heston blumenthal’s meat fruit
Meat fruit is considered a signature dish of chef Heston Blumenthal. I’ve wanted to make it for ages so here’s my attempt at it. I’ll have a look at where it came from, the process I went through and what I’d do differently if I did it again.
Recipe adapted from Historic Heston (Amazon link)
Where did the idea for meat fruit come from?
Heston has been fascinated with food history for decades. As he began his career he researched the traditional French recipes like Petit Salé aux Lentilles and cassoulet, but once he had his own restaurants he looked even further back in history.
The meat fruit recipe has it’s roots in 1399 at a banquet celebrating the coronation of Henry IV which featured “pome dorreng” among other grand items befitting a new king. Bringing the language forward to ‘pome dorres’ we can start to identify that it was pork mince fashioned into a ball, then glazed in a paste of flour, green herbs and hazel-leaf juice. Prepared in this fashion it had the appearance of an apple, and yet was savoury inside. This trompe l’oeil was very much on trend for banquets of the day; messing about with food was a way to show off how rich you were.
Heston was sent this recipe by the historians at Hampton Court. Blumenthal loves playing with diners’ expectations (e.g. egg and bacon ice cream, hot and iced tea) so set about finding a way to bring this concept to modern audiences. After much experimentation with savoury fillings and sweet coatings, in 2011 the meat fruit of chicken liver parfait with a mandarin appearance was one of the debut dishes for his new restaurant Dinner by Heston. It was a smash hit and immediately the talk of the town; coinciding with the uptake in Instagram made it the perfect menu item to show off what you’d eaten. In fact the dish has almost become the signature of the restaurant, popping up as a logo and motif all over its social media.
My attempt at meat fruit
In attempting this I knew straight away I would be making some changes. I prefer a pork liver pate so I swapped out the chicken livers for pork livers. The restaurant version also uses foie gras which I’m just not down for. I also wasn’t about to buy two types of port, something I very rarely drink, just for this recipe. I also struggled with the exact jelly ingredients: mandarin puree was proving elusive, mandarin oil just no, and paprika extract was lost on me. As you might have seen from the images around this post, this affected the finish dramatically. More on that in a bit.
As recipes go it’s not terrifically difficult. As with a lot of Heston recipes they take a long time but most of that is putting things in the fridge or freezer overnight. There’s no special chef techniques involved, and the only mildly unusual equipment you might not have are spherical moulds but these are widely available (here’s similar ones to mine on Amazon). Sous vide is used in the recipe but it is only for bringing everything to the same temperature. A couple of weird ingredients for the jelly but nothing too Blumenbonkers.
The stages are essentially this:
- Marinate onion and garlic in booze. Overnight. Reduce to a glaze.
- Blitz together liver, butter and boozy onions. Bake in a bain marie.
- Shape parfait into mould, freeze. Seal together and refreeze.
- Make a mandarin jelly. Refrigerate and then bring back to liquid, dip spheres into jelly. Refrigerate before eating.
Photos of making meat fruit
How did it turn out?
I had some issues. It’s worth saying straight away I halved the recipe because it was going to make way too much for our house. That is always fraught with danger in a Heston recipe, with it’s extremely precise gram measurements. In terms of technique, watching Barry Lewis’s attempt I splodged the mixture into the moulds with a spoon and spatula, but if I’d looked closer I would’ve seen that his hemispheres had cracks, and mine had loads. The actual recipe recommends piping which should cut down on air pockets and therefore a smoother finish. I also struggled like mad using cocktail sticks, I should’ve used bamboo skewers which could’ve taken more weight. I had such grief struggling with the flimsy sticks, domes falling over, snapping in two, ugh. Horrid.
And as I mentioned before I didn’t manage to get all the ingredients for the orange jelly. I’m not super-experienced with gelatine but just enough knowledge to know the ratios are sensitive, as are the liquids you use with it affecting the set. I came up with a recipe using tinned mandarins and leaf gelatine and while it worked as a jelly it didn’t have the shine or appearance that the product demands. AND I just forgot the step where you let the jelly mix cool to 27° – when it gets here it sets just right. Really if you get the finish of this jelly wrong the whole thing is a waste of time. My final ‘fruit’ wasn’t going to fool anyone!
More importantly than any of this, I wasn’t crazy about the taste. It was just a bit too gamey for my palate. Maybe that was my folly for using pork livers, maybe I should’ve soaked the livers in milk to calm the flavour. Either way, it’s not quite enjoyable enough for me. And if you don’t like the taste of it what is the point?
As with other Heston recipes, I did enjoy the process and there’s things I’d try again. Recording the outro to my video recipe I suddenly recalled the mushroom parfait recipe I made 11 years ago and really I should have made that again as I remember it being very tasty. The cream would also help soften the flavour. There’s also nothing stopping you using a store-bought pate you like and pressing into a mould. So next would be to make a mash-up of these to get my perfect parfait spheres. Maybe in time for the coronation of King Charles!
Here’s a video version of this meat fruit recipe:
The complete recipe from Ashley Palmer-Watts – if you want the complete unadulterated version.
Chicken liver parfait recipe on The Fat Duck website – almost the exact recipe given in Historic Heston.
Cumbria Foodie’s meat fruit – the first blog on the internet that managed a really pukka version before the recipe was in print anywhere.
Mushroom parfait that I made some years ago – inspired by meat fruit.
For the parfait spheres:
- 50 g peeled and finely sliced shallots
- 5 g garlic peeled and finely diced
- 10 g rosemary
- 150 g Marsala wine
- 150 g port
- 25 g brandy
- 400 g pork livers
- 10 g salt
- 120 g whole egg
- 150 g unsalted butter cubed and at room temperature
For the mandarin jelly:
- 40 g glucose
- 800 g tinned mandarins
- 90 g leaf gelatine
- 1 teaspoon orange colouring
For the parfait spheres:
- Begin by placing the shallots, garlic and thyme in a container, along with the Marsala, port and brandy. Cover and marinate in the fridge overnight.
- Remove the marinated mixture from the fridge and place in a saucepan. Gently and slowly heat the mixture until nearly all the liquid has evaporated to form a glaze, stirring regularly to prevent the shallots and garlic from catching. Remove the pan from the heat, discard the thyme and allow the mixture to cool.
- Preheat the oven to 100°c / 212°f. In the meantime, fill a deep roasting tray two-thirds full with water. Ensure that it is large and deep enough to hold a terrine dish or loaf pan. Place the tray in the oven. Place the terrine dish in the oven to warm through while the parfait is prepared.
- Preheat a water bath to 50°c / 122°f.
- To prepare the parfait, combine the livers with salt in a sous vide bag.
- Put the alcohol reduction, along with the egg, in a second sous-vide bag, and the butter in a third bag.
- Seal all 3 bags under full pressure and place them in the preheated water bath for 20 minutes.
- Carefully remove the bags from the water bath, and place the livers and the egg-alcohol reduction in a deep dish.
- Using a hand blender, blitz the mixture well, then slowly incorporate the melted butter. Blend until smooth. It is important to remember that all three elements should be at the same temperature when combined, to avoid splitting the mixture. Pass the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve.
- Carefully remove the terrine from the oven, pour in the smooth parfait mixture and place the terrine in the bain-marie. Check that the water level is the same height as the top of the parfait. Cover the bain-marie with aluminium foil.
- After 35 minutes, check the temperature of the centre of the parfait using a probe thermometer. The parfait will be perfectly cooked when the centre reaches 64°c / 147°f. This can take up to an hour.
- Remove the terrine from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature. Cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge for 24 hours.
- Remove the terrine from the fridge and take off the clingfilm.
- The top layer of the parfait may have oxidized to grey, so scrape the discoloured part off the surface and you're left with pink. Spoon the parfait into a spherical silicone mould.
- Using a palette knife, scrape the surface of the moulds flat, then cover with clingfilm. Gently press the clingfilm on to the surface of the parfait and place the moulds in the freezer until frozen solid.
- Taking one tray at a time from the freezer, remove the clingfilm and lightly blowtorch the flat side of the parfait, being careful to only melt the surface. Join the two halves together by folding one half of the silicone mould on to the other half and press gently, ensuring the hemispheres are lined up properly.
- Remove the folded half of the mould to reveal a joined-up parfait sphere, and push a cocktail skewer down into it.
- Place the moulds back in the freezer for 2 hours (the spheres are easier to handle once frozen solid). Remove them from the mould completely, and smooth any obvious lines with a paring knife.
- Wrap the perfectly smooth spheres individually in clingfilm and store in the freezer.
- They should be placed in the freezer for at least 2 hours before dipping in the mandarin jelly.
For the mandarin jelly:
- Strain the tinned mandarins into a bowl, reserving the liquid. Place the glucose and mandarin pieces in a saucepan and gently heat , stirring to dissolve the glucose.
- Bloom the gelatine by placing it in the reserved mandarin liquid. Allow to stand for 5 minutes.
- Place the softened gelatine in a fine-mesh sieve and squeeze out all excess juice, then add it to the warm mandarin purée. Stir well until fully dissolved.
- Take a couple of tablespoons of the warm purée mixture and add the orange colouring.
- Stir gently to combine and add it back to the mandarin mixture. Add the remaining mandarin purée and stir again to fully combine, before passing the mixture through a fine mesh sieve. Allow the mandarin jelly to stand in the fridge for a minimum of 24 hours before using.
- Place the mandarin jelly in a saucepan over a low-to-medium heat and gently melt. Place the melted jelly in a tall container and allow the jelly to cool to 27°c / 81°f.
- In the meantime, line a tray with kitchen paper covered with a layer of pierced clingfilm. This will make an ideal base for the parfait balls when they defrost. A block of polystyrene is useful for standing up the parfait spheres once dipped.
- Once the jelly has reached the optimal dipping temperature, remove the parfait balls from the freezer. Remove the clingfilm and carefully plunge each ball into the jelly twice, before allowing excess jelly to run off.
- Stand them vertically in the polystyrene and place immediately in the fridge for 1 minute.
- Repeat the process a second time. Depending on the colour and thickness of the jelly on the parfait ball, the process may need to be repeated a third time.
- Soon after the final dip, the jelly will have set sufficiently to permit handling. Gently remove the skewers and place the balls on the lined tray, with the hole hidden underneath.
- Cover the tray with a lid and allow to defrost in the fridge for approximately 6 hours.
- To serve, gently push the top of the spheres with your thumb to create the shape of a mandarin. Place a bay leaf in the top of the indent to complete the “fruit”.
- Serve each meat fruit with toast.