S adds the foam to a “tortilla”

I’ve never had the pleasure of dining at El Bulli, currently considered (if you agree with Restaurant magazine) the world’s best restaurant. That said, I’ve long admired Ferran Adria, the crazy mad scientist chef-owner who spends half of each year in a laboratory experimenting on new cooking and food preparation techniques. In 2001, I was lucky enough to attend a pretty amazing cooking demonstration put on by Adria, his brother, and another one of his chefs. Over two hours, he wowed an audience of food media, chefs and other industry professionals with his very unique brand of culinary magic. After the demonstration, I was even luckier. My wife S and I got to meet Adria and spend 15 minutes asking him as many questions as we could think of.

You can see how enthused Ferran was to meet me

As I mentioned a few posts back, I was recently inspired to attempt one of Adria’s creations, what he calls his 21st Century Tortilla. The recipe comes from The Cook’s Book, a large and impressive book edited by Jill Norman. Each chapter is written by a different and famous chef. S bought this book largely because of Adria’s chapter on foams. Other great chefs that contributed to this book include Peter Gordon, Pierre Hermé, Charlie Trotter, Greg Malouf, and David Thompson.

Adria’s foam techniques depend entirely on a specific piece of equipment, the siphon. Adria recommends using the 0.5 litre iSi Gourmet Whip. Others similar siphons aren’t as versatile because (according to iSi and Adria) they can’t accept warm (or hot) liquids. For the past few years here, the iSi Gourmet Whips were available in Robinsons, one of Singapore’s larger department store chains. However, when I drove down to pick one up, I was shocked to discover that Robinsons was no longer selling them. In fact, as I called every kitchen supply store in town, I learnt that no one was stocking them any more. At one store, however, I spotted a Kayser Gastronomie siphon. And while I wasn’t sure it would work equally well, after a quick call to a chef I trust, I decided to give it a try.

(Incidentally, I’ve since discovered that you can buy the iSi Gourmet Whips directly from their distributor here, Butler-Mason. Check out their website at www.butler-mason.com. I’ve already ordered a new Gourmet Whip from them.)

Caramelized Onions
250g onion, julienned
85g (3oz) mild olive oil
100ml (3.5 fl oz) water

Fry the onions gently in the oil, stirring continuously for about 20 minutes until golden. Drain off the excess oil and add a little of the water. Cook until the water evaporates. Repeat the process for about 20 more minutes until the onions are the texture of jam and the colour of caramel. Season with salt and set aside in the pan to reheat later.

2 egg yolks
30g (1oz) boiling water
Place the egg yolks in a bowl, beat with a hand whisk and add the boiling water in a thin stream. Beat vigorously over medium heat until it emulsifies. Season with salt.

Potato Foam
250g (8.5oz) potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
125ml (4.5oz) single cream
35ml (1 fl oz) virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
Place the potatoes in a pan of cold water, bring to the boil, and cook for about 20 minutes until soft. Drain, reserving 100ml of the cooking water. Place the cooked potato and the water in a blender. Purée, adding the cream little by little. Follow the same procedure with the oil until you have a smooth emulsion. Season with salt. Strain, then fill the siphon using a funnel. Load the air using two chargers, shake, and keep warm in a bain-marie at 70ºC (158ºF).

Make sure you strain the emulsion into the siphon

To serve, reheat the onion in the pan. Place a teaspoonful of onion in a martini glass, followed by one of the sabayon. Finish with the warm potato foam and drizzle with olive oil.

Making this has been surprisingly easy. And it tastes delightful. The texture is beautiful–light, creamy and rich all at the same time. I found that adding some chopped up bacon to the onions added an extra (meaty) dimension to the dish that I really like. Having made this, I’m pretty excited to test the other foam recipes in Jill Norman’s book. Plus, I’ve just gotten a little espuma (foam) book from iSi. This is going to be fun.

About Aun Koh

Aun has always loved food and travel, passions passed down to him from his parents. This foundation, plus a background in media, pushed him to start Chubby Hubby in 2005. He loves that this site allows him to write about the things he adores--food, style, travel, his wife and his three kids!


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30 April 2006


whoah! supercool – i’ve been looking forward to this post all week 😉 the do and i want to sign up for a foam 101 lesson please…

Hats off! I’m totally impressed. I would never for the life of me dare to try one of Ferran Adria’s recipes. There’s something incredibly intimidating about handling foam.

Do you think you’ll ever plonk down the money for a Pacojet? Go on, I’ll provide the foie gras and even de-nerve the damn thing if you get the Pacojet and with S’ help re-create Adria’s legendary powdered foie gras dish in consomme!

My hubby’s best friend is engaged to a girl from Barcelona who ate at El Bulli a few years back. She confirms that it was singularly the most amazing eating experience she hashad in her life. A true addition to 100 gastronomic things to do before you die (the actual book of said title that I just saw at Borders looked really lame).

I just watched the Bourdain dvd, Decoding Ferran Adria. He reminds me alot of Thomas Keller- that sense of food mischief, and a desire to plug into our deepest food memories we didn’t know we had.

I’ve had fun playing with my isi I picked up last month. Downside- the shortness of the canisters! You can’t just swap them out- you’ve got to use it up or waste it.

Isi’s website has a bunch of recipe idea on it for foams. saffron, chive…

As a dabbler in all things El Bulli, I’m thrilled to see you make this recipe. I must say, the combination of caramelized onions, sabayon, and potatoes sounds phenomenal.

I recently bought an iSi canister myself, and decided to break it in by trying a couple of the cocktail recipes from El Bulli: 1998-2002.

I was amazed at some of the results I could get with the foams — I especially love El Bulli’s coconut foam.

J: Hah… I’ll make sure to order a Gourmet Whip for you also. Hope you enjoyed the “cottage pies” we served you today.

Kat: Thanks. You should definitely try this out. It’s much easier than it sounds. And once you get the hang of it, loads of fun. As for a Pacojet… I wish. But it’s so durned expensive!

McAuliflower: Yah, I agree. But Keller is less a scientist than Adria. Both are, of course, geniuses. Thanks for the heads-up on iSi’s website.

Rob: You are hardly what I would call a dabbler in “all things El Bulli”. First, you have the book; I’m still saving up for that 😉 Second, I read your post on liquid pea ravioli. I was awestruck. I’m gonna have to try that coconut foam.

tried those emulsion thingy using the espuma when I attended the culinary masterclasses a couple of years ago during the world gourmet summit and suprisingly it didn’t become popular.

I hope those things aren’t too expensive, I’ve been dying to try one of those foam recipes in the cookbook too! Better start saving up for one. The possibilities sound endless…

such an unusual creation, and delicate by the sound of things…

does adria experiment stuffs the way heston blumenthal does? i.e. trying to find chemical properties and match them… (sorry i don’t know much about adria!)

you know…i’m not sure how i feel about foam. i had a rubarb foam on a steak recently and…i don’t know…it seems a little wrong. maybe i jest need to foam-season my palatte. Are you a foam fan in general?

Love the post! You’ve inspired me to try it out myself once I get settled into a permanent abode with a proper kitchen. It was great to meet you and S. the other night at the Pignolet dinner. What did you think of it, BTW?

Khaokhaprowmoo: But did you enjoy making it? End of the day, it doesn’t matter how popular something is, right? it just matters if you like it.

Kierra: Thanks so much.

Daffy: Hiya, if you want one, I can order one for you. I’m ordering one this week and am getting the trade (wholesale) price.

Lil: Yah, he and Heston are the two most famous molecular gastronomic chefs around. Some similarities but also many differences.

Kate: Rhubarb foam, ewwww. Um, I liked the potato foam in this dish. I certainly wouldn’t want foam on everything. I think it’s a great process and can add a bit of humor and when done well, a new element of texture. But I’m not fanatic about foam (yet).

Viv: Hiya, great meeting you also. I loved DP’s Eve’s chocolate cake. I’m thinking of posting on it soon. It was a good dinner. Chris’ suckling pig was actually my favorite dish. We should do coffee soon.

This is the first time I have read your post. All I can say is THANK YOU!! I have only started cooking in the last few months in an effort to prepare dishes to complement my wines – and I am thoroughly enjoying it. I am a complete amateur at both wine and food but the ideas you have given me are fantastic!! Thanks again!!

The nice thing about foams is that if you have any leftovers, you can always use it the next morning when you shave 😀 Great post, CH!

Hiya Brett,

Actually, it’s quite fun squirting it directly into your mouth 😛
A friend of ours made some comment about it being the perfect food for when we all grow too old to chew our food. Imagine sitting at the dining table going, “Pass the iSi willya?”

I was asking myself what else I needed in my kitchen and you just gave me the answer. Muchas gracias! I’m going to get one of the iSi Gourmet Whips too, as I’ve been meaning to try a few hot foam/cream-based recipe ideas that I’ve picked up a few years ago from a French Chef and where without the whip I’ve almost given up.

And while I’m at it maybe I should also pick up a cookbook with F. Adria’s recipes and think about eating at El Bulli the next time I visit Barcelona. Have hesitated thus far since I’ve heard about his kitchen being a lab and that was a little off-putting.

I was in Barcelona last year and heard about the amazing things Adria did, and his foam of course. I actually came that close to the restaurant itself by driving with my schoolmate and saw their signature bull on the rocks. Too bad for one, I didn’t had the money (my prof told me a meal is around €140 per person), second, I was travelling with a bunch of people living on school loans, and last but not least I didn’t have the reservation. I swear next time I go visit the city I will be prepared.
Sounds like not a lot of people know of the restaurant that Adria’s friend open… or was it his brother’s? I can’t remember. It’s a dessert restaurant named Espai Sucre (which means Sugar Space). That was more accessible to the general public (Although it did took me a week in advance to have a reservation). They serve mainly desert courses. My friends and I had a 5 course dessert with wine pairing. It was amazing! The warm manchego cheesecake is to die for!!! To all foodies, make sure you pay a visit.
Reading about your preperation of foam is just amazing. You made it sound so easy! Thank you for the post!

WoW….I’m impressed of your work. and i thought no one can try ferran adria’s recipes at home.
I think i should try the foam recies too.

ferran adria is an absolute culinary rockstar…thomas keller on the other hand is an untrained jerk…i say that with pride as a cia student and having heard the externship horror stories of my colleagues coming back from a long and dreadful externship with cook keller…with that said, awesome posts everyone, I’m really happy to see all of your enthusiasm in the industry, from home cook, to student chef, all the way to the legendary elite chef’s like adria…i absolutely love this industry and the people that love it…thank you for truly, sincerely and genuinely being a part of the gastronomic world…Truly puts a smile on my face to hear people intelligently speaking about the culinary industry and actually knowing what they’re saying.

I am hopeful that someone do a snapshots or photos in sequence of how to execute a foamy sauce using the isi siphon gourmet whip.

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