A conversation on Twitter yesterday with the lovely @thomdinsdale about Noma and how it’s, yet again, topped the list of the World’s 50 best restaurants, prompted me to finally get this post up and online.
Recently I treated myself to a copy of the book from, double Michelin star awarded, Noma in Copenhagen. As I glided through the pages with all the curious awe of a child who’d discovered what they believed to be a real treasure map, I was immediately transported to another world. Noma is like the Narnia of cookbooks.
The photography is this book is just epic, and not dissimilar to what you’d expect to find in some notable photography book taking pride of place on Saatchi’s coffee-table for example. I was happily indulging myself through 200 or so pages of food-porn, when I suddenly stumbled over the recipes section in the back. My oh my, René Redzepi is actually going to entrust us mere mortals to recreate his food?! The challenge was one that I could not resist rising to. René, I apologise in advance…
It’s difficult to choose between all of the inspiring, curious and sometimes just baffling recipes, not just because they all look so delicious, but ingredients such as ‘small beach mustard leaves’, ‘birchwood chips’ and ‘rosehip vinegar’ are unlikely to be readily available in my local Sainsburys.
I decided to choose one where I felt I had the most chance of being able to get hold of at least 40% of the ingredients. I chose ‘Tartare of beef with wood sorrel, tarragon and juniper’.
When I flicked through the pages to find a photograph of the dish I had selected I drew a sharp, quiet breath. It was the one I had seen the finalists on an episode of MasterChef once have to recreate. Not the novice MasterChef either…the professional chefs one. *gulp*
I hit the streets of London to forage for the ingredients listed. Some were just not available at all to me so I have noted where I had to make substitutions:
250g beef fillet (tenderloin)
125g fresh tarragon (2-3 bunches)
1 small shallot
1 clove garlic
35g apple balsamic vinegar (there’s a very good balsamic oil stall at Borough Market in London that sells a delicious apple balsamic vinegar)
50g chicken glace (had to substitute with pre-made chicken stock as I’d not prepared my own in advance)
Rye bread (for breadcrumbs)
Fresh wood sorrell (had to substitute with pea shoots as unable to find sorrell anywhere on my travels)
1 tablespoon of Juniper berries
1 tablespoon of Caraway seeds
1 tsp of Thickening granules
1. Start by blending the fresh tarragon, chicken glace, apple balsamic vinegar, garlic clove and thickening granules in a bowl. Once fully blended put the mixture into the fridge to chill and part set. Now, unfortunately, I think because I had to use a pre-made dark chicken stock my tarragon emulsion was a lot darker and not the vibrant grass green colour of René’s. I’m not wholly sure it lacked in flavour because of it, but it aesthetically doesn’t look quite as impressive. I’ll be trying and trying again.
2. Heat a pan on the medium heat hob. When it’s nice and hot pour in your caraway seeds and juniper berries. Place a lid over the top (in case they pop/spit) and toast whilst occasionally shaking the pan to make sure they toast as opposed to burn. Toast them for about 8-10mins (until the juniper berries feel like and hard) and then remove from the heat. When they have cooled, place them in a blender, or pestle & mortar and blend to a fine powder. The aroma from this powder is simply intoxicating too. I found myself standing in my kitchen just smelling the powder for about 5mins. It’s such an evocative smell….lovely…
3. Wash and trim the sorrell (or pea shoots) to remove the stalks. Place the selected leaves into ice-water to help them retain their bright colour, and make them crisp in texture.
4. Lightly toast a couple of slices of rye bread and crumble into breadcrumbs. Then lightly fry them off in a pan with a knob of butter and leave to cool.
5. Finely slice the small shallot and slice the fresh horseradish into thin slices.
6. Take your beef fillet and (with a very sharp knife) slice into very thin/fine pieces. I think Noma’s tartare is quite chunky in size but I tried to get mine to resemble the, more traditional, minced beef (as that’s how D preferred it). This takes some time so be prepared. I was trimming off every teensy piece of fat just leaving the perfect pink meat which made it very fiddly and time consuming. When you have the trimmed beef ready then pile into a small square shape on your serving plate. When you have a pile about 2.5cm high, gently place some of the sliced horseradish and shallot on top.
7. Now spoon some of your breadcrumbs on top of the meat also. Remove the sorrell (or pea shoots) from the iced water and very softly pat dry with some clean kitchen towel. Gently arrange the leaves on top of the meat, shallots, horseradish and breadcrumbs.
8. Sprinkle a dusting of the juniper berry and caraway seed powder adjacent to the meat (the idea is that you pick up some of the meat in your hand, wipe it through the powder and then wipe it through the emulsion before eating. Once you’ve sprinkled the powder put a smear of the emulsion on the plate below the meat and the powder and you’re ready to serve.