Sous Vide Cooking Is Futuristic

I was not a foodie nor a fitness enthusiast once upon a time. I didn’t watch what I ate and I hardly exercised. I had gotten lucky with genes that had gifted me a high metabolic rate. But, pregnancy and childbirth changed all of that. Knocking off post pregnancy weight became a daunting task, but I quickly learnt to eat right and workout hard, kind of fast and furious!

I have come a long way since then and so has my love for a healthy and fit body. I fell in love with mediterranean cuisine, replete with fruits and vegetables. I now don the chef cap often at home, but the focus is on healthy, wholesome yet low calorie food.

I had thoroughly enjoyed watching John Wells movie “BURNT” starring the brilliant Bradley Cooper and was in complete awe of the kitchen scenes. As serendipity would have it I dined at Novella, the rooftop poolside restaurant in Hablis Hotels that serves European fusion food the very next day. The Head Chef walked to our table to chat us up in ‘that’ inimitable way and he turned out to be a product of the Michelin Star hotel in London. I was fascinated! To appease my curiosity, Chef Sathya (CS) took me over to the cooking counters and pointed to a compact machine which bubbled with water and some food packets. “So that is the secret of the fine food you just tasted, its called sous-vide cooking”, he said.

sous vide equipment

Sous-vide apparatus

I found it so interesting, I had to write about it. So here goes…….

Me : Tell me what is this sous-vide cooking all about.

CS : Sous-vide literally means ‘under vacuum’ in French. It is a method of cooking wherein food is sealed in air-tight plastic bags and placed in a temperature controlled water bath, or a steam environment. The temperatures set in this method are generally much lower than normal cooking, typically around 55-60° C (131-140° F) for meat, and higher for vegetables.

Me : What is the advantage of this method of cooking?

CS : It ensures that the insides as well as the outer layers of the food are uniformly cooked and retain moisture.

Me : So, no water is used to cook the food?

CS : Yes, sealing the food in air-tight plastic bags retains the juices and the aroma that otherwise would get lost in the process. Every food has a certain desired final cooking temperature. So by setting that temperature we avoid over-cooking, because the food cannot get hotter than the bath it is in. With proper setting of time and temperature, even irregularly shaped or thick items get cooked uniformly.

Me : Why is temperature control so important?

CS : Because lower temperatures result in much higher succulence. Unlike food cooked on high temperatures, sous-vide cooking method does not allow cell walls in the food to burst. Meats do not lose their moisture and vegetables while being cooked just right (and pasteurised too) attain a somewhat firm and crisp texture. Besides, the spices and ingredients added and enclosed  within the bag transfer their flavour directly to the item being cooked.

There are three simple steps to cook the sous-vide way:

  1. Season the food with your favourite herbs and spices
  2. Vacuum seal the food in a food grade plastic pouch
  3. Drop the pouch in the water bath with the set temperature and walk away to attend to other jobs.

Me : All this sounds too cool. So is this the best method to cook then?

CS : There is only one limitation, that of browning. Since the flavour or the texture achieved by the browning of the food cannot be obtained with the sous-vide cooking technique, we do it before or after placing it in the water bath, by a simple ‘searing’ that gives us the best of both the worlds.

Me : How safe is food cooked this way? What about using the plastic bags?

CS : It is perfectly safe to eat food cooked the sous-vide way, because time and temperature compliment each other in rendering it safe. However, people prescribed pasteurised food can avoid it.

Food grade plastic, polyethylene is used to prepare these specially formulated bags, hence no cause for concern.

Now for some vegetables………

IMG_5209

Vegetables ready to be cooked the sous-vide way

Me : So is this method of cooking only for restaurants or can we use it for domestic cooking too?

CS : Sous-vide cooking technique is used in many high-end gourmet restaurants by master chefs all over the world. Amtrack, the popular American passenger rail-road service uses this method for meals served on their trains. Sous-vide cooking has taken cooking shows on television by storm. Non-professional cooks have started using this method too because it is hassle free. In our restaurant kitchens, we use the most superior sous-vide equipment, but less expensive ones are being made available for domestic cooking in the last few years.

Sir Benjamin Thompson first introduced this technique as long back as 1799 and since then has gone through a lot of improvements to make it the technique it is today.

Me : What kind of foods can you cook sous vide?

CS : All kinds actually! Meats like beef, pork, lamb, chicken, or poultry. Fish and sea-food are best cooked the sous-vide way as there is no fear of over-cooking. Almost all kinds of vegetables and fruits cooked this way yield delicious results. You can even make custard-style ice cream base, béarnaise sauce, crème anglaise, custards, cheese, yogurt, beer, and some cakes. Just about anything that requires a precise temperature to cook properly can be a candidate for sous vide cooking.

 

A few basic food safety tips :

Whether cooking sous vide or with other techniques, it is best to follow these practices :

  • Make sure food is fresh, of high quality and thoroughly cleaned.
  • Don’t cross contaminate – use separate cutting boards and storage units for different food, such as vegetables, fish, fruit, poultry, and meat.
  • Cook all food properly. Most bacteria are killed at 130F/54.5C, and most sous vide cooking temperatures are higher than that, but it’s a matter of both temperature and time as mentioned earlier.
  • Serve food right away or follow proper storage and chilling practices, so that you do not leave food out at unsafe temperatures for more than an hour.

For additional food safety and handling tips, we recommend visiting an approved food safety site such as www.foodsafety.govwww.foodsafety.org or www.fda.gov

And here is a site to find sous-vide recipes : Anova .

My main course had arrived at my table and we walked back. Chef Sathya pointed out to the braised lamb on my plate and said meats from sous-vide cooking always emerged more pink and juicier. And he added, “when cooking sous vide, most foods will taste just as good even if they spend a few extra minutes at a target temperature, letting you relax and attend to the more interesting and creative aspects of cooking. A final important benefit is that the closed bag creates a fully humid environment that effectively braises the food, so ingredients cooked this way are often noticeably juicier and tender”.

He took leave of us with a promise of putting together a sous-vide workshop soon if we could form a group and give him a date. So, if you are from Chennai and are keen on familiarising yourself with sous-vide method of cooking or dining at their fine-dining rooftop restaurant, you can contact :

Address

Hablis Hotels, 19 GST Road, Guindy, Chennai 600032. Tel : +91 4023 5555

 

Spinach Powder Smoothie And A Dip In A Jiffy

I could write an Ode to Spinach, the most loved of the ‘greens’ that tops the list of weight watchers’ must-eats. And that translates to having it handy most days of the week, right ? Well confession time : Not all of us are organised enough to have a well-stocked fridge on all days, at least I am not! I know how it feels to be stranded, been there often!!

Dried Spinach Powder has come to my rescue from the time I was gifted a tiny 50 gms jar of the marvel powder by Hablis Hotels while I dined at their rooftop, open-air restaurant, Hab-Life Novella. I have now bought for myself a bigger jar of the Spinach Powder from the hotel and have donned the chef’s hat experimenting as often as possible. My previous blog titled ‘Spinach Powder, The King Of Super Foods’ is almost an ode to it, but in prose!! Listing it multitudinous benefits, check it out in the link above.

This post is a continuation with a couple of simple recipes using dried Spinach Powder. It is so versatile, you could use it in almost every dish, barring the desserts of course!

I whipped up this yummy spinach powder smoothie for myself at breakfast along with two scrambled eggs. My son took a sip of it and asked for it to be his post-workout meal. That was my woohoo moment, I had won over one member of my family to Spinach Powder. You will see for yourself how wholesome the smoothie is. He did add a scoop and a half of his whey protein by the way to suit his heavy workout.

Spinach Banana Smoothie With Dried Spinach Powder

banana and spinach powder smoothie, breakfast or post workout meal option, my thought lane

Banana and Spinach Powder smoothie

INGREDIENTS :

  • 1 ripe banana (medium-sized)
  • 1 tsp Greek yogurt (regular, firm, low cal curd will do as well. Just make sure it’s not sour)
  • 1 tsp peanut butter or almond butter
  • 1 tsp organic honey
  • 1 tsp dried spinach powder.

DIRECTIONS :

  • Blend all of the above to a fine, smooth consistency and you have a yummy green smoothie in 5 minutes.

Serving :

  • 1 tall glass, good for one person.

I believe in consuming my health food and drink fresh and therefore haven’t tried chilling the smoothie or preserving it for later use. If you do try, I would love to hear from you in the comments.

Here is another simple spinach powder recipe that I tried at an evening with some friends that came home for dinner. Served it with fresh vegetables , but it went well with nachos too. A perfect hors d’oeuvre accompaniment.

Tofu Spinach Dip With Dried Spinach Powder

tofu and spinach powder dip, my thought lane

Tofu and Spinach Powder dip. Image Courtesy : Yummly

INGREDIENTS :

  • ½ organic Tofu slab – medium firm and drained
  • 2 tsps dried spinach powder
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 4 tbsps lemon juice
  • ¼ yellow onion
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsps nutritional yeast
  • Pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS :

Add tofu and all the other ingredients to the bowl of a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. It took me under 10 minutes to get this Tofu and Spinach dip done, thanks to the dried spinach powder.

Serving :

  • 2-3 cups.

I am looking forward to trying out more recipes where I can substitute fresh spinach with dried Spinach Powder and will post them soon (if they turn out well!!)

In the meantime, if you want to buy dried organic Spinach Powder, you can head to :

dried spinach powder, my thought lane

The goodness of Spinach in a jar, Spinach Powder fro Hab-Life

Hablis Hotels, 19 GST Road, Guindy, Chennai 600032, India, Tel : 91 44 4023 5555. Ask to be connected to SPICE restaurant to buy their merchandise.

Wishing Wellness ! So long !