We have been testing the Sous Vide Gourmet. Essentially a very accurate water bath that cooks food to a preset temperature. The food sealed in heatproof BPA-free bags retain moisture and, importantly for fruit and vegetables, their colour. For flesh (meat, fish) adjusting the temperature controls the degree to which the meat is cooked, but the benefit is that the texture remains even through the whole thickness of the portion. Choosing the temperature and cooking time is a matter of science, taste and test and there are many references out there. We took a cookbook about Sous Vide (under pressure) by Thomas Keller of The French Laundry as inspiration and advice. Aim high we thought. Though we started by making parts of the complex recipes. These plum recipes for example are part of a dessert we kind of adapted a bit for our supperclub on March 1st.
Our interest in this technology owes itself to Sous Vide Gourmet, who sent us a machine to use in a gourmet blogger recipe challenge. They have teamed up with Donald Russell meats to challenge foodies to make a high end gourmet recipe using meat supplied by them and cooked in the sous vide machine. We used some of this supply to confit ox cheeks as part of a supper dish that we will post soon, but here are our thoughts and tips on Sous Vide as competent cooks but water bath beginners.
1. hygeine – the conditions of pressure and lack of oxygen require attention- you can cook food for extended periods, to tenderize even the toughest cuts of meat. However this must be done at a temperature that will pasteurise the food.
2. Flavour – cooking in a vacuum means flavour is packed in the effect of added seasoning and flavours is amplified. We learnt this when we first tested a lamb neck confit – 24 hours at 71 Degrees meant the texture was perfect but we added our usual dose of garlic which was unbearably strong in the cooked lamb. We have seen advice to quarter the amount of flavour you would use.
3. When putting food into bags, it is a good idea to roll the sleeve outwards to avoid soiling the edges of the bag prior to sealing it.
4. Cool the bags down in an ice bath immediately after cooking both to stop any potential bacterial growth, and to stop the cooking process.
5. Make sure the ingredients are evenly distributed in the bag to ensure even cooking.
6. If adding liquid – oils, marinade – you cannot use a vacuum sealer, you can however hold the open bags in a bowl of cold water to displace the air out and seal it that way.
7. When you put food it, it should be fridge cold – especially important for meat. This will of course bring the temperature of the water bath down so we do not start the cooking time until the correct temperature has been achieved.
8. Once cooked and cooled, you can extend the shelf life by keeping it refridgerated in the sealed bag.
Here then are our first fruity plays with the sous vide.
The poached plums, infused with the sweet spiced syrup, give sweetness and richness to counteract any acidity even within the skin. If you keep the slices in the bag for a day or two the syrup and fruit mix their flavours. You can use the pink plummy spiced syrup to make sherbet, sorbet or ice cream. The fruit makes a magnificent topping for porridge, rice pudding or other wintry comfort foods.
- 6 dark red plums
- 75g sugar
- 75g water
- half vanilla pod
- half a star anise pod
- small pinch of saffron
- Heat the sous vide to 75 Degrees C
- Put the sugar, spices and water in a saucepan and heat over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved.
- Allow to cool completely and strain to remove the anise and vanilla pods.
- Cut plums into thin wedges. Six per half plum.
- Place them into a sealable heatproof plastic bag and pour in the syrup.
- Cook for 20 minutes.
- Cool in an ice bath and store at 3 Deg C until use.
Now for the jam. In reality, the main benefit of using a sous vide here is the colour. Bright red, jewel colour. Aside from that, being able to pop the fruit into the bag and leave it to boil away unattended and unstirred may irk the serious jam maker but may please jam-loving time-oppressed individuals like me.
- 200g plums
- 1 tablespoon Vanilla sugar
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 drop anise extract
- 100g pectin sugar (more or less depending on taste)
- Heat the sousvide to 90 degrees
- Cut the plums into halves and remove the stone
- Dust the cut plums with vanilla sugar and cinnamon
- Put the plums in the bag and seal under vacuum.
- Cook for an hour.
- Cool in the ice bath
- Puree the plums in a vitamix and pass through a fine sieve into a saucepan.
- Add pectin sugar - adjust according to taste
- Cook until the jam reaches setting point (105 Deg C)
- Pour into a sterilised glass container and seal.
Disclosure: we have been provided with a Sousvide Supreme, cooking bags and vacuum sealer to write about the machine and create recipes. No other payment was received and the opinions expressed here are our own. This is a recipe competition with benefits for readers – you can vote for your favourite recipe and there is a Sousvide pack the same as we received up for grabs so we will point you in that direction in due course!