I don’t believe that the producers of A Day At El Bulli intended it to be used as a cookbook at all; it’s weighty and too glossy to risk splattering with kitchen messes, and most of the recipes call for freezedryers, pacojets, and other high-tech gadgetry. I think they’re provided to emphasize the difference between the food you can create at home, and the laboratory creations of Ferran Adria.

But hey! We love a challenge. I flicked through the book until I found something that looked achievable with only a minimum of outlay. Spherical mozzarella! This called for nothing more exotic than some sodium alginate. Handily, there was a jar tucked away in the back of a cupboard – the remnant of a previous miserable failure at kitchen science. If you’re cooking along at home, it’s available to buy online too.

The science of this is pretty straightforward: where algin meets calcium, a gel forms. By dropping calcium-rich liquid (in this case, the blended mozzarella) into a algin solution (or vice versa), the outside of the liquid turns into a gel, and encloses the still-liquid centre. The result is a soft ball that bursts when you bite into it – a surprise mouthful of liquid flavour. Or that’s the theory.


Assembling the makings and the scientific apparatus.


We measured everything carefully, because this is SKIENCE and SKIENCE demands precision.

The mozzarella and its juice are blended up together. Then the cream is heated and blended into the mozzarella, resulting in a fine grainy liquid. This is salted and popped in the fridge.


The sodium alginate is blended into 1kg of water. We used distilled water; otherwise, I believe, the algin will gel with the calcium in the hard London tapwater before it’s had a chance to get happy with the calcium in the mozzarella.


Spoonfuls of the mozzarella are dropped into the algin bath. This is where it all started to go wrong. My dropping technique is suspect, and we ended up with mozzarella splodges, rather than balls. I initially blamed the triangular measuring cup, but experimentation with egg cups and shot glasses yielded no better results – just more washing up.

After twelve minutes they’re taken out and we test the solid-est one on an innocent third party. She squeaks and approves. I try the next-most-solid one, and it’s delicious! But for every just-about edible globule of cheese-juice we have two failures. How to get the spheres SPHERICAL? I do some Scientific Research, and discover someone suggesting that we freeze them.


So it’s twee ikea icecube moulds to the rescue! We leave them overnight to freeze, and have a minor burst of science the next day, which yields a bowl of round (ish) mozzarella balls in water, which we force-fed to party guests later that night. Sorry, party guests! (I totally forgot to try making a CHEESE MARTINI with one of them, too.)


The freezing made the texture of the mozzarella juice more granular and slightly less pleasant, but it did mean that we created small balls rather than useless splodges.

The freezing worked really well apart from the texture going weirdly crumbly, though, so I might try this again with some liquid more suited to freezing. Cheese is not a friend of freezing.

The mozzarella was delicious before we blended it – it felt like a bit of a shame to turn it into stunt food.

Baby mozzarella spheres look very eggy! Wouldn’t it be awesome to make minature poached eggs that were really made of mozzarella and some bright orange or yellow cheese yolk? And serve them on toast made out of something surprising?