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Boil in the bag is making a comeback

Yes really, it's just got a fancy new name.

by: Caro de Waal | 31 May 2010
sous vide

Sous vide (sue-veed).

The haute cuisine for a cooking technique that has been around for 50 years is now being used in top kitchens around the world.

It was described in the New York Times by Thomas Keller as being on a par with the invention of the food processor and the gas stove.

What is it exactly?

Sous vide literally means ‘under pressure’ and is a method of slow cooking food in a vacuum sealed bag that has been placed in a water bath at a low temperature.

What’s all the fuss?

Because it is vacuum sealed, no oxidization can occur and the food retains its colour, tenderness and flavour. So what seems to you to look like a raw asparagus spear is actually cooked.

Imagine the convenience and time-cutting this presents for a restaurant? You can pre-portion for example meat, then cook it, freeze it and  warm it when you need it, all in the same airtight bag. You lose no juices and the flavour and texture remain the same.

The thing that makes my lips curl back is the lack of colour. Think of your steak presented with a flourish in front of you… but it looks raw. What now?

I asked Luke Dale-Roberts from La Colombe what his take on it was. 'It's just another cooking method that really does enhance things like tough cuts of meat or meat that is of varying qulaity'. Luke will sous vide a cut of meat, but he browns it either before, or after, to give it some colour and the flavour of caramelisation. Whew. That sounds more like it.

Who’s doing it?

It is fast becoming fashionable in SA and showing up on the menus of some of our top lot.

Margot Janse of Le Quartier Francais experimented with her fish tank after her handyman changed the temperature setting. She developed the airline menu for KLM and almost all the dishes are sous vide.

Peter Tempelhoff of the Liz McGrath collection, David Higgs from Rust en Vrede, Reuben Riffel from Reuben's and Robert Erleigh from Myoga are also using it in their busy kitchens and it may become the something of the norm in our ever changing world.

Can I do this at home?

The equipment is very pricey coming in at between R10 000 and R15 000. You can try it in your dishwasher, but there is the possibility of botulism if you do it wrong.

What do you think of this technique? Love it or leave it?

- Caro de Waal

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