoy, we feel good inside. We are embraced by happy feelings and we relish the experience.

These happy feelings come from a hormone in the brain known as dopamine. Dopamine functions as a neurotransmitter and is responsible for continually rewarding us with messages of happiness when we do something that we enjoy. Even if that thing is not very good for us such as eating unhealthy food.

When we do something good the brain remembers what we did that was good and dopamine assists the brain with storing the memory so when we do it again we will be rewarded with the same happy sensation; thus creating a behavioural response reward cycle.happiness

When a child exhibits a behaviour that deserves praise and that child receives the praise, dopamine will be released and they will remember the experience as a happy sensation. Often children are given sweets as a reward or as a way to chivvy them on or cheer them up.

Problems with over eating and also eating products that are particularly high in sugar or fat can spiral out of control when certain foods are used as a reward for behaviour. This can begin in childhood and follow us though into adulthood where we automatically reach for the unhealthier options when we’re feeling down or tired for a quick hit of happiness.  Once the brain has been wired to connect these foods with a particular mood or feeling, it’s harder to reverse.

child eating a doughnutWhy does over eating occur?

Dopamine is essential for development when we are learning what makes us happy and how to retain that happiness, but all too often foods that are high in fat and sugar that are given as treats can be detrimental for health and creating behavioural patterns that can cause addiction later on in life.

When we over eat; specifically those food that our brains recognise as ‘happy foods’ we are actually reversing the effects of dopamine levels. Releasing too much dopamine means the receptors in the brain start to numb to the sensation as it recognises it.  Therefore over eating occurs as a result of trying to reach the ‘satisfaction’ point that a high dose of dopamine gives as the brain becomes desensitized to dopamine.

Sugar savvy

This year it was revealed that sugar can be several times more addictive than certain drugs such as cocaine and is partly responsible for the massive increase in child obesity and type 2 diabetes in the UKwhite sugar

Food enthusiast and chef, Jamie Oliver has been working tirelessly to support the sugar tax campaign. High quantities of sugar have been found in many high street drinks and beverages from cans of fizzy drinks to the syrups in popular franchise coffee shops. Finally it seems we as a nation are slowly beginning to wake up to the notion that eating too much sugar –although rewarding us with happy feelings in the short term, is detrimental to our health over long periods.

The introduction of the sugar tax

George Osbourne has released details of the sugar tax which will be introduced soon. The tax is aimed specifically at sugary drinks.

The sugar tax has come at a critical time when child obesity and type 2 diabetes is on the rise. The tax has been welcomed by many supporters at a time when we need to take action. The tax will specifically affect those who consume drinks that are high in sugar on a daily basis as a way to deter them away from such regular consumption and to opt for less sugary drinks.

smoothiesLong term plan

Whilst the sugar tax may target those who are clinically obese and suffering with serious health issues, it may only be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to combatting the problem entirely. Education is the way to understanding our bodies and how we should treat them. The products are still available and if you are addicted to a substance you will probably pay the extra

By maintaining a balanced diet of carbohydrates through small amounts of bread, rice and grains and getting our essential vitamins and minerals from meats, fish, fruit and vegetables it is possible to still have room for some treats every now and again.

The brain is a very clever computer and if to date you have enjoyed perhaps too much of a certain food that you know is not making you any healthier then it is possible to stop and retrain your brain. You can get the same dopamine reward by eating foods that are better for you.

  • Eating a well-balanced healthy diet – with a little of what you fancy thrown in, is the best way to get your body to crave the things that are good for you.
  • Avoiding giving foods high in fat and sugar as rewards or distractions to children is a sure way to create a healthy pattern of behaviour which they will retain as they get older.
  • Removing processed foods that are high in fats and sugars from your house so they are not constantly available for grazing on is a good start. By not having these foods to hand to grab when you are feeling low or tired, or you feel you have done something to deserve eating it, means you won’t get the dopamine hit your body is used to. Just buy one or two treats a week.

Try these three things and you’re therefore on the way to re-training your brain.

Have a look at our recipe section today where we are building a good selection of healthy options for you to enjoy including sugar, dairy and gluten free recipes.

Pairing flavours

Some flavours just go together. Some are ingrained into our brains from birth – such as rhubarb and custard or strawberries and cream and others come to us later as our taste buds evolve and we can handle richer and more intense flavours.

Sometimes flavour combinations sound as though they won’t go together and then low and behold! Wow! It’s a taste sensation.

As a species our palates have become much more mature as we have evolved and we explore and enjoy exotic and unique flavours; chefs all around the world are constantly challenging themselves to discover new combinations that might just stick.

Cooking goes beyond the basic assembling of ingredients, it’s about understanding how certain ingredients will coax out flavours from another ingredient.

noseThe 5 tastes

We have 5 taste sensations that we experience on our tongue and in our mouth; bitter, sweet, salt, sour and the recently discovered fifth taste; umami – which translates as savoury and is different to salt in the sense that it encapsulates the flavours that certain protein rich foods release when heated such as: tomatoes, cheese, meats and fish all contain umami flavours.

How we taste

Although we use our mouth to taste the flavours, our sense of smell is far superior, with only 20% of flavour experience owed to taste; the rest is done through our nostrils! Having a sense of smell is key to enjoying (or not enjoying) the eating experience as up to 80% is actually the aroma that we taste.

At the top of our nasal passage is a patch of spaced out neurons known as cilia. Odour molecules are released from food and these molecules are light and evaporate easily, so they float in the air and into our nasal passageway.  Here the odour molecules meet the cilia, bind themselves to it which triggers the neuron and causes you to perceive the smell.

food pairing science Here’s the science…

Years ago food pairing was done through trial and error which is how we arrived at those classic fruit and cream combinations. Now chefs such as Blumenthal are using the science method to combine flavours by discovering which ones have similar molecular compounds.

The scientific explanation of why ingredients such as caviar and chocolate pair so well together is due to both the foods having high levels of amines – a group of proteins that have broken down from their amino state and have chemical similarities to ammonia. Phew! Sound complex? We’ll leave the scientific pairing to the experts who have studied the molecules of food to bring us whacky pairings such as: coffee and garlic, cucumber and violet, salmon and liquorice and oyster and passion fruit!

Blumenthal was originally famed for combining caviar with white chocolate. The salty taste of the caviar enhances the creaminess of the chocolate, which is why a salted caramel pudding is now one of the most popular desserts.

Blumenthal was inspired by the food scientist Harold McGee who was fascinated by chemistry and physics when he was growing up.

Discovering the science of foodmolecular gastronomy

During the 1970’s McGee was studying English literature when a throw away comment from a friend over dinner encouraged him to investigate the embarrassing problematic after effects of the combination of rice and beans. McGee did some digging around and worked out that it was due to indigestible sugars – the foods that don’t break down into simpler sugars for absorption, rather they travel to the large intestine undigested.

As a result of discovering the answer to a simple quandary posed by a friend over a meeting at dinner, McGees curious mind stumbled upon the answer to other questions in the food science field such as why bread is bouncy and why eggs solidify when we cook them. This took him down a rabbit hole of food science and food pairings that lead him to write books such as Food and Cooking – an encyclopaedia of kitchen science history and culture.

McGee is just one of many chefs, chemists and food scientists who have helped create the molecular gastronomy movement.

food pairingsFood pairings today

This move from simple food assembly to food as a science experiment has had a massive impact on the food industry.  Chefs are turning kitchens into their playground and creating a molecular gastronomy delight for their diners.

Flavours combinations such as red gazpacho with grain mustard ice-cream, which was adapted by Blumenthal as part of his ‘science of ice-cream’ projects has resulted in a rise of sales in savoury flavoured ice-creams for use in starters and main dishes.

The use of sea salt with caramel in ice-cream has seen sales of that flavour sky rocket and make its way from the restaurant floors to the high street stores.  A recent survey of popular savoury ice-cream flavours found that beetroot, Jersey black butter and stout were some of the top tastes in pubs and restaurants around the UK

Many popular brands of ice cream are now venturing out into the savoury field with flavours such as watercress, chilli, wasabi and fennel. Whilst these may sound strange to the lover of a sweet flavoured ice-cream, essentially all of these flavours work in a cream based sauce. You just need to get your head around the frozen aspect with the savoury. But pair these flavours with the right food and you will be pleasantly surprised.

Just a few years ago, people would have run a mile from salt with chocolate – now the nation cannot get enough of it.

So put your taste buds to the test and free yourself from the usual pairings.  Prepare to be amazed by the unexpected because a new way of pairing food flavours has been born.

Where to learn more about food pairings and molecular gastronomy.

The Flavour Bible – by Karen Page and Andrew Dorenburg. This book is a treasure trove of flavour combinations, a must have for any foodie or science geek.

The Fat duck cookbook – by Heston Blumenthal. This book presents an array of Hestons famous recipes as well as a section of food science and how certain foods pairings are brought to life.

McGee on Food and cooking – by Harold McGee.  This book is pure food science and the sort of book to dip in and out of.

Molecular Gastronomy – by Herve This. The author has collaborated with the famed chef Pierre Gagnaire, the only person to hold a doctorate in molecular gastronomy.

Caramalised onion brie and pancetta toastie

Ingredients:

  • 2 onions
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. soft brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 190g brie
  • 110g pancetta
  • 6 slices of sliced white bloomer

Method:

  • Finely slice the onions
  • Cook in a little olive oil until slightly caramelised. This should take 5-7 minutes
  • Add the sugar and continue to cook until the onions until they are very brown and caramelised. This should take another 10 minutes. Try not to continually stir, allow the onions to catch on the pan in order to caramelise.
  • Add the vinegar and stir
  • Thinly slice the brie
  • Fry the pancetta in its own fat
  • When the pancetta is almost crispy take it out of the pan and place in a warm oven
  • Pan fry the slices of white bloomer in the fat from the pancetta until each side is golden and crispy. You can add a little butter too.
  • Assemble the sandwiches by spreading some of the caramelised onions on the first slice of bread, topping with a few slices of brie and pancetta, then top with another slice of bloomer, add another spreading of onions, a few more slices of brie and pancetta then top with the third slice of bloomer.
  • Repeat for the second sandwich
  • Place both sandwiches in the pancetta pan on a low heat and toast again until all the brie begins to melt – or you could put the sandwiches in a hot oven for 3 or 4 minutes.

Umami

We all know about the basic tastes right? Sweet, sour, salty and bitter. Sometimes we mix together sweet pineapples with vinegar-based sauces into a classic sweet and sour for a stir-fry or combine the subtle sweet taste and texture of scallops with the salty crispness of freshly sautéed chorizo. We enjoy the bitterness of a Gin and tonic served with salty nuts or the sweetness of a cosmopolitan served with twist of bitter orange.

But did you know there was indeed a fifth taste that we have all been enjoying for some time without realising that it was a whole different dimension in taste experience.

anchovies What is umami?

The Umami taste, first defined by a Japanese scientist over a hundred years ago sits exactly on our palates in the same way the aforementioned tastes do.

Umami is a taste that some go crazy over; possibly before knowing what it was they would simply relate it to a basic salt flavour. But it is so much more than that.

Umami is that caramelised part of the lasagne that has encrusted itself to the side of the casserole dish. It is the brown sticky mass underneath the roast chicken, it is the melted anchovy on the pizza, it’s the cheese that has dripped off the toast and hardened into a flat orange crisp on the baking tray. Or if you’re not a hater, it’s that slathering of marmite on a crisp piece of toast.

To try and encompass what umami is, it’s the flavour to amplify all flavours. The one that hits you and makes you say ‘mmmmm’ out loud. It is in itself a flavour that can only be described as ‘savoury’ as there is no English word synonymous with the word umami.

Here comes the science bit dried seaweed

Kikunae Ikeda was the scientist to first proclaim that there was indeed a fifth taste. Ikeda, noticed that this flavour was apparent in tomatoes, cheese and meats but it was strongest in a stock called Dashi which is made from dried kelp (seaweed) and dried fish flakes. The stock dashi is the base for the soup, Miso, a popular and traditional Japanese soup.

Many foods such as meats, cheeses and fish contain some amount of naturally occurring glutamic acid; which is an amino acid produced by the human body and present in many foodstuffs. It is one of the building blocks of protein. Hence protein rich foods contain high levels of glutamic acid; thick roast chickens, grilled steaks, toasted cheese and grilled fish, dried mushrooms, soy sauce. When the protein containing glutamic acid is broken down by cooking, fermentation or ripening– it becomes glutamate.

msgIkeda cleverly stabilised the chemical glutamate, mixed it with salt and water to make the controversial ingredient Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) and quickly patented it. It became a household condiment called Aji-no-moto meaning the ‘essence of taste’

One of the most enthralling discoveries surrounding the umami phenomenon is that glutamate is present in most food stuff and is a protein that is essential to our body function. It’s surprising to know that human milk has high levels of glutamate, almost 10 times more than cow’s milk .

Mothers’ milk offers two taste enhancers, lactose as sugar and glutamate as umami. Which is why babies enjoy it so much and will naturally go on, if offered the right foods, to enjoy other sweet and umami flavours as they grow.

So when you add an anchovy on a pizza base, melt the cheese, grate parmesan onto some rather dull tasting pasta, or spread a spoonful of marmite on some toast; you have created a taste sensation that will stimulate your taste buds and neural receptors with the fifth taste that is; umami.

Strawberries are still super

strawberries imageIn an era where we are discovering more foods labelled as ‘superfoods’ such as Quinoa, Kale and Chia, it might be refreshing to learn that the humble strawberry contains just as many super components.

Everyone loves a strawberry: enveloped in cream and topped with meringues, drizzled with balsamic vinegar or dropped in a prosecco where it soaks up all the alcoholic fizz like a little heart shaped sponge.

However you devour the plump juicy fruit you can rest assured that you are enjoying one of nature’s finest offerings. Strawberries are the essence of wholesome and nutrition. They are packed full of vitamins and minerals and high in antioxidants.

Why are strawberries so good?

Humans are one of the few mammals that are unable to produce vitamin C so we have find it from the food we eat. One serving of strawberries (about half a cup) contains half our recommended daily requirement of vitamin C.

Why is vitamin C important?

Eyes are exposed to free radicals from the suns harsh UV rays and vitamin C can help strengthen the protein in our eyes to protect the eyes and prevent cataracts in later life. The vitamin C must come directly from the fruit or vegetable and not in a supplement form.

Vitamin C is vital to the production of collagen which is what gives skins its resilience and elasticity. We lose collagen as we age and that’s why wrinkles occur.

What else is in a strawberry? strawberries in a bowl

Strawberries are antioxidant and anti-inflammatory which is incredibly beneficial to the heart and Arthritis

Strawberries contain potassium and potassium can help regulate blood pressure and even (in some cases) assist in lowering blood pressure.

Strawberries are packed with fibre which is essential for digestion and for slowing the absorption of sugars in the blood, so those managing diabetes can enjoy strawberries as part of a controlled diet.

strawberry plant Great news!

This year consumers are demanding more strawberries so this year’s crop will have increased by 11% to meet that demand.

If you want to keep wrinkles at bay, protect your heart, get your fibre and potassium intake then get your portion of vitamin C every day during the summer with some super strawberries!

You can’t beat British when it comes to our strawberries and our Strawberry season runs from May until September so you have a plenty of time to have your fill.