The World’s Most Expensive Foods

Posted on: February 23rd, 2010 Posted by

You would not think that a mushroom could cost a lot of money. Most of us pick up a box in the supermarket for around £1.50. However, the matsutake mushroom costs in the region of £500 per pound. These mushrooms were previously very common in Japan during the autumn months but an insect has since threatened the crops by killing the trees that the mushrooms previously grew underneath. This means that the matsutake Mushrooms have become incredibly rare and sought after. There have been no developments with regards to growing these specifically as foodstuffs and until such farming methods are developed, they will continue to be expensive.

Reasonably-priced mushrooms get my vote.

Rather unbelievably, the humble melon has relatives which are amongst the most expensive foods in the world – the dansuke watermelon and the yubari melon. The dansuke melon comes in at around £3,000. These Japanese watermelons are extremely rare with only around 65 being produced in each harvest. Apparently they are sweeter than other melons. The yubari melons are a whole new level of expense, retailing around £11,000 – yes, you read that correctly.

Again, in terms of reasonably priced foodstuffs, bagels are a staple – £2 for a packet and even once you buy toppings for your bagels your total food bill would probably only come to around a fiver. You would have to take more money with you if you were considering dining at the Westin Hotel in New York. Executive Chef Frank Tujague has created the most expensive bagel in the world at a cost of $1,000. You may question how a bagel could possibly cost this much. It is all down to the incredibly expensive toppings. Tujague is topped with Riesling jelly infused with goji berry, actual gold leaves and white truffle cream cheese. White truffles alone are the second most expensive food by weight in the world.

Reasonably-priced melons also get my vote.

Another expensive restaurant item is billed as the ‘zillion dollar frittata’, again costing $1,000. Frittata is an egg-based dish and eggs are not expensive but the other ingredients in this frittata are lobster and sevruga caviar. The menu listing reads ‘Norma dares you to expense this!’

The most elite steak in the world is the wagyu steak from wagyu cattle which are predominantly found in Japan. It is the Kobe variety which is the most sought after. You have probably heard people talking about Kobe beef. These cows which produce Kobe beef are fed on beer (I know many men who like the sound of that diet) and are hand massaged to promote tenderness of the meat. It sounds like these cows have quite the life. A full Kobe rib eye steak would cost in the region of £1,400. With the hefty price tag also comes an unhealthy fat content.

Most of us enjoy eating curry, but would you enjoy it quite so much if it was costing in the region of £1,600? This was a one-off curry which was created to coincide with the DVD release of Slumdog Millionaire. The Bombay Brasserie concocted curries from the most expensive ingredients in the world including white truffle, Devon crab, beluga caviar, gold leaf, quails eggs and lobster.

It seems only fitting that we pay homage to the most expensive pizza in the world, costing around £2,000. It is the Pizza Royale 007 from Domenico Crolla. As with the previous dishes it is stacked full of expensive ingredients such as caviar soaked in champagne, venison medallions and vintage balsamic vinegar. It is topped with real gold flakes.

An acquired taste.

We have heard about many dishes using caviar. The most expensive caviar is Almas caviar from Iran which is as rare as it is expensive at around £16,000 for a kilo. For this money it is packaged in a 24-karat gold tin. It is, apparently, an acquired taste.

Truffles are the most expensive food items in the world – not the Belgian chocolate variety. The food which is often referred to as ‘the king of all funghi’, truffles are very rare which is why they are so expensive, with an Italian White Alba Truffle costing up to around £80,000.

These are the cheap truffles.

And so we find ourselves at the most expensive spice in the world – saffron. It always seems strange to think that a spice can be as costly as this since it consists of flavoured grains which are smaller in consistency than sand. However, this spice comes from the saffron crocus and it actually requires 225,000 hand-picked stigmas or 75,000 blossoms to produce just one pound of saffron. That pound of saffron can subsequently be sold for around £2,500. Unsurprisingly, this spice is used sparingly by anyone who has the funds to actually afford it.

And so there we have it, foods which the average Joe will never afford unless he is lucky enough to win the lottery. And even then, would he actually wish to eat them?

Who is the Greatest TV Chef of Them All?

Posted on: February 18th, 2010 Posted by

TV shows like America’s Iron Chef have got us thinking about who the greatest TV chef really is.

Cooks started appearing on television almost as soon as it had become commercially available across the Western world, with Fanny Cradock one of the most popular in the mid to late 50s.

Looking back, it’s hard to believe the BBC put up with Fanny’s (self-confessed) rudeness and dismissive traits, but she did bring affordable yet gourmet food to people, and there’s no denying she was a fantastic cook. TV chefs having larger-than-life personas ballooned in the noughties and we’ve now got personalities like shouty-sweary Gordon Ramsay and no-nonsense Marco Pierre White. But wouldn’t we rather be on edge about whether food will surprise us or not, rather than whether the chef who cooked it is going to reign terror over our evenings? We’re not talking about who the best entertainer is, or who can beat the most professional chefs, we’re talking about who is the best at teaching people about cooking, whilst injecting some passion into the process.

These TV chefs include the likes of Julia Child. It’d be great to say that Julia’s UK equivalent was Fanny Cradock, but while they were popular on TV at around the same time, these two couldn’t be less alike. Child won her audiences with warm American humour, whereas Cradock was often cruel and entertaining because she put the audience on edge.

Jamie Oliver has brought healthy cooking to the masses.

Jamie and Heston

Jamie Oliver and Heston Blumenthal are hard to decide on, as it seems you either love them or hate them. In comparison to Ramsay, they’re the Kings of Cool. Not only is Blumenthal self-taught to Michelin star standard, composed and relaxed, but he’s passionate about the science behind cooking and is definitely not short of creative influence too. Does that sound like sucking up? Sorry, can’t help it. These guys are great!

Bourdain and Pepin

While we’re on the subject of raw cooking talent, we couldn’t possibly ignore America’s Anthony Bourdain, an ex-executive chef of Brasserie Les Halles. Okay so he doesn’t have his own cooking show as such, but his ‘A Cook’s Tour’ is a huge hit and we know he’s not short of presenting skills. We say give this man a cookery show (if he wants one) and bring his own expertise to the people.

In a similar vein we have US-based French professional chef Pepin. What great chefs like Delia Smith may lack in spark, inspiration and brutal honesty, Pepin more than makes up for. His pooh-poohing of Ming Tsai’s opinions shows us his confidence in his own tastes and how great he is at subtle entertainment (which is exactly what we like in a cookery show).

Anthony Bourdain: a true cook.

Alton Brown

Not so subtle is US chef Alton Brown. He’s never been professionally trained or qualified, but neither has Blumenthal so Brown earns his place on the list for his great cooking skills. This TV chef could arguably be bringing in the younger audience with his very visual cooking programmes and silly ways of explaining the science behind certain dishes and individual ingredients.

Keith Floyd

The 1990s gave birth to classic English gentlemen in the kitchen, such as Nigel Slater, Rick Stein and, of course, Keith Floyd. The UK said a sad goodbye to Keith in late 2009, but we’re fairly sure his love of alcohol with food and his quirky, flamboyant presenting skills will continue to inspire people to cook, without a need for organization or precision.

After much deliberation we just can’t decide who the greatest TV chef of all time actually is. Heston Blumenthal, Julia Child, Jacques Pepin and Jamie Oliver are all in the running, after some painstaking whittling. Heston and Jamie won’t appeal to everyone, but then Child and Pepin may be too subtle and conventional to suit all tastes.

What we want to ask is: who is your favourite TV chef of all time, and why are they better than their competition?

Heston Blumenthal’s Most Amazing Creations

Posted on: February 11th, 2010 Posted by

When faced with the dilemma of whether Heston Blumenthal is crazy or misunderstood, we tend to stick in the second camp. Some of his concepts such as snail porridge err on the side of disgusting, certainly, yet this Chef and Officer of the British Empire has produced some awe inspiring creations over the past decade…

This is where the Heston magic happens.

Absinthe Jelly

Good presentation and an element of surprise seem to go hand in hand for Heston Blumenthal, and he certainly didn’t hold back here. This dish may have looked like something out of a 90s Lucas Arts video game, but it didn’t look repulsive. Served on what Heston called his ‘wobble-box’, the conical three foot high luminous (and glowing!) jelly wobbled two and fro quite spectacularly. Somehow the Michelin-star chef managed to inject a glow in the dark, yet edible, chemical into the jelly as well as the absinthe and luscious green colour. I love how it looks almost cuddly, yet there’s an element of danger with this dish: gobble down too much and the green fairy will floor you.

Nitro Green Tea and Lime Mousse Palette Cleanser

You can’t talk about Heston Blumenthal’s most amazing creations without mentioning liquid nitrogen. He’s used it in a number of dishes, but not simply to make things look like they’re smoking. With this dish Heston uses liquid nitrogen (also known as ‘dry ice’) to instantly cook a tiny green tea and lime flavoured ‘meringue’ palette. It’s designed to pop and melt in the mouth and we’re quite impressed that Mr. Blumenthal has merged a Willy Wonka-esque physical experience with a basic concept like a palette cleanser.

Alice in Wonderland Drink Me Drink

Cherry pie followed by turkey might not be everyone’s idea of ‘amazing’. As with many of Heston’s creations, however, you must trust his expertise as the owner of a Michelin starred restaurant and take his mixture of sweet and savoury with a pinch of…custard.

This creation is based on the drink featured in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, originally found by Alice herself inside a tiny corked bottle with a tag stating ‘DRINK ME’. Aside from the beverage causing Alice to become just inches tall, she remarks that it tasted first of toffee, then hot buttered toast followed by custard, cherry tart and finally turkey and it’s this sequence of flavours that Heston decided to recreate.

Concocted by infusing each food in milk for twenty four hours, Heston then thickened each layer up and dyed them the same shade of pink so the taster was unable to tell when the next course would come. Served in a test tube with an inverse straw, the consumer could walk around a dinner party enjoying a number of (perhaps ill-matched) flavours. It may not be the most palatable of party pieces, but who says that everyone must copy these flavours identically?

The man himself.

Jelly of Quail, Langoustine cream, parfait of Fois Gras, oak moss and truffle toast (homage to Alain Chapel)

The Oak Moss dish is served at Heston Blumenthal’s Michelin starred restaurant in Bray, Berkshire: The Fat Duck. You can experience it on the ‘taste menu’ which also includes nitro green tea and lime mousse (amongst 14 other courses).

To start off the dish you are served strips of ‘flavour’ which strongly resemble those ‘Thin Ice’ breath strips Wrigley’s released a few years ago. Whilst you enjoy these, a wooden box filled with oak moss is brought to the table and filled with dry ice (liquid nitrogen). Of course, you don’t eat the moss, but it’s there to create the appearance and aroma of a forest before you’re brought jelly of quail served in langoustine cream with parfait of fois gras. The truffle toast is served separately on a wooden block.

You may argue that anyone can create something as bizarre as snail porridge, but this particular piece is nothing short of fantastic (or fantastical) for bringing the unusual sights, tastes and smells of a fresh woodland to a typical restaurant environment.

The ‘Not-so-full-English Breakfast’

Just when you thought you’d seen the last of Blumenthal’s love affair with liquid nitrogen, along comes the ‘Not-So-Full-English-Breakfast’. The first dish on this menu, parsnip ‘flakes’, is served in a miniature cereal box (much like the ones you get in a Kellogg’s variety pack) and with a jug of parsnip flavoured milk. Next comes egg and bacon ice cream, created instantly at the table using liquid nitrogen to freeze it there and then. This is served on pain perdu (eggy bread, to you and me) with tomato jelly and a stick of faux-bacon (something much lighter than the meat which is flavoured).

To finish Heston’s English breakfast off, you are served ‘hot and iced tea’ which appears to be a simple cup of tea, but it is hot at the top, and freezing cold at the bottom. How does he do it? We’ve no idea! All we know is that this is a new breed of breakfast peppered with humour, but not necessarily one we’d want to eat at 7.30am rushing out of the door.

Foods of Europe

Posted on: February 4th, 2010 Posted by

England – Fish and Chips

There’s not another meal that represents England like fish and chips. Lazing on a sunny beach with family or friends with the sand between your toes eating a box of fish and chips is a perfect day to some people. Many types of fish are used, the most common being cod, haddock and place.

Wales – Cawl Stew
A traditional hearty Welsh stew, made with meat and vegetables boiled in water. There are many variations in the ingredients used in the stew – traditionally beef is used but pork is another variant with bacon often used to add different flavors. Leeks, potatoes, carrots, celery, onion, parsnips and turnips are the usual vegetables used. When served, bread is often use to accompany the cawl to soak up the broth. The word cawl was used in the 14th century and means ‘to mess it up’.

If ya can’t beat ‘em, eat ‘em.

Scotland – Haggis
Now, haggis may not seem like the most appealing meal, with the main ingredients being offal (lungs, heart, liver), onion, suet, oatmeal, spices, salt and pepper, all boiled in a sheep’s stomach, but it’s deliciosu. When served, the haggis is accompanied with neeps and tatties (swede, turnip and potatoes mashed with a dram of whisky). The first recipe for haggis was made in 1430.

Ireland – Boxty
A simple potato cake made from grated potato, egg, buttermilk, salt, pepper and baking soda, simply fried in a griddle pan and often served with other meals such as beef. A poem was written about boxty: ‘Boxty on the griddle, Boxty in the pan, If you can’t make boxty, You’ll never get a man’.

Hot!-Hot!

Italy – Pizza
Italians only need 4 ingredients and a stone oven to make the perfect pizza: dough, San Marzano tomatoes grown in Campania, fresh basil and water buffalo mozzarella. The dough is made from Italian wheat flour, natural Neapolitan yeast, salt and water, always kneaded by hand or mixed very slowly with a mixer. As soon as the pizza base is formed, the toppings go on then the pizza is baked for 60-90 seconds in a stone or brick oven. The ovens are a blistering 485 °C to cook the pizza without destroying the delicate fragrant taste of the basil. The Neapolitan pizza topping symbolizes the Italian flag’s green, white and red.

Spain – Paella
Cooked in a giant pan, paella is a mix of spices, seafood, rice, stock and sometimes meat (chicken). Calasparra rice is used by most chefs, as well as good olive oil and saffron. There are many variants of paella. Valencian paella has snails and peppers and beans. Prawns and other seafood such as clams and mussels are placed on top of the cooked rice and fish to steam under a lid. Paella is served hot with wedges of lemon.

Oh yes!

Greece – Moussaka
This Greek meal is made by layering sautéed aubergine, potato, garlic, meat (traditionally lamb), herbs, spices, seasoning and finished with a béchamel sauce poured on top. The veggies used can be replaced with other vegetables. Some countries pour egg custard on top, but béchamel is traditionally used. After each ingredient is cooked and layered, the sauce is poured on top and baked. Moussaka is eaten luke warm but can be eaten straight from the oven.

France – Frog legs/ Escargot (Snails)
The French are known for the unusual ingredients they use. Escargot are commonly cooked with garlic butter and served in the shell. Frog legs are traditionally eaten in Dombes and Lyon, and are cooked with garlic and parsley butter and served with salad or rice.