Over the Bank Holiday weekend your band of trusty FT regulars held (by our reckoning) the SIXTH Freaky Trigger Food Science Day, a combination of careful experiments and shockingly bad puns, dedicated to our friend and FT poster Liz Daplyn.
2pm. Scientists begin to arrive at Laboratoire Crouch Hill, carrying with them various alcoholic liquids, pastry ingredients, gothic substances and a metric fvcktonne of cheese (or at least a close approximation of cheese). Time for the first experiment!
TICKET TO (RHYME) WINE
Theory: Do food and wine pairings work better if they rhyme?
Practical: To keep things scientific, we concentrated on the subset of white wine and cheese:
1) Sancerre (rhyming cheese: Camembert St Mere, which should be doubly good as it’s a double rhyme)
2) Chablis (rhyming cheeses: Brie, and Ossau-Iraty, a hard sheep’s cheese)
3) Riesling (rhyming cheese: Cheesestring, you may now have an idea from whence this experiment sprang)
There is also a control cheese that doesn’t rhyme with any of the wines: a goat cheese.
Sancerre is up first. Kat thinks this actually goes very well with our control cheese, not surprisingly as it comes from the same place (the Loire). Rob doesn’t like the Camembert combination and thinks the brie goes better. Julia likes the Ossau best, then the goat. Ewan’s verdict: goat, camembert, brie – in that order. “The wine makes the cheesestring taste worse”, he says. Jen says she is tasting the TERROR of the terroir. Brie no good, goat is good. Katie says the wine tastes of wine. With the cheesestring, it’s “salty and bland and a bit greasy.” The Ossau is hard, sharp and creamy (but mostly sharp), and a bit citrusy, and (most importantly) tastes good with the wine. Her final order: Goat, Camembert, Pyrenees, brie, cheesestring. Meg arrives later and has a sancerre spritzer – her verdict: “Yeah.” Overall winner: goat.
3.20pm, Marna arrives with Universal Indicator paper. Sparkling water is 6. Katie says the paper doesn’t smell of anything, beer is about a 4. All the wines are 3.
On to the Chablis. Kat says it makes the hard cheese quite sour but it’s nice with the brie. Katie says the cheese makes the wine taste sweeter, but neglects to say which one! “The cheesestring tastes more of nothing than with the previous wine.” However the brie actively tastes bad with the wine, which means we have our first points for the cheesestring! CHALLOPS. Rob says the brie cancels the chablis out – perhaps this the true effect of rhyming foods and wines? “The cheesestring is bringing out surprising flavours,” he says. Marna asks if she can say ‘mouthfeel’. She then says ‘mouthfeel’, and also that the brie is terrible with the wine. “The cheesestring has a curious mouthfeel, like chewing straws.” The assembled scientists discuss whether rhyming is The Only Science That Bites. Ewan, Mark and Pete favour the goat, Julia prefers the camembert. Overall winner: goat.
Finally we have the Riesling. “Goat plus Riesling equals orange juice,” says Marna. “Or maybe tangerine.” She says the camembert gives more of a goosebery flavour, and the Ossau makes her have a coughing fit – “dangerous, quite good until it choked me”. Twitter declares that rhyming IS a science, because Dr Dre would not have it otherwise, especially as beer definitely goes with paneer, and vin goes with boursin (or not, as we are currently finding out). There is some elegant consumption of cheesestrings occurring. Sarah likes the biscuitty camembert but Katie thinks the Riesling overpowers it, and prefers the camembert. Sarah judges the Riesling and the Ossau are “strangers in the night”, saying the goat is her favourite. Meg and Ewan both like the camembert and the goat. But what about the cheesesstring, Ewan? “Absolutely not.” Overall winner: camembert.
Conclusion: The brie was very disappointing all round, and came very close to being outscored by the cheesestring with the Chablis. Katie points out that brie goes with GRAPES, i.e. raw wine, so we’re not sure what’s happening there. The goat cheese (i.e. the control cheese) was really good with all of them. Some of the more intelligent scientists in the room realise that technically ‘chevre blanc’ rhymes with all of the wines, therefore THEORY PROVED.
Theory: What is the darkest possible hummous known to civilization?
Practical: A pre-prepared experiment from Katie. The ingredients are: Black chickpeas (kala chana), Carley’s Organic Raw Tahini (nothing blacker), black garlic, black salt from M&S (normal salt with added carbonite??), black pepper, olive oil (not technically black although you can get black olives) and finally black dried limes, crushed with a pestle and mortar.
As you can see, it looks darker than our gothickest soul. Marna sticks pH paper in it for More Science (it rates a ‘6’). We have it with some bread. “The lime brings a hint of death”, says Marna. Kat quite likes it. Katie says she thinks she’s put quite a lot of lime in it, and that so far it’s eaten at least 7 souls. Pete suggests that next time we make white tapenade (supremacist hummous?) with nature’s bleach, lemon juice. Pete says ‘wee’ is nature’s bleach. Kat belches.
Conclusion: NONE MORE GOTH
4pm We start dissing characters from the Hunger Games, namely Peeta, whose special skill is ‘hiding’. BIG WHOOP, PEETA.
4.03pm. Is Stuart Broad hot or not? It is agreed that he is hotter than Kevin Pietersen.
Theory: The first of the bad puns comes courtesy of Mark S! Sadly (‘sadly’) this pun was not extended to cornichon pastis – maybe next time.
Practical: As well as cornichons, the ingredients include tomatoes, black olives and silverskin onions. There is the general consensus that it might have worked better with fewer cornichons (possibly, your narrator was busy trying to find where the rest of the Sancerre had disappeared to while this was being discussed). “The filling was nice,” says Pete, “but the balance of the pastry and filling isn’t quite right.” Mark says he could have diced a bit better. WITH DEATH???
Conclusion As put best by the chef: “Edible, but no need ever to make it again.”
BICCY BICCY SHAKES
Theory: Which biscuit makes the best milkshake?
Practical: Lucy and Alan make four different flavours of milkshake:
1) Malted Malted Milk Milkshake
Katie says it tastes like Horlicks, and is surprisingly ungrainy. Marna says mmmm. – Kat likes it a great deal.
2) Bourbon Bourbon Shake
It definitely tastes of bourbon (the whisky). “I think the bourbon is out-bourboning the bourbon, but there’s a bit of a bourbon aftertaste”. Apparently this benefits from ‘glass ageing’.
3) Pink Wafer Shake
It’s super pink! The texture is a bit more grainy than the others. “Strawberry ice cream, fake sweets”. “Like a strawberry crusher.” Sarah tries putting rum in it to make a daquiri. It’s made it massively undrinkable.
4) Custard Cream Shake
It’s going down very well. “It’s reaaaaally sweet and very moreish.” “You’re a geeeenius!” Despite this being a mostly white drink, Sarah actually has some – it’s that nice.
Conclusion: Custard Cream is the clear winner, with Malted Milk second, Bourbon third and Pink Wafer last.
SALT BAKED VEG
Theory: What happens when you bake vegetables with a salt crust?
Practical: Jen makes the salt crust, and uses it to cover a pile of sweet potato, normal potato, carrot, aubergine, turnips and tomatoes. Mark suggests a salt baked alaska (perhaps with caramel salt?). “And that we save it to the iBath.”
After Some Time in the oven, Jen produces something very hot in a tray, then whack-a-moles it with a rolling pin to release the salt baked veg beneath. The potatoes, carrot and turnips seem cooked; the aubergine does in places, the sweet potato could probably do with a bit more.
Jen likes the turnip best, as does Marna. Meg likes the sweet potato. Kat likes the aubergine but pretty much all of them are waaaay too salty.
Conclusion: An interesting way to achieve your maximum daily salt intake.
5.30pm. Who is the oldest band Meg saw at Reading? Judging by average age of members, the answer is Filter!
Theory: Is it possible to stop, once you have popped?
Practical: Attempt to eat some of the more minging flavours of Pringle, then see if we can escape the clutches of MSG-induced addiction.
It is immediately clear that Chicken and Herbs Pringles are proof that once you have popped, you are able to stop. “Not as good as Sainsbury’s Basics chicken roll,” says Sarah. After reading the packet, Ewan notices an asterisk after the words ‘herbs’ – but this doesn’t actually explain what the herbs are, just the language translations. Meg tells us that “chicken stock cube counts as a herb.”
Similarly, Salt and Pepper Pringles are very easy to cease eating once started. Marna says “it’s hard to fuck up salt and pepper” but Kat finds them highly unpleasant compared to e.g. salt and vinegar Pringles. Sarah says the flavour reminds her of “being in a restaurant on the continent with her parents where she can’t eat anything on the menu so has Pringles instead, and in a fit of boredom has poured table pepper on the top.” Very nostalgic! Especially as everyone grows their own pepper these days (or is that grinds their own?) It’s agreed that the S&P flavour is better than the chicken.
Thriftily using up the remaining cheese, Sarah constructs a camembert sandwich between two salt and pepper pringles. “A bit strong,” says Sarah. “Much better with brie”. Katie bravely tries a cheesestring pringle sammich: “Salty clingfilm,” she says. “Quite specialised, would not want to repeat it for now”. Marna tries it with the chicken pringles: “Mouthfeel intolerable. Doesn’t taste much different to the chicken pringle on its own, i.e. awful.”
Conclusion A resounding Yes.
Stay tuned for part 2, featuring Pigs, Pies and Pink Wine!