You might remember that Mr EF built his own sous vide machine and provided instructions last March – can it really be that long ago? Here’s a long overdue report on how we’ve got on. We have to say:
“We love sous vide cooking”
So we thought we’d share our experiences with you.
Sauces and sous vide don’t usually mix
There are fancy top of the range sous vide machines that allow you to cook food in a sauce, but you’re likely to be using a simple version. You need to vacuum the food before cooking and if you’ve too much liquid it gets sucked up and any hope of sealing the bag is gone – it won’t if it’s wet. So you need to think about your sauce separately. You’ll find you get some cooking juices from the food which you can add to your sauce for added flavour, but it is different to cooking the food throughout. Just cook your favourite sauce, and you’re done!
[Since writing this, Sous Vide have been in touch to let me know that they have pouches you can use with liquids]
Fish is an absolute winner
Imagine cooking fish perfectly every time? Yes it’s true and so easy. We cook most types of fish at 60 degrees centigrade for 30 minutes. Plate it up and cover it with sauce – so easy. You can of course cook it a little less and finish it off in a frying pan (as many chefs do), but you really don’t need to. This method is perfect for a dinner party – you just can’t go wrong.
Vegetable are more tricky
We are still experimenting with vegetables. You need to cook them at a much higher temperature (80 degrees centigrade) and for much longer. We yet to perfect this, but we highly recommend cooking potatoes in butter (as you’ll find at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal) – the potato taste really comes through rather than just the taste of butter.
The perfect duck confit
One of our favourite dishes is duck confit. It’s cook for at least 8 hours at 80 degrees centigrade. The result is unctuous meat falling off the bone. Just fry to crisp up the skin.
Marinades are great
As you can’t cook in the sauce easily, we’ve found that marinades really come into their own. We’d suggest adding a little oil (rapeseed or olive oil) as a minimum to anything you cook. Adding a little lemon zest or herbs really adds to the result.
Patience (and being organised) is a virtue
Some cuts of meat can take days to cook at low temperatures so you definitely need to think ahead and be comfortable with leaving the machine on for that time when you’re not likely to be around.
Sous vide is different
It’s difficult to get your head round what to change if things do not turn out right. It’s not as easy as conventional cooking to understand what’s wrong and how to fix it. We’d say just keep experimenting.
Not all plastic bags are equal
We’ve got a great vacuum sealer (a must), but we do need to use the plastic bags made by the same manufacturer (which are specially ribbed). You cannot use just any bag. If you are scrupulously careful, these are reusable after a good wash in the dishwasher.
A sous vide machine
A reference book
Douglas Baldwin Sous Vide for the Home Cook
This book is the bible for sous viders. The recipes may not wow you, but it sets you on the right track for the different cooking times required and really importantly, cooking safely so as to avoid any nasties.
Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide
Thomas Keller’s book is for the serious cook (one for my wish list).
A vacuum sealer
Andrew James Pro Quality Vacuum Food Sealer Machine
We’re very happy with our one from Andrew James. There are plenty of others to choose from.