The guests arrive, take off their coats, mill and chat in the foyer of the space. On a low table there is a glass bowl of water scented with mixed herbs and flowers for people to wash their hands. They kneel at the table while one of the chefs washes their hands, then dries them under a long tablecloth. Drinks are served by a jovial barman. There is a choice of alcoholic and non-alcoholic, smoked and gaseous beverages. Bite-sized finger food arrives on sonic trays served by the gracious waiters and the two chefs. Soft sounds of crunching, popping and bubbling emerge from small speakers placed in the middle of the trays. Sounds of eating in and around the mouth mixing with chatter and whispers. Smoked potato skins and quail eggs, steamed syrup on a crunchy cracker, popping peppers, smoky water, bubbly wine and tea.
The first amuse-bouche at Smoke & Vapour playfully questions the boundaries between food and waste, celebrating the culture of cooking with leftovers. In this course, organic potato peel is fried and smoked as an alternative to crisps.
Peel potatoes into long strips with a potato peeler, then let them lie on a paper towel for a few minutes to absorb moisture. Smoke the peel in the stove smoker for a maximum of 10 minutes. Alternatively, use the smoking gun for 3 minutes. Lay them on the paper towel again. Heat frying oil in a deep fryer or frying pan. Fry the peels a few at a time till crisp and golden brown. Place them back onto the paper towel and sprinkle with salt. If you don't want to serve them right a way, wait till the peel cools and set aside in an airtight container until needed, but no longer than a few days.
Pairing smoke and egg yolk produces an intense umami experience, complemented by the crunch of the tea-stained shell and smoothness of the mayonnaise.
Smoke the tea leaves with the smoking gun for 3 minutes then leave under the smoking bell for another 10. Bring water to the boil (enough to cover the eggs) in a small pot. Add the quail eggs and boil over a small flame for 2 minutes. Add the smoked tea to the saucepan with the eggs. Simmer for 2 minutes longer then let it stand for another 10 minutes. Strain off the tea-infused water and wipe the eggs dry. Place them under the smoking bell and smoke for an extra 3 minutes with the smoking gun. Serve in the shell, cut in half, sprinkled with smoked salt and the herbal mayonnaise.
NOTE: Do not peel the eggs, the shell is edible and has absorbed the taste of the smoke and tea.
Place the two egg yolks, mustard, lemon juice and a pinch of salt in a blender or mixer. While blending, pour the oil slowly and continuously in a thin stream till the mayonnaise becomes thick and fluffy. Then add the steamed herbs and blend for another minute. Reserve in the fridge in an airtight container.
This recipe was composed through a series of incremental tryouts and accidental discoveries. The pairing of peppers and popping sugar is most surprising, while apple wood and sun-dried tomatoes combine to make an almost meaty depth and 'savouriness'.
Dukkah can be made several days in advance. Mix all ingredients and toast in the oven (under the grill) at 160ºC for 15-20 minutes. Blend with a grinder into a coarse powder. Smoke with the smoking gun using apple wood chips, then leave under the bell for about 10 minutes. If you don't want the dukkah to be very smoky, smoke only 1/2 or 1/3 of the mixture, then mix with the non-smoked portion.
Chop or grind the sun-dried tomatoes into tiny pieces. Smoke with the smoking gun using apple wood chips, leave under the bell for about 15 minutes. Before serving, combine the mustard with the smoked tomatoes. The glue should be easily 'smearable', so go easy on the tomatoes – they're also very salty, best to taste after adding a pinch, then decide how much more is needed.
Cut the peppers in half (if they are as small as the ones we used; otherwise into thin strips). Smoke the peppers with the smoking gun and apple wood for 2–3 minutes. Char the peppers on the 'skin' side using the kitchen 'flame thrower', or directly on the gas of the stove or wood fire, until the skin starts popping and charring. Briefly warm the inside of the peppers using the same technique. The inside of the pepper should still be rather crispy. Spread the smoked glue on the inside of the peppers and sprinkle generously with the dukkah. Just before serving, sprinkle a pinch of popping sugar on each pepper.
To welcome guests we wanted to create an atmosphere of warmth and comfort, which baking (cakes especially) can bring about. A nut bread recipe from an old Women's Weekly magazine brought back memories of Sunday afternoons in late autumn, and we trusted it would convey some of these memories to our guests. It is served with a carrot-orange syrup, a traditional flavour pairing that needs no molecular analysis to be confirmed…
Steamed carrot and orange syrup
Steam three peeled uncut carrots over water infused with orange peel for about 20 minutes. Blend the carrots and the juice of the three oranges with an electric mixer. Strain, then simmer for about 30 minutes over a low flame to condense until the mixture becomes thick and syrupy. Season with salt, pepper and freshly chopped coriander.
Crackers with smoked pistachios
(from an old Australian Women's Weekly magazine)
Beat egg whites until soft peaks form, then add sugar and continue gently beating until dissolved. Add pistachios. Spread the mixture in a greased baking tray. Bake in the oven at moderate heat for about 30 minutes. Place on a wire rack to cool. When cold place the bread in an airtight container and let stand for one or two days. Before serving, cut the bread into slices with a sharp knife. Place the slices in the oven for about 5 minutes till crisp and golden brown. Serve with orange and carrot syrup.
We liked the taste of smoked water, so the 'logical' next step was to try to freeze it. The ice doesn't smell smoked, but as it melts it releases the subtle smoky aroma which is only recognised as it reaches the back of the tongue.
Pour the sparkling or filtered tap water into a bottle. Insert the tube of the smoking gun into the bottle (try to seal it completely so not much smoke goes out). Smoke the water with cherry wood chips for about a minute. Close the water bottle with an airtight lid. Shake well, several times over the next 30 minutes. Pour the water into ice cube moulds and freeze overnight. The smoky taste is quite light and only becomes apparent as the ice cubes start melting.
The taste of mate is slightly smoky, as the leaves of yerba mate are smoke-dried. As it is a potent stimulant (for some it works better than coffee), we served mate as an aperitif accentuated with smoked wood and agave syrup originating from the same continent.
Wet the mate with cold water, strain. Add ginger and pour boiling water over the herbs. Infuse for 5–6 minutes. When it cools to about 50°C add agave syrup and lemon to taste. Smoke the tea with mesquite chips using the smoking gun and reserve in the fridge. You can sparkle the tea if so desired.
Next: Solitary Immersion