Pine Broth, Fresh Olives, Young Artichoke

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Serves

    4

    : You will Need to Begin this Recipe at Least 30 Days Ahead

Appears in

Origin

By Ben Shewry

Published 2012

  • About

Since I was a small child I have always loved apples. I always contemplated and observed their flavour and texture as I ate them. Over time I learned that apples of a certain shape and texture tasted much more flavoursome to my young tastebuds. My observation was that an apple that has almost straight sides and that is very small around its base tasted much better than an apple with a very round shape in the same variety. I also observed that the apple with a tight, very firm texture tastes better than the apple with softer flesh. I never knew why this was but I knew through my extensive research as an apple-munching child that it was true.

Of course I shared these pearls of wisdom with any adult who would listen . . . I’d say the responses were mixed at best, some people would stare at me speechless (and think ‘he always was a strange kid’), others would just shrug and say, ‘Apples are just apples son.’

In 2011 I had the honour of presenting at my friend René Redzepi’s MAD Foodcamp in Copenhagen and it was an amazing gathering of some of the brightest food minds, farmers and chefs around. The depth of talent and knowledge among the presenters was intimidating and none more so than that of food scientist and author Harold McGee. Harold is a living legend among people interested in food. His first book, On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, was published in 1984 and has inspired countless chefs and cooks the world over, myself included. When I learned that Harold would be there it was a great moment, finally someone who could solve my greatest life dilemma: the shape versus flavour of apples!

As luck would have it we happened to be walking through the King’s Garden together and I finally worked up the courage to ask him my apple question. After a minute of quiet contemplation he agreed that my conclusions were reasonable and that it was most probably down to the cell structure. Harold proposed that a narrow apple with straight sides produced flesh with very tight and compacted cells so that when you bit into that apple, you were in fact getting more juice in that mouthful and therefore more flavour. As opposed to the round apple with a more open and soft texture that contains more air. To me this was a major breakthrough and confirmed in my own mind that I was, in fact, sane.

Harold being the generous person he is suggested that if I ever had any other ‘life dilemmas’ all I needed to do was to ask him and he would be glad to look into it for me. I remember thinking that the kind offer was a big mistake on his behalf, considering the depth of my obsessions at times . . .

And so this broth came to be and with it a new dilemma. Every time I made it, it would mysteriously self thicken. So I tested it with other varieties of mushrooms and it didn’t thicken. Perplexed I tested it with just pine mushrooms and water and it thickened so that cancelled out the other ingredients in the recipe as thickening agents. It wasn’t evaporation either because I’d kept a close eye on the before and after cooking volumes of liquid.

So I emailed Harold and this was his response: ‘Lactarius mushrooms get sticky when they’re wetted, and that’s a sign that they’re exuding a material that helps them retain moisture. Anything that binds water and gets sticky on a mushroom will also bind water in the cooking liquid and therefore make it seem thicker (the water itself can’t flow as freely). My guess is that it’s a carbohydrate, similar to alginates and carrageenans in seaweeds. The other possibility is a protein like gelatine, but plants and fungi tend to make carbs.’

And so Harold closed the book on that ‘dilemma’ for me as well.

But what did I really learn? That an apple is never just an apple.

To Finish

  • 6 fresh green olives, crushed, torn in half and pits removed
  • 8 fresh macadamia nuts, shelled
  • 16 olive plant leaves (see Note)
  • 8 Jerusalem artichoke flower petals
  • 8 sprigs apple geranium flowers
  • 20 ml (¾ fl oz) extra virgin olive oil (a very mild fruity variety)

Place 4 young artichokes in the base of each bowl. Place 3 pieces of olive and 2 macadamia nuts between the artichokes and scatter the leaves, petals and flowers on top. Finish with a teaspoon of the oil. Pour the hot pine broth tableside.

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