I learn from Dr Glycol about his latest chemical cooking experiment.
‘I’ve been cornered’ he said. ‘I agreed to try out an upmarket product. Marks and Spencer actually.’
It seemed our mutual friend Cordon Bleu Judy had decided Glycol would change his ways, if he would only try food cooked with what he called unnecessary ingredients, and what the rest of the world consider to be flavourings and cooking enhancers.
‘What happened?’ I asked.
‘I first established essential absences in the product. I am particularly averse to garlic, onions, and most sauces. At least Judy knows that. The product was acceptable in that respect. ways of preparing a meal according to the newspapers and TV programmes that I’ve given up on’
He opened his iPad to show me the notes of what he called his experiment. He kindly supplied me the page from his cookbook cum laboratory notebook.
Stated ingredients on the sleeve of the product
Serves 2. Of course it serves 2. Almost impossible to obtain these meals for an individual.
Stock I’m prepared to count stock as a single ingredient
Salt. I don’t approve of more salt in my diet
A Few traces of Maltodextrin flavouring. Harmless.
Acidity regulator. E500. Checks food chemicals handbook. Might have guessed, and old friend, Sodium Carbonate. Avoids acid tastes. Bonus of reducing bug growth. But not baking soda. E500 found in non- cooking product manufacture like soaps and glass.
Dried vinegar. How can you dry vinegar. This is peculiar chemistry.
Fan 180C 35 Minutes plus 10 min rest.
Baste occasionally. Makes sense, if only to check the chemical reaction is proceeding as expected, no grave blunder in temperature or timing.
For my experiment I will operate with minimal additional ingredients, namely potatoes and peas from frozen.
Choose four potatoes with least levels of sprouting. Enough for the two meals I am planning, one to eat, one for tomorrow.
I do a baste check. No juices to baste. Not yet anyway.
Glass of wine. First to hand. Jack Rabbit Shiraz. Another Christmas present, probably. It’s OK. No unpleasant aromas or after taste. Am I losing sense of smell, as per COVID symptom?
Oven only now reaches 180C Add five minutes to finish at 7.00 pm, based on observations.
Chicken top skin wrinkling nicely. Basting difficult. Too tight a fit in dish. Eventually manage with a honey spoon I rarely use. Note as example of everyday creativity.
Add potatoes to boiling water.
Clear space for carving. Will ignore M&S advice to use a carving board. Better to use a plate which captures fluids. Find I have a knife and a two pronged fork but no safety guard.
Health and Safety warning. Absence of guard on fork is why I’m so cautious.
Time for the peas. In with the potatoes, obviously.
One more baste and synchronised end for chicken and veg.
Lamb to settle for 10 minutes. To avoid cold veg I will reduce settling time.
Veg and lamb finish simultaneously.
Carving reveals not so much medium as rare. Put residuals half back for 10 min.for tomorrow’s meal
Product tasting starts
I asked Dr Gycol for his conclusions drawn from his experiment
‘I can see the need for the extra ingredients needed if the product is intended to replicate the fresh meat experience. There’s a lot of chemistry in balancing taste and texture. Also in mass manufacture the are scale up problems. Mass production may not have the same quality as lamb purchased from the butcher’s.
I underestimated the time to stop the chemical reactions. But promising.
I’ll give it another try.’
‘That’s very noble of you’ I say.
‘I think I’ve explained it so that even non-chemists can grasp the fundamentals of minimal ingredients chemistry’ he said.
‘I think you probably have’ I replied.
Dr Glycol would like to thank Cordon Bleu Judy for provision of the M&S Boneless Lamb Leg Joint used in his experiment.