Monday 31 August 2015

Gluten... and some brioche made without it

Gluten free brioche version two.

Gluten's had a bad rap of late. It's the uninvited guest at the table; the dodgy bloke who married your favourite cousin. Gluten upsets people after all, especially after the meal. Why do we bother with him at all?

If you're a baker, all your experience, of feel, of texture, of look... will be of gluten. It means glue in Latin and it binds bread. That's what bakers do: develop gluten. We look for that transformative shine and elasticity in a dough. You can even hear it as the dough hook spin changes from mud slick to wet slap. That's gluten. Without it you don't have dough, you have batter. Yes, I'm simplifying. Oh look, hang on... as Jennifer Aniston once said in a shampoo ad... here's the science.
The science of baking is highly complex and not that well researched. 'Myths' seem to be busted on a monthly basis. Flour is essentially a mix of starch and gluten. What we call gluten is a composite protein - the linkages between glutenin and gliadin - that has elastic properties. Gluten is created by kneading because this flattens out the proteins but it can also be formed chemcially or fermentatively.
Put more prosaically: gluten creates the matrix of bread that captures the tiny carbon dioxide gas bubbles produced by the yeast - fed by the sugars and the starch - that forces the dough to swell and expand. Gluten hardens when baked, encasing the bread in a crust.
So you can imagine that creating bread without gluten is problematic. How to capture the carbon dioxide so essential to leavening the dough? Creating a brioche without gluten is even worse. Almost anything mixed in with flour tends to have an inhibitory effect on yeast. Salt is especially bad but without it the bread tastes of little. Brioche of course has lots of eggs and butter which makes it delicious but a bit of a bugger to rise. That butter (like all fats) and sugar also affects gluten development but as there's none here, that wasn't an issue.

The reason I was making a gluten free brioche was because friend-of-the-restaurant Nicole was bringing Victoria to celebrate her birthday, her twenty first I think, and the group included a guest, Liz, who suffers with a severe gluten intolerance along with several other foodstuffs.

I was making my new dessert of pan fried brioche jam sandwich with peanut butter ice cream but I didn't want Liz to miss out. And it was the arse end of August and I didn't have much to do.

I didn't need to include this picture but I chose to.

Many gluten free recipes use Xanthan Gum to give structure to the bread. Xanthan Gum sounds like a Swedish metal band but you buy it as a whole powder. You'll find it in supermarkets in the 'home baking' section. It's a natural product, often made from milk whey, a byproduct of cheese making. Mixed with water or oil it thickens and so can be used in bread to catch those carbon dioxide bubbles. It's not as effective as gluten though. Xanthan Gum is remarkable stuff. It's also used as a stabiliser and emulsifier in products as diverse as salad dressing, sweets, soap and shampoo (hello Jennifer). It's used in oil drilling to stiffen up slack soils! Now I have some I'm going to experiment with it. Many ice creams use it to improve 'mouth feel'.

I tried several recipes for gluten free brioche including this one from the French Laundry. To my surprise, the best (on this occasion) was my own. I'm making a note of it here for my own benefit. It's not been thoroughly tested yet so be wary if you use it. My success might have been a one off. I based my bread on Dove Farm's gluten-free flour. There are many recipes that ask you to create your own starchy mix from elements such as cornflour, potato starch, tapioca starch, brown rice flour etc. I have no experience of most these things so kept it simple.

A little digging in the comments section of Dove Farm's website reveals their mix to be rice, potato, tapioca, maize and buckwheat, with rice flour making up about half.

There's nothing hard about this recipe. if anything, it's easier than standard brioche. If you're familiar with gluten free baking you'll no doubt have the ingredients to hand. 

Gluten-free Brioche

Mix 7g dried yeast (the one for hand baking not for bread machines) with 300g of Dove Farm gluten free flour, 50g caster sugar, a teaspoon of xanthan gum and a teaspoon of table salt. Add 70ml of room temperature milk and three eggs whisked. Beat together until well mixed. Now add, in small pieces, 100g of best butter, also at room temp. Don't whack it in straight from the fridge, it won't integrate properly. Beat for around 5 minutes, depending on your machine or your biceps until you have a rich, luxurious batter.

After around eight minutes of beating.

This won't look anything like a normal brioche dough; nothing like bread at all. It's much more akin to a Victoria sponge. Pour this into the tin you'll be baking with, cover with cling film and leave in a warm spot. If you have a bread proving oven setting, so much the better.

I didn't see the point in the traditional chilling and second proving. There's no gluten to develop and who knows what these starches are doing.

I glazed mine with a yolk/milk mix. This adds nothing but a little shine. If you enjoy matt bread, save your money.

Now you wait. This baby takes a while to rise. It probably won't double in size. It'll be more than two hours; expect three to four but don't give up before six. You want to make this the day before you need it. Maybe I should have mentioned that earlier. After... some... time... remove the cling film if the the mix is threatening to make contact. Once you're bored of waiting and you're convinced it's all risen, bake for around 35 minutes at 200°C.

This last part of the recipe is my least certain. I feel that, as with many wet breads like focaccia, a faster, hotter bake might be better but, but, but... this is more like cake than bread. Oh, I don't know.

I might try two teaspoons of xanthan gum. I read one American recipe that called for two tablespoons! But that surely would be... gummy.

This was the result. A decent crumb and texture and the taste is excellent. I'd love some feedback from gluten-free bakers, especially if you have that 'killer' brioche recipe.

This is the group for which the brioche was baked. Well, this is the before picture...

This was after... such are the transformative and restorative powers of the New River Restaurant.

Sadly, Birthday Victoria is obscured here, so...

And no idea who this fella is but I think he loves the Welsh.

Monday 24 August 2015

Polenta and pickled pear/apple starter

Blue cheese capped polenta with pickled pears and a walnut salad.
Sweet poached pears waiting for frangipane
Michael, my neighbour, came round with a large pot of pears from his garden. I've not done much with these fruit, they have missed my food radar for some reason - possibly because I hated them as a child, an aversion long since left. As penance I decided to do a sweet and a savoury dish with them. The sweet dish - pear frangipane tart - I'm yet to finish. This is the savoury story: pickled pears with blue cheese polenta and a walnut salad.

It makes a great starter full of contrast and piquancy. It's very easy to assemble just before service/meal time, you can prep everything apart from the cheese melting in the hours beforehand. Scale it up and it would work as a lunch. It's vegetarian too of course. 

I almost reflexively wrote 'light lunch' back there. What does that mean? And why is it always presented as a good thing? You never see recipes for a heavy lunch. But to me that's miles more attractive. One of those luxurious moments in time and place where you have a glass too many of wine... with a friend... and decide to forego your afternoon plans and instead order the cheese board and rinse out a couple of bottles of life as shadows draw across the restaurant wall and waiters grow increasingly bemused at your ever louder reminisces. That's my kind of lunch. No way that's light.

Mike's pears. No idea what type. The grey stuff is old Lego: the large Millennium Falcon in fact. 5000 piece collector's set. We're building it to sell it. A family project over the summer.
From pears it was a short hop to walnuts and thence to blue cheese. I didn't want to do a simple salad; I wanted a carb element. Polenta was obvious but making polenta is a pain, especially for a supper club that may include tardy guests. Bramata polenta, a coarse variety favoured by us foodies, must be stirred for at least an hour, suffering wrist burns from the lava blips. It will easily easily catch on the bottom or worse, set in the pan and on the way, lumps are an ever present threat. 

But no! I remembered reading, that polenta could be prepared in a rice cooker. If true this would be extraordinarily practical and time saving. Rice cookers keep their contents warm, in a state of ready eatability, to be served as needed. I have a Kenwood rice cooker. It's past two decades old but still it's used every week. Surely it couldn't be that easy though?

I added 250g of best bramata grain to the pot and poured on two litres of water,  a tablespoon of salt... and waited. 

After about an hour, without a single stir, I lifted the lid and to be met by gorgeous, light, lumpless, fluffy polenta. Better even than the tediously stirred. It works. Boy, does it work. I poured it into a tin and left it overnight to set. This is massive for me. It means polenta will be easy to include in menus. Before I poured the polenta out I stirred in 100g of butter and  about 50g of grated parmesan.

Rice cooker-ed polenta. Brilliant texture.

Just a note on the salt and water. I made this batch with a 1:4 grain to water ratio. If you want something smoother you could do 1:5. Nigel Slater goes further with a 1:6 ratio; he likes his 'soupy'. I often use milk and water but here just water is fine.

Polenta needs a lot of salt. It's damn near inedible without. I usually go one level tablespoon of Maldon per litre of water (less of table salt), at least but here I knew I was pairing it with a salty blue cheese, so held back slightly. 

Set polenta, sliced.
So much for the polenta, what about the pears? To foil the blue cheese, they had to be pickled, a sweet and spiced pickle. Delia's Christmas special. This is my take of her recipe.

Pickled Pears.

This works just as well with apples. I like to peel and core and cut into thick rings.

Thinly peel the pears and cut into quarters lengthways, removing the pips and core. As with apples, you'll need to store them in some acidulated water (water with a dash of vinegar added) to prevent browning.

In a saucepan mix 275ml of pickling vinegar with 275ml of white wine vinegar and add 350g of caster sugar. Add six cloves, the pared zest of a lemon, a teaspoon of juniper berries and the same of allspice berries. Pink peppercorns would be good too, but I'd run out. Bring the mix to the boil gently, ensuring all the sugar is dissolved.

Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and place in the pear parts. Simmer for 10 minutes until they are just tender and yield to a knife point. They will continue to soften in the pickling liquor. If you have pretty pairs (no sniggering in the back please), You could leave the pears whole and just core them. They will take about 15 minutes cooking in this case. Mine were, let's say, very organic and needed a deal of knife work to make them presentable.

When done, lift out the pears and place in a jar. Boil the remaining liquid hard to reduce by half. Pour this syrup over the pears (they must be completely covered) and chill. They will improve with age and will keep for ever, unless you eat them.

So we have our polenta set and we have our pears pickled. Now to combine around the added attraction of a little walnut salad.

Cut your polenta into shapes and fry in a very little oil. I went for thick oblongs, which once fried looked like fish fingers. Top this with the blue cheese of your choice. I used an excellent French Fourme D'Ambert as that was the best Holtwhites had. If I'd been serving this to guests, I'd have used either Cashel or Beenleigh Blue - I only do British cheese in the restaurant, it's a rule of mine. Grill this for five minutes or so until the cheese starts to bubble and run.

To make the salad: roast some walnuts at 200°C for five minutes until they crisp and darken. Add this to some lambs lettuce. The dressing here needs to be only slightly acid as it's being eaten with a pickle. I mixed three tablespoons of walnut oil with a drop - literally one drop - of toasted sesame oil, a teaspoon of lemon juice, half of French mustard and salt and pepper. Dress the leaves and nuts just before serving.

To serve: centre the warm polenta and serve with a couple of pear pickles, a fistful of a dressed salad and a scattering of black pepper and crushed walnuts.

Sunday 23 August 2015

Peanut butter ice-cream with butter fried brioche jam sandwich

Full of flavours and textures. Rich rather than heavy. My family fell on this like few other desserts I've made. I just love the buttery brioche crunch, soaked with cherry juices. You could see this as a reworking of the American classic sandwich of peanut putter and jelly but it didn't begin that way. The caramel was the start. Ironic really as it's the smallest element. It's a smoked caramel, made with smoked water from Halen môn saltcote in North Wales. I've been meaning to make a peanut butter ice cream anyway and I've used fried brioche with fruit before. 

There are five elements in this dessert:
1. Brioche
2. Whipped cream
3. Cherry jam
4. Peanut butter ice cream
5. smoked caramel sauce

Brioche loaf. I make my own using Michel Roux's recipe. I'm pleased with the result but I'm going to chat to my friend Richard of the ineffable Holtwhite's Bakery in Enfield. If anyone can help me improve it, he can. The taste is good but I'd like an even lighter structure.
Whipped cream. Just that. No added sugar or vanilla. Doesn't need it.

Cherry jam. You could use any jam but I think peanut and cherry work well. I've detailed the recipe here.

Jam in the making

Peanut butter (and chocolate chip) ice cream. The easiest of ice creams - and possibly the most moreish - requiring you only to mix three ingredients, chill and churn. You need a blender though. And an ice cream maker. The recipe was adapted from the always excellent

Take a 340g pot of peanut butter. Look for a high peanut content. I found Waitrose Essential Wholenut was 98%. It also included palm oil, which is a shame (why not peanut oil Waitrose?) but better that more prominent brands in that there was no added sugar. You really don't need added sugar with this dessert.

Scoop the peanut butter into your blender. Now using your empty pot, pour in three lots of single cream. Finally add 200g of caster sugar. Blend until very smooth.

For texture, you could now add some chopped roasted nuts, or fruit or, as I did, some chopped milk chocolate. I was planning on going dark but... milk seemed better suited. 

Chill your mix overnight in the fridge, at least for six hours. In the morning, churn in your ice cream maker.

Smoked caramel sauce. This is the controversial element. Most of my friends and family liked the smoky element  some did not. Tom, one of my testers thought it tasted like bacon, but not in a good way. Fabian recoiled from it, gesturing with horror like Banquo's ghost. Did the spectre appear at dessert? Shakespeare doesn't make this clear (my English teacher wife reckons it was during the amuse bouche and she should know). Sloppy Bard! Back to the 21st century and It's a normal caramel sauce to which I added a tablespoon of smoked water. It's just possible that you don't have any smoked water. Perhaps use smoked salt instead. Or simply forget the smoke.

Bacon? In a dessert?
Construction is simple and can mostly be done in advance. Handy if, as I was, you are half cut after a long meal. In butter, lightly fry slices of brioche on one side only. (Don't be tempted to skip this stage. Yes, it's more fat but remember, the life hours you'll save are the awful ones at the end, sat stupefied with morphine and mashed potato, in the state-run care home.) Cut diagonally and onto the uncooked side (all the better to soak in), gloop some cherries and jammy sauce. In the intra-cherry spaces pipe little stars or blobs of whipped cream. Top with the other half slice at a cheffy angle and dust with icing sugar. Serve with spoonful of caramel sauce and a scoop of the ice cream.

Chunky, glossy cherry jam

Designed as the fruit element in my dessert of butter fried brioche sandwich with peanut butter ice cream and smoked caramel sauce. This is very different to the shop bought fare. It's, well... fruitier and the lemon zest adds interest. It's a gloriously glossy number this. This is a fairly soft set jam. Should you want something firmer, add more sugar and/or reduce mix for longer on the hob.

Stone and halve a kilo of cherries but reserve the stones. Place cherries a heavy pan with the juice and grated zest of two lemons. Tie up the stones in a loose muslin bag and bash a bit with a rolling pin. Place the bag in with the cherries. I'm not sure how much flavour the stones adds. I need to do an A/B test but I keep forgetting.

Bring to the boil then gently simmer for around 20 minutes until the cherries are yielding but not mush. Check every few minutes after 15. Remove the stone bag and add 500g of jam sugar (with added pectin to help set the mix). Gently bring back to the boil, ensuring all the sugar has dissolved. Now boil the mix for ten minutes more, or 15 if you want a really firm set. Decant into clean containers and refrigerate. 

This will serve as a sauce as well as a jam. Good with ice cream, maybe chocolate? Definitely vanilla. Perhaps stack layers of French shortbread with this and cream chantilly?

Friday 21 August 2015

New pots and pans... from the USA again

How to make a cook happy.

Much used Calphalon.
Once was black, now naked aluminium.
I've always used American pans. Not by choice - I mean, I didn't know they were from the US. Belinda and I asked her parents for a set of Calphalon for our wedding present. No idea why. Possibly because they were on sale in Habitat (for anyone under 35, Habitat was Ikea for the aspirational sorts in the 80s). Calphalon was/is an anodised aluminium (aloooominum) with metal handles and lids that would go in the oven. We have them still, twenty two years later, although some are going on a long holiday with Fabian when he leaves us for uni in the autumn. There's no way I'm sending him off with the ubiquitous IKEA student set of tin can pans that will warp and buckle and burn almost everything, unevenly, even soup. Even air. 

With pans, like knives and baking trays... my advice is to buy the best you can't afford. In the long run it is cheaper and in the short run you will have a tool that is useful and pleasurable. Buy from chef's suppliers; they can't afford to stock crap. You will be saving your children and grandkids money too. This is heirloom cookware. But that's maybe not what concerns you when you're 19 and wanting to heat some super noodles.

I do have a few Frenchies now: a copper pan or two, some fibrillatingly expensive Le Pentole and a Le Creuset casserole (of course). There's even a couple of German SKKs with their extraordinarily good non stick surfaces. But I find I return to the States for my cookware. It's one of those things America does well, like smartphones, movies, nuclear weapons, pornography, operating systems and diabetes. (Things they do badly include: cars, adopting the metric system and, ahem, weight measurements in recipes. Come ON America!)

I recently bought a American cast iron skillet. It's a Lodge; basically a bit of the earth's core, beaten into a bowl shape. It cost £43. It's very heavy; the stupidly short, stubby handle will sear your hand; it's not non stick nor dishwasher safe. It's brilliant. My only regret is not buying one years ago. Nothing sears meat better than cast iron. It gets very, very hot and stays like that. I honestly believe that the lamb chumps I've served recently, that guests have adored, were made delicious by the deep, crispy, crusty sear the Lodge delivered. I could write lots about the non-issues of cast iron but I'd only be repeating this from the always excellent
Lodge. The Daddy. The very heavy Daddy.
But I did want to let you know about my new discovery. I was actually ordering my first saucier - a round bottomed pan used, unsurprisingly, for sauces. The shape of the pan makes it ideal for whisking, ensuring no corner for substrate to cower, catch or clag. I went for a stainless steel All Clad. Let's see how long that mirrored finish lasts.

The All Clad (it's a brand) stainless steel 3 quart saucier. Gorgeous.

I was using an American web site - Chef's Catalogue - partly because they sell a range that just doesn't seem to be available in Europe and partly because Lodge and All Clad are cheaper, even after postage and packing. While I was browsing (chef porn - look at the copper on that!) I found these beauties. Hob jugs! This is the reason for the blog. let me say that again: HOB JUGS! It's a jug that you can use on a hob.

I've been after a hob jug for ages. I didn't think anyone made them; I thought they were the stuff of my post prandial whimsy. So useful with their volume measurements. They have built in strainers too. Anyone who's reduced stock or had to trickle melted butter at right angles into a juddering hand blender beaker will appreciate them. The jug like handles also mean they use less real-estate in my increasingly crowded pan drawers. Your place must be earned there. The all metal/glass construction means I can put them in an oven too. The fact the lids are glass allows me to check ingredients easily. I'm overjoyed with them. Overjoyed... with a pot. Oh, what? 

Bloody cups!

Thursday 13 August 2015

Halen Môn salt. An ocean flows through North Wales

The delicate pyramids of hand made Halen Môn sea salt. Is it better than Maldon? I drove a long way to find out.

"It's so white." Said Etien, speaking not of the salt but the population. It's something he's more likely to notice than me, he being London born and sourdough bread. He was right. It's mainly truculent, old celtic DNA here, pushed back into the acute corners of the country by Caesar. Even for a South Walian like me, it felt very much like another country. They speak funny for a start. And no, I don't mean the Scouse smeared English... I'm talking about the northern variety of Welsh. It sounded like Catalan. I couldn't understand any of it, not even the greetings and niceties that I'm familiar with.

We were walking down the high street of Blaenau Ffestiniog - one of those place names that English people stare at with growing panic, like Dolgellau and Penrhyndeudraeth - looking for somewhere still open to eat. We settled on a sit down fish and chip shop. It wasn't bad. The fish was good, not overcooked, in a crisp batter. I've had better chips but not while sitting next to a co-op supermarket.

Two rather strange American tourists sat close by, hunched heavily over their meals. The woman, who was taller lying down than standing up, asked pointedly what the brown sauce was on her chips.

"Gravy." Explained the fryer, walking over, wiping his hands on a cloth.
"What's in it?"
"Normally meat stock."
"Is this meat stock?" She asked. He paused; the slightest of smiles.
"What's in this?"
"Oh, I've no idea, love." He said, getting up to tend to his deep fat. He laughed lightly. She continued to eat. Etien and I chuckled, and avoided eye contact with the Americans.

Why were we in North Wales? Three reasons. Firstly for ZipWorld: the longest and I guess the most expensive zip wire ride in Europe. I can testify it is a thrill but not nearly as heart rate hiking as the realisation that the minute long ride is costing you about a pound a second. Each.

Secondly for the Halen Môn saltcote, the first to be opened in Wales in hundreds of years. I've been reading about the company and its gourmet salt, used by Heston Blumenthal and Ferran Adria, for a few years and they've recently opened a new building, offering tours. They've also just earned an esteemed PDO certification (like Champagne, Parma ham and Stilton) to further enhance their reputation.

And lastly... because I'm Welsh and 48 years old. I've literally circled the world but the fact that I've not explored my own back yard was... maybe not embarrassing but foolish. There is a certain playful hostility between the South and the North of Wales, as with most countries but that didn't influence me. I just needed a reason to visit. North Wales isn't really on the way to anywhere apart from itself. But many people have told me how exhilarating the landscape is, and they were right. 

Almost more fun than a gold, truffle, saffron and caviar priced zip wire ride was the drive up. The roads are excellent; enough turn and torque to keep sleep at bay after five hours of motorway tedium. Outside Llanberis we encountered a little Porsche at play. We tried to follow in our old Saab but it soon disappeared from sight in a smug puff from quadruple exhaust pipes.

North Wales is by turn, Scotland, Cornwall, the Lake District, Iceland and more besides. The scenery is wonderfully variable. The road reveals: wooded groves, dark verdant valleys with misfit streams, and stolid, grey cast, glacial gorges. Then there's the post-industrial: vast lungfuls of rock; of glistening, cracked slate slabs and shale screeds, piled horizontal;  broken from blasted 'galleries' in the land. Mountains from mountains, the dwell of the dragon.

I will be back. Hopefully in a nippy, two seater.

See that Porsche?
The view from the B&B. That lake is part of a hydro power station.
The zip wire is set in a working slate quarry.
I have to mention the B&B. Almost by accident I'd booked the zero carbon Bryn Elltyd guest house on the edge of the Snowdonia National Park. The rooms with turf roofs and reclaimed timber walls were built into the old pig styes, and were delightfully Hobbitty, almost emerging from the land. Inside they were, surprisingly, pretty standard, although the wet room shower was excellent. Nothing ruins a B&B for me faster than a piss-poor shower. What's worse than trying to wash off a hangover with the sensation of being spat at by an asthmatic pixie?

Ceilia's home-baked bread was included in the price, as was a tour of John's boiler.  You'll wonder at the workings of a compressed wood pellet burner. No, I'm not being facetious. Honestly.

Not a Hobbit but a lad from that Lahndahn.
If day one was slate, day two was salt. We crossed the Menai Straits into Anglesey or Ynys Môn as it was until the Vikings renamed it. The Druidic home of the Welsh, It's known as Môn Mam Cymru meaning the Mother of Wales, for its fecundity. It looks like a river runs through it, but it's an ocean: the Atlantic.

Looking at the mainland across the Menai Straits
It's from this fast flowing water that the Anglesey Sea Salt Company take their produce. Fran, our tour guide explained the process which is more complicated than I'd excepted. There's quite a knack to creating crystals of the right size, hardness and brightness(!) for the table. The brine is filtered, sterilised and concentrated and then heated in small shallow pans. The whole process is done by hand. Halen Môn salt crystals develop on the surface of the brine forming snowflake like structures or hollow pyramids. As they grow, they increase in weight and fall to the bottom to be harvested.

Halen Môn in the making
Most salt last saw the sea millions of years ago. Rock salt is dug out and ground to a powder. Anti caking agents are added to ensure smooth flowing. Sea Salt is made from sea water... and nothing else.

If you read this blog, you'll know how often I carp on about my love of Maldon, a sea salt from the East of England. So how does the Welsh stuff compare?

It's more than three times the price for a start. That stings. There's probably a gag there about tears and brine but I'll resist. Like Maldon, this is a 'dressing salt'; to be put on food not in it. Unless you have the wages of the nearby Cheshire football set you won't be actually cooking with this. Apparently Barack Obama likes it sprinkled on his chocolate candies. Saxa table salt, made industrially, costs around £1 a kilo. Maldon is much more expensive at £7 a kilo but Halen Môn is £22! I should point our that we are still in the foothills of the salt price range. Should you wish to pay more, artisan fleur de sel is available for £75 a kilo (plus shipping) but here I think the emperor has left the tailor's and is strolling down the Rue de Sel, the wind whistling through his nethers, gesticulating happily to the poseurs. The cost does reflect the labour intensive process of course but too often I think it also reflects our credulity and eagerness to impress.

Of course it's not only about cost but I'm firmly of the belief that all talk of gourmet salts being 'sweet' or 'minerally' is nonsense. If they are it's because there must be other sweet chemicals or minerals present. Even if they taste that way on the fingertip, that isn't going to be obvious with food. No, what you pay for is not flavour but texture. Maldon does sometimes have tooth breaking shards, maybe that are missed by the more industrial creation process. Halen Môn is a high quality product: delicate, delightful, crunchy and bright(!) but so is Maldon. The Anglesey salt is more so, maybe, but I'm afraid I can't justify a move from my Essex regular. 

Oh bugger. Parsimony is such an unattractive characteristic and utterly at odds with cheffy beneficence. I'm happy to pay for quality. I feel bad ending on a negative, although I suspect the Anglesey Sea Salt Company will thrive even without my support. However, the same company do make another product. Smoked water. Yup. Not a typo. I've bought some and I will be buying more. I'm really rather excited about it. 

Smoke on (in) the water

Content to come...