The next London Gastronomy Seminar: meat cookery and sous vide

A plug for the next London Gastronomy Seminar, which is on meat cookery and sous vide.

Westminster Kingsway College, Victoria Centre, Vincent Square, London SW1P 2PD

22nd June, 6.30pm, duration: approximately two hours. Tickets are £10/each and available from the LGS website: http://www.londongastronomyseminars.com/tickets.htm

There can be no denying that sous vide cookery is fashionable. Chefs from Alain Ducasse to Thomas Keller and Heston Blumenthal are keen proponents of cooking at low temperatures with the ingredients vacuum-packed in plastic bags. Yet sous vide technique is not an instant mark of culinary modernism. Since the French chef Georges Pralus first perfected the procedure in 1974, it has had an abiding attraction for the savvy restaurateur and event caterer, with perfect portion-control and the opportunity to prepare everything well ahead of time.

And at its most basic level, the idea behind sous vide cookery is nothing new. There is a long tradition of enclosing ingredients in an air and water-tight vessel to allow them to cook in their own vapours and preserve delicate aromas and flavours; the container might be a pig’s bladder in the case of cookery en vessie, greaseproof paper (‘en papillote’) or even a salt crust.

The novelty of the sous vide approach is in the emphasis placed upon extremely precise temperature control. Rather than briefly shocking a piece of beef at 250°C for fifteen minutes, the same cut of meat might be kept at exactly 54°C for twenty four hours or more, producing an impeccably medium-rare result with no loss of precious juices. These exactingly meticulous cooking temperatures open up an entirely new set of textural possibilities, allowing the chef absolute control.

But at what price? Are we sacrificing crispy textures at the altar of tenderness? Does it push the industrialisation of gastronomy too far? And does it remove us from an intuitive relationship with our ingredients?

Until now, the precision of properly-executed sous vide cookery has always required equipment beyond the reach of the home cook; even professional chefs have largely relied upon second-hand laboratory equipment. We are delighted to present one of the very first UK public demonstrations of a thoroughly-domesticated version of this equipment, followed by an interactive panel discussion on the merits (or otherwise) of sous vide technique.

Speakers: Morten Aas, Heiko Antoniewicz, Tom Coultate, Rowley Leigh

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