Inspiration: UK chef Heston Blumenthal is known around the world for being the whimsical wizard of molecular gastronomy who uses his Michelin-starred award-winning restaurant The Fat Duck as culinary laboratory, playground, and stage. One classic recipe to emerge from his creative kitchen is “Meat Fruit”. Oh yes, Heston Blumenthal is also known for using Thermomix.
The popular Meat Fruit — which celebrates historic British fare served c.1500, using meats to replicate the different components of a (faux) fruit bowl. The Meat Fruit bowl was featured on a television series (Heston’s Medieval Feasts), and its Mandarin component (£12.50) now heads the starter menu at London’s newly opened Dinner by Heston Blumenthal.
What you’re served looks to all intents and purposes like a glossy tangerine, complete with brilliant green stalk and leaves. You break the skin – actually, mandarin jelly of great refinement – to find perfect chicken liver parfait, subtle, supple, rich in the way that millionaires used to be rich, with elegant and understated good taste.
And in the Guardian’s video review of the restaurant (which also includes a brief explanation of Meat Fruit by Heston), Tony Naler called the Mandarin Meat Fruit “incredibly light, incredibly Moorish at the same time… incredibly intensely flavoured”. “Bizarrely,” he says, “you could eat this all day.”
In a review for The Londonist, Ben Norum says this:
The obligatory Meat Fruit kicked things off with a fanfare and a cheeky wink, with the most unctuously, yet subtly, rich chicken liver parfait we’ve ever tasted donning a thin jelly shell and masquerading as a mandarin. It wasn’t all for show, either. The citrus casing cut through the velvety creaminess in a way that is tempting to liken to a savoury Terry’s Chocolate Orange, though this probably doesn’t do it justice.
Having now made the Mandarin Meat Fruit in my Thermomix kitchen, I couldn’t agree more. It’s a fun, festive, quietly seductive savoury treat. Consider yourselves warned. Mandarin Meat Fruit is quite possibly the “bad boy” of molecular gastronomic fare. Pretty on the outside but hiding a sly secret inside. Impossible to resist. Demands to be devoured and leaves you wanting more.
So on discovering the mandarin Meat Fruit recipe on the Guardian website recently, I was surprised and inspired. (The nervousness at taking on such an onerous recipe came later.) I quickly read through the recipe and determined that, even though we are forewarned about Mandarin Meat Fruit requiring the better part of a week to execute, it would all be straightforward. Hey — Heston uses a Thermomix, and I have a Thermomix — so it must be straightforward, right?
Reality sets in. There can be a great difference between reading a recipe and following it through to a successful serving. Though the Guardian’s recipe seemed straightforward enough, I was fully up to my waist in ingredients (mostly alcoholic) before I realized the recipe didn’t specify how long to cook the meat, nor at what temperature to set the oven, or how exactly to make the fruit puree. Plus I had chosen to add the challenge of finding common domestic substitutions for Heston’s more professional tools: the sous-vide machine and blow torch. And, I planned to use the Thermomix for a few more applications than specified. Heston uses the Thermomix only once: for blending the liver ingredients. My version uses Thermomix for preparing marinade, pre-cooking the livers, blending the parfait, cooking the mandarin puree, blending the gelatin, preparing the jelly and re-warming the jelly.
For reasons of frugality, I also substituted two of the four bottles of alcohol required. With all due respect to Heston, I am too frugal to buy two kinds of port, and Madeira, plus brandy. Since the purpose of this recipe’s alcohol is solely to create a reduction, I chose to compromise and make do with what was at hand (substitutions are shown below).
Simply, more fun. Heston’s in-house recipe uses a combination of foie-gras and chicken livers for the parfait filling. On Heston’s recommendation this was reduced to simply chicken livers for preparation by home cooks when published in the Guardian. After successfully completed it once (with modifications and some second guessing) I found that in terms of time and techniques required it was somewhat prohibitive for the average cook. So with all due respect to dear Heston I have adjusted his recipe further so that even more Thermomix fans can enjoy making Mandarin Meat Fruit at home. (This recipe is so flavourful and fun, it deserves to be made and enjoyed by many!) From personal experience I believe this final ‘recipe reduction’ upholds the flavours and textures of the dish without compromising its outcome. The creamy, seductive liver parfait interior and outer mandarin jelly skin may not be as exquisitely perfect as when made by Heston’s hand, but close enough. The result was smooth and flavourful enough to make make dinner guests swoon while being whimsical enough to delight all.
Plan ahead. There are three parts to this recipe. The liver parfait interior is prepared first and must be frozen in domed moulds before proceeding. A coating of fruity gelatine is applied to frozen parfait. This requires that you have prepared a mandarin puree in advance. After the mandarin (liver) balls are covered in orange gelatin they will need to thaw before serving. By following Heston’s recipe, the process takes upwards of four days to complete. My version below allows you to set the pace: it can be completed in as little as two days, or you can extend the time between freezing the parfait and coating it, to suit your schedule.
Meat Fruit Mandarin
This recipe makes two terrines (of about 700 ml each) from which you can make about 10 meat mandarins, depending on the size of your moulds. Special equipment needed: dome-shaped molds or small silicone pinch bowls, thermometer for testing inner temperature of the parfait.
100 g (3.5 oz) shallots, peeled
1 clove garlic, peeled
15 g (0.5 oz) sprigs of thyme, tied with string
150 g (5.3 oz) dry Madeira (I used Marsala)
150 g (5.3 oz) ruby port
75 g (2.6 oz) white port (I used ruby port)
50 g (1.8 oz) brandy
1 Tbsp. table salt
400 g (14 oz) chicken livers (trimmed weight)
240 g (8.5 oz) eggs (I used 5 large eggs)
300 g (10.5 oz) unsalted butter (cut into chunks, and warmed to room temp.)
- Day 1: turn on Thermomix to speed 6 and drop garlic on running blades, quickly add the shallots and turn off the machine immediately. Add the alcohol and thyme. Set aside to marinate for a minimum of 4 hours, or overnight.
Later on Day 1 or early on Day 2: Return the shallot/thyme marinade to the Thermomix bowl and cook with measuring cap off for 25 minutes/Varoma/REVERSE/soft stir, to reduce until “nearly all the liquid has evaporated”. Timing may vary slightly depending on the temperature of your marinade at start. (The original recipe is vague about how much liquid should remain after reduction.) Discard thyme. (Remove any thyme stems that may have become disengaged from the bundle. It’s okay to have a few leaves in the mix, but not stems.)
- Add chicken livers and salt to remaining marinade. Blend for 2 minutes/speed 8. Scrape the contents down sides of bowl with spatula. Add eggs and blend 30 seconds/speed 8. Add butter and process 4 minutes/50°C/120ºF/gradually increasing to speed 10. (This is a good time to pre-heat the oven and prepare the bain-marie.)
- Divide the liver purée into 2 terrine dishes, place into a bain-marie (water bath), cover with foil and bake for about 40 minutes at 150°C/300°F or until centre reaches 64°C/148°F. Allow to cool. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
- Once thoroughly chilled use a spoon or spatula to fill dome moulds with parfait, ensuring there is enough pressure to create a completely smooth surface. Level off the tops so that they are flat, and cover with clingfilm. Gently press the clingfilm directly onto the surface of the parfait. Place in the freezer until completely frozen.
500 g. (17.6 oz) (fresh mandarin oranges (skins and seeds removed)
100 g. (3.5 oz) water or juice (to enhance colour use orange, mango, guava, or a blended juice)
- (You can make the purée on the first day and refrigerate, or make it on the second day prior to preparing the jelly.) Put mandarin pieces into Thermomix bowl and chop 5 seconds/speed 4.
- Add water or juice and cook 30 minutes/100°C/212ºF/slow stir.
- Purée for 30 seconds/speed 8. Store in fridge or proceed to jelly preparation.
45 g (1.6 oz) leaf gelatine (I used regular Dr. Oetkers, nothing fancy, needs 4.5 packages)
500 g (17.6 oz) mandarin purée
80 g (2.8 oz) glucose (I substituted corn syrup)
optional for enhancing the purée: 4 drops mandarin oil, 1/4 tsp. paprika, large pinch saffron
- Place the gelatine in a large bowl of cold water to “bloom” or soften. Separate the leaves gently to ensure thorough blooming. (Learn more about how to use gelatine from this excellent explanation from Madalene at British Pantry)
- Gently warm mandarin purée in Thermomix bowl for a few minutes at 37°C on slow stir. Add the glucose and keep slow stirring at 37°C/100ºF until gelatine is ready. Add gelatine to the purée and blend gently for about 40 seconds/37°C/100ºF/REVERSE/speed 2-3 to combine. If using optional ingredients add these now and stir for additional few seconds.
- Pass the mix through a fine sieve and reserve in the fridge until required. (It will solidify in the fridge but don’t worry, it will be melted again later.)
Assembly of the meat fruits: (special equipment required: skewers)
- Gently unmould the parfait domes. Here, Heston warms the flat surfaces with a blow torch. If you don’t have a blow torch you can warm the surface by inverting the dome onto a slightly warmed pan or baking sheet. It’s important to do this gently and carefully so as to just barely melt the surface of the parfait. Join two halves together and compress. If warm parfait squeezes out the middle, use a spatula or pastry knife to trim it clean. Wrap well in clingfilm and place back in the freezer.
- Heat a metal skewer on the stove and gently push into each frozen fruit. As you remove the hot skewer, quickly insert a wooden cocktail stick or skewer in it’s place and re-wrap and refreeze until all the parfaits are complete. (If you have enough metal skewers, you may not need to use wooden sticks.)
- Now it’s time to melt the mandarin jelly by warming it to about 37°C. You can do this by heating gently on the stove, or by warming in Thermomix on REVERSE, slow stir for a few minutes till melted. Allow jelly to cool to room temperature. The Guardian says, “Remove the clingfilm and dip each ball of parfait into the jelly and stand the sticks, covered in clingfilm, into a piece of Oasis (the green material you get in florist shops to help the flowers stand up). Place in the fridge for a minute, then repeat the dipping process.” (I did not apply the cling film between layers of jelly and it didn’t seem to make a difference…)
>> click to see a brief video demonstration of this process
- Dip three times, and when set, gently remove sticks. Place balls onto a tray covered in clingfilm. Place a lid over the tray and set in the fridge to thaw before serving, approx. 6 hours.
- Once thawed, gently press on the top of each ball with thumb to create the indented “collar’ shape of a mandarin. Add a stem and leaf to complete the fruit and… voila!
- see the original recipe as published by the Guardian
- see Meat Fruit mentioned on Guardian review
(watch for images & insights at 3:45 and 4:18 marks)
and more in this review from Bites of London
- see more about Heston Blumenthal using Thermomix
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