The science of flavour

Did you know that to some, cooking is as much a science as an art? The modernist cooking movement uses equipment from the laboratory to optimise the flavour from everyday ingredients.

We’re excited to welcome Murray Wilson to the Rudding Park team as Head Chef at Horto, our new pop up restaurant. Murray uses lesser known ingredients and brings out their taste through a range of methods, using state-of-the-art appliances to extract and concentrate flavour.

You may not be familiar with herbs such as sweet cicely and woodruff but they’re common in the UK. Sweet cicely can be used to replace some of the sugar in a dish and tastes like anise. Using these humble ingredients with modern techniques creates an innovative palette of flavours and textures.

Sweet cicely

Centrifugal force

Using a centrifuge allows you to quickly separate ingredients into different components. The gravitational force causes anything spun in it to neatly divide into liquid, butter and solids which can easily be skimmed off for different purposes.

The extracted liquids will have an intense flavour, and a thin, clear texture. This picture shows the liquid from peas which Murray used to make pea water, this was made from a pea puree and then filtered off.

Freezing – cookery isn’t all about heat!  

Liquid nitrogen is used to freeze ingredients in order to create new textures and shapes. Because the temperature is so low (liquid nitrogen boils at -196C), it can be used to work with liquids that typically freeze at a much lower temperature than kitchen freezers, such as alcohol.

At Horto, Murray will be using liquid nitrogen to create intensely flavoured ‘snow’. This is made by juicing and then freezing ingredients such as horseradish. The result is a finely grained, powdery finish which can be sprinkled onto dishes to create an extra zing of flavour.

Horseradish 'snow' on a spoon

Are there any methods you can use yourself?

Whilst some of the technology in modernist cooking, such as sous vide cooking, and the equipment, such as a whipping siphon, are more accessible, one thing that’s not easily replicated is the time investment. If you’re perfecting a method to use on a regular basis it might be worthwhile, but as a one-off experience for friends you’re having over for dinner, it can seem like overkill.

If you’d like to find out more, we’d recommend following Murray on Instagram (@murraykwilson) or reading EatWeeds. Otherwise, visit us at Horto and enjoy the fruits of someone else’s labours – especially if that fruit is frozen into individual buds of flavour!