I thought it would be nice to share this dish on the blog a year on from when I created it at the end of last summer for an event for Google where the theme was ‘The Garden’. So I took inspiration for the dish from the idea of a garden salad but turned into a dessert. The dish features in my new book - ‘Modern Vegetarian Chef’. It’s a delicious, light, refreshing dessert that uses a few techniques and ideas that I think people will find interesting. .
The first thing that tends to surprise people is the fact that the centrepiece to this dessert is a piece of lettuce which has been vacuum infused with chamomile syrup to sweeten it, then been frozen to create a crisp, delicate, sweet leaf, which makes a beautiful, if slightly unusual, finish to the dish.
The ‘Caramelised Almond Milk’ also uses a technique that is new to most people. I make my own almond milk, then vacuum pack it with sugar and cook it sous vide at 90°C for 24 hours, during which time Maillard reactions occur which turn the almond milk a deep caramel brown and give it beautiful butterscotch, nutty, caramelised flavours. Its a great technique which I also use a version of to make caramelised white chocolate for other dishes.
The final noteworthy feature of the dish is that its served with an infusion of chamomile which is poured over dry ice to carry the scent of chamomile and citrus to diners as they eat the dessert.
The other items at the heart of the dish are a refreshing apple, cucumber & gin sorbet, caramelised walnuts & a sweet almond milk emulsion to mimic a dressing.
300g Fresh apple juice
300g Cucumber juice
75g Caster sugar
75g Glucose syrup
7.5g Malic acid
1g Ascorbic acid
1g Xanthan gum
Blend all the ingredients together then freeze in an ice-cream machine.
5g Dried camomile
Zest of 2 lemons
Bring the water to a boil then pour it over the dried chamomile and lemon zest. Allow this to infuse for 30 minutes then strain.
350g Chamomile infusion (see across)
350g Caster sugar
2.5g Ascorbic acid
2.5g Citric acid
Combine all the ingredients together and blend well until all the solids are dissolved.
Chamomile Infused Frozen Lettuce
Chamomile infusion (from above)
Baby gem lettuce
Remove the outer leaves from a baby gem lettuce and place these into a vacuum bag with the chamomile syrup. Vacuum infuse the leaves with the chamomile syrup in a chamber vacuum on full vacuum, then repeat this process. Place the infused leaves on lightly oiled baking paper on a tray in the freezer Freeze the infused leaves until solid.
Homemade Sweet Almond Milk
500g Blanched almonds
Seeds of a vanilla pod
300g Caster sugar
3g Xanthan gum (0.15%)
Soak the almonds overnight in fresh water to soften them. Drain the water off the almonds. Blend the softened almonds with the xanthan gum and the water. Now strain this mixture and reserve the liquid almond milk that is drained off. Now blend the sugar and vanilla into the almond milk. Store in the fridge for up to 3 days or store in the freezer.
Caramelised Almond Milk
500g Caster sugar
250g Sweetened almond milk (see previous page)
10g Bicarbonate of soda
Combine the sugar, almond milk and bicarbonate of soda and gently stir together (try not to introduce too much air into the liquid as it will foam a lot when vacuumed) Then separate the mixture across 2 vacuum bags. Vacuum seal the mixture on medium (60% vac). Now cook in a water bath at 90°C for 24 hours. Maillard reactions occur during the cooking which give the almond milk an incredible caramel, nutty flavour and darken the milk to a caramel colour.
Almond Milk Emulsion
150g Grapeseed oil
50g Sweet almond milk (see across)
50g Caster sugar
2g Soy lecithin
1g Xanthan gum
Blend together all the ingredients except the oil. Then gradually emulsify in the oil.
200g Parsley leaves
300g Grapeseed oil
Blanch the parsley leaves for 45 seconds in rapidly boiling water then refresh immediately in ice water. Strain the parsley and squeeze out any excess moisture, then allow the leaves to dry off. Combine the parsley & oil in a pan and gradually heat to 60°C. Now while hot pour into a blender and blend continuously for 10 minutes. Allow the oil to cool and infuse for around two hours then strain through muslin.
Crushed Caramelised Walnuts
50g Caster sugar
25g Sunflower oil
Cook all together in a nonstick frying pan for 2-3 minutes on a medium heat - the walnuts should be toasted and the sugar should caramelise. Cook until the sugar reaches 160°C. Tip the caramelized walnuts out onto baking parchment and spread them out. Let the sugar cool and set then lightly crush the caramelised walnuts into smaller pieces and store in an airtight container.
To Serve Pre-chill bowls in the freezer, then place a scoop of the sorbet in the centre of a bowl. Dot some of the almond emulsion next to it and spoon some crushed caramelised walnuts over that. Drizzle some caramelised almond milk and parsley oil around the plate. Then finish the dish by placing one of the frozen infused lettuce leaves over the sorbet.