The Building Blocks of Creating
A New Dish – Marc Fosh
Last year I bought a book called “The Flavour Thesaurus” by Niki Segnit. At first I flicked through it and shoved it back into my book shelve. Several months later I picked it up again and I soon began to realise that this book is an absolute gem. It may well be the first book to examine what goes with what, pair by pair. The book follows the form of Roget’s Thesaurus. The back section lists alphabetically 99 popular ingredients, and suggests classic and less well-known flavour matches for each. It covers classic pairings such as pork & apple, lamb & apricot, and cucumber & dill; contemporary favourites like chocolate & chilli, lobster & vanilla, and goat’s cheese & beetroot; and interesting but unlikely-sounding couples including black pudding & chocolate, lemon & beef and watermelon & oyster.
Every cook should own a copy of Niki Segnit’s brilliant book, it will revolutionise your cooking and you will impress your guests like never before.
There are many important stages in creating a successful dish, most importantly the raw materials. If you buy inferior ingredients, chances are you will only ever be able to make a second-rate dish, so choose the best and freshest you can find and always follow the seasons.
These days, the way I construct a dish has changed. I tend to choose an ingredient that I find interesting and play with flavour combinations, not knowing where it will take me. So instead of starting with the main ingredient like sea bass or beef fillet, I start with something like a cardamom pod or a tonka bean and work around that, hoping that it will lead me somewhere and usually it does…eventually. Over the years I have almost learned to taste things in my head. If you use your imagination, you will find yourself doing the same. When I look at a green cardamom pod I might think…Cardamom-Mango…. Cardamom-Mango-Chocolate. With those three basic flavours I can start to put together a dish. Logically, if a dish is inherently sweet, it will need flavours from the other end of the spectrum, bitterness or acidity to really bring the dish to life and add an interesting contrast. Besides flavour, I also look for texture in different forms and then you can start to think about the presentation. Here is a very simplified version of a classic dish of mine….the original dish was sea bass with parsley, anchovy and liquorice, the flavours might seem quite complex, but the end result is amazing. Try it and you’ll see what I mean.
Star Anise Spiced Sea Bass with a parsley-anchovy broth
Ingredients: serves 6
6 fillets of sea bass (150g each)
4 Star anise, lightly toasted & ground
For the Parsley-Anchovy Broth.
500ml fish stock
2 large potatoes (peeled and diced)
3 salted anchovies (washed in cold water)
A large bunch of parsley (stalks removed)
Juice of half a lemon
Cook the potatoes gently in the fish stock 10 minutes. Add the anchovies, Parsley and lemon juice. Cook for a further 10 minutes and blend to a puree. Pass through a fine sieve and season with white pepper.
Make small incisions in the skin of the sea bass and sprinkle with ground star anise & a little sea salt. Pan-fry the sea bass fillets, skin side down, until golden brown and crisp. Turn over and place in a moderate oven (180ºc) to finish cooking (1-2 minutes). Sit the sea bass fillets in the middle of 6 soup bowls and serve with the parsley-anchovy broth.