Can etherealness be a feature of cooking? … It refers to the immediacy of service required for a dish that has been put together for rapid consumption, as because of its very nature it only lasts a few seconds… — Ferran Adria, et al., El Bulli 2003-2004 (Ecco, 2006)

This dish plays with the etherial nature of aromas and flavours. As the sense of smell is crucial for the “total” experience of food, and the molecules that we smell are extremely volatile, we can only really taste the fullness of a dish for a few moments, until these molecules disperse into the air. We designed a course to experiment with different phases of pea and mint soup – changing temperature to change texture and thereby influence the volatility of the aromas. The dish consists of an array of pea and mint soup preparations: hot soup liquid, warm soup-sphere, cold soup perfume and frozen soup sorbet. It is served in small containers or spoons and a perfume bottle or strip, on a long, flat plate, indicating the direction in which the different phases should be tasted.

  • 3 onions
  • 10 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut oil
  • 1 kg frozen peas
  • 2 bunches of fresh mint leaves
  • Water or vegetable stock

Slowly brown onions and garlic in coconut oil. Add peas and stock (enough to cover the peas) and continue simmering until the peas are soft. Add the mint and boil for a couple more minutes. Cool down. Blend until smooth. Reserve in the fridge until ready to eat. Can be served hot or cold.

  • 140 g peas (shelled or frozen peas)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon crème fraîche
  • Salt to taste

Mix peas, mint, sour cream and salt in a processor until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl, cover and freeze. Purée again and return to freezer. Pipe or spoon sorbet into the serving spoon.

For the bath:

  • 1 l water
  • 5 g Sodium alginate (E401)

Blend Algin into the water until it dissolves. Leave in the fridge for at least 12 hours to eliminate excess air.

For the spheres:

  • 500 g pea and mint soup
  • 12 g Gluco (Texturas)
  • 1.6 g Xanthan gum (E415)

Dilute Gluco in the soup base, then mix in the xanthan with a hand blender to avoid lumps. Reserve in the fridge. When ready to make the balls, heat the soup until it regains a more liquid texture. Fill a 2.5 cm dosing spoon (check which size works best for you) with the soup and pour it into the Algin bath. Leave the sphere in the bath for 3 minutes, turn it over and leave for another minute. Strain with a draining spoon and place them in hot water (60°C) for 3 minutes (au bain-marie works best, not to overheat the water). Remove the sphere from the water taking care not to break it. Dry it thoroughly. Serve warm in a spoon, with mint sprinkled on top of the sphere. Make sure the sphere is not too hot, as the diners might burn themselves when the sphere bursts in their mouth.

Sodium alginate (E401), sold as Algin (Texturas) is a polysaccharide extracted from brown algae; gels in presence of calcium ions

Xanthan gum (E415) is a polysaccharide resulting from fermentation of Xanthomonas campestris

Gluco (Texturas) consists of calcium gluconolactate, a mixture of two calcium salts - calcium gluconate (E578) a firming agent, and calcium lactate (E327) an antioxidant. It is used to gel sodium alginate

  • 450 g frozen peas
  • 2 onions
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Vegetable stock (enough to cover the peas)
  • 1 bunch of mint
  • (10% ethanol)
  • (distilled water)

Fry onions and garlic until brown. Add peas and vegetable stock. Place the mixture in a flask. Distill. Add 10% ethanol to the distilled “soup.” Distil mint separately, and add 10% ethanol to the distilled water. Mix 45 ml of distilled soup and 30 ml of distilled mint. Pour the resulting liquid into perfume bottles using a funnel. Serve with perfume papers and garnish with fresh mint. Advise the diners to spray the perfume onto the paper and smell it while eating the garnish.

We bought onions, garlic, coconut oil, crème fraîche and frozen peas from BIO-Planet (http://www.bioplanet.be). Fresh mint leaves came from local Moroccan grocery shops in Molenbeek, Brussels. Algin, Gluco and xanthan we found at Mmmmh (http://www.mmmmh.be). Other distributors of the “Texturas” range can be found at http://www.albertyferranadria.com

(an sidebar recipe)