Mock Turtle Soup at The Fat Duck

the-fat-duck

When we were in London a few weeks ago we met for an hour or so with Heston Blumenthal, who treated us to a four hour lunch at his famous restaurant, the Fat Duck. The meal was unlike anything we had ever had anywhere, and it shows why the Fat Duck has won the Best Restaurant in the World honors for a couple of years running.

I’ve intended to post on this fabulous meal, but haven’t yet because of the time it would take to describe everything.  I took photographs of every course, and if I included them all in one post, it would probably take a half an hour just to download it.

An article in the Telegraph, the UK’s most widely read newspaper, last week gave me an idea as to how to do the post on the meal.  I’ll divide it into multiple posts whenever something comes up that inspires a description of one of the courses.  Since all of the courses at the Fat Duck are of a theme, this won’t be too difficult.

The Telegraph article is about Heston’s new Alice and Wonderland menu.  We tried one of the entrees from this new menu while we were there, so that’s what I’ll post about this go round.

This particular entree, Mock Turtle Soup, was inspired by the Mad Hatter’s tea party and the Queen of Hearts in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

In Victorian times turtle soup became the rage.  It was prepared from turtle meat imported from the Orient and was unaffordable by all but the very wealthy.  Less well-to-do households had to resort to an ersatz version made from the head, hooves, tail and other non-muscular parts of the calf in place of the turtle meat and called, appropriately enough, Mock Turtle Soup.

Lewis Carroll took advantage of this substitution in his book, creating a beast called the Mock Turtle.

Then the Queen left off, quite out of breath, and said to Alice, “Have you seen the Mock Turtle yet?”

“No,” said Alice. “I don’t even know what a Mock Turtle is.”

“It’s the thing Mock Turtle Soup is made from, ” said the Queen.

Heston Blumenthal used these lines for his jumping off point in developing his own version of Mock Turtle Soup, but he added another twist, still from the same book.  During the Mad Hatter’s tea party the March Hare dips the Hatter’s pocket watch into his tea.

The Hatter was the first to break the silence.  “What day of the month is it?” he said, turning to Alice: he had taken his watch out of his pocket, and was looking at it uneasily, shaking it every now and then, and holding it to his ear.

Alice considered a little, and then said “The fourth.”

“Two days wrong!” sighed the Hatter. “I told you butter wouldn’t suit the works!” he added looking angrily at the March Hare.

“It was the best butter,” the March Hare meekly replied.

“Yes, but some crumbs must have got in as well,” the Hatter grumbled: “you shouldn’t have put it in with the bread-knife.”

The March Hare took the watch and looked at it gloomily: then he dipped it into his cup of tea…

The presentation of the entree begins when a server puts down a cup containing a sort of a tea bag shaped as a gold pocket watch.  Then a teapot filled with hot water was placed next to each of us.  As with all entrees at the Fat Duck, this one is accompanied by an explanation of how Heston was inspired by the Mad Hatter’s tea party to create this piece of the menu.

The gold fob watch is molded of a kind of gelatinized bouillon (composed of beef and mushroom stocks reduced into a syrup, leaf gelatine and 10-year-old Madeira) hand-wrapped with edible gold leaf.  When we poured the hot water into the cup and onto the watch, it dissolves into a delicious, savory consomme with flecks of the gold leaf swirling about.

cup-and-broth

Once the tea is made, the server brings a large white bowl with the makings of a caterpillar arranged on the bottom.  The striped body of the caterpillar is made of terrine of ox tongue cooked sous vide compressed with slices of Lardo.  The mock turtle egg is made of a puree of turnip and swede with little enoki mushrooms sticking out to represent antennae so that the egg doubles as the head of the caterpillar as well as to call up an image of the toadstool on which he sat, smoking his hookah.  Sprinkled about the terrine and the mock egg are small cubes of pickled cucumber, truffles, and turnip brunoise.

start-of-course

The server then invites the guest to pour the ‘tea’ into the bowl over the above ingredients to make the Mock Turtle Soup.  The entire entree then is a dazzling soup shot through with flakes of edible gold.

soup

All that’s left now is to eat it, which we did with relish.  As you might imagine, it was delicious.  What you might not realize, however, is all the work that goes into this single entree.  Here is the recipe in full.  As one of the commenters wrote:

I think it’d be a lot less hassle for me to fly to London and go to his restaurant than to try to make this at home.

After looking over the recipe, I would tend to agree.

Unfortunately, the above recipe is now behind a paywall, so unless you have a subscription to The Times, you won’t be able to read it without paying.

Here, though, is a video of Heston discussing preparation of this dish.

Monthly Book Reviews

Reading recommendations

I have been writing a series of book reviews each month that I email to subscribers. If you're interested and want to get on the list, sign up here (or above where it says Get free email alerts in the upper right). I'll send you an email notice of all new blog posts plus all my monthly book reviews. Also, you will get a link to all the previous month's book reviews I've sent. Hope to see you aboard.

Powered by ConvertKit

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

17 thoughts on “Mock Turtle Soup at The Fat Duck

  1. Amazing. Always a favorite of mine since childhood – Alice’s Adventures through the Looking Glass always gives me a completely different view of the work the older and older I get (period-era metaphors and references comes to life – much like the Mock Turtle Soup one above).

    I’m glad that his culinary interpretations have as much twisted whimsy, insight and charm as Carroll’s original stories.

    I’ve got to point out – You have yet to reveal the secret business meetings regarding the whole traveling affair. London, China, etc.

    New book, products, etc? Inquiring minds and all that. ; )

    Cheers!
    (I can’t wait for the ‘Walrus and the Carpenter’ course)

    We’re getting closer to the point that I can let everyone know what we’re up to. I’ll divulge as soon as I can.

  2. Hi Dr Eades,
    “Soup of the evening. Beauuuuuutiful soup!”
    Oysters next course a la The Walrus and the Carpenter?? (Eaten while shedding a tear.)
    Or
    “Won’t you walk a little faster?” said the whiting to the snail,
    “There’s a porpoise close behind me and he’s treading on my tail.”
    (From memory only)
    What fun!

  3. This looked as though it was as much fun to eat as it was to see. They say great cooks (and chefs) have a great imagination. Obviously so!

  4. This is what I would call a culinary orgy. I understand the importance of visual appeal and Heston’s impressive imagination takes it a step further, however — I wonder if the level of theater he aspires to detracts from the culinary experience in any way — looks like quite the indulgence though.

    And yes you can appreciate the amount of time that must go into preparation just by looking at the photos. It is mind boggling how they prepare for several diners at one time.

  5. This is off topic, but I thought of you when I watched this piece of “journalism” on ABC World News with Charlie Gibson on 7/6/09. Being in the newspaper business, this made me cringe at the lack of science AND common sense.

    http://blogs.abcnews.com/theworldnewser/2009/07/what-exactly-does-a-6190-calorie-lunch-do-to-your-body.html#comments

    Why stop there? Why not a 12,000 calorie lunch? Eeesh!

    What a bunch of bogus propaganda! This is worthy of a post. Thanks for sending.

  6. Edible gold…with the current price of gold driving folks back into the hills panning for gold (no joke, piece yesterday on NPR and an article in Atl paper about the panning going on in Dahlonega now)…that was some pot of edible Doc *G*. Lools really scrumptious!

    That reduced endothelial function from eating that ginormous lunch was pretty amusing. If you that huge qty of anything, I’m sure it’d have horrific effects somewhere in the body (hmmm, maybe not meat tho eating meat seems self-limiting to me). We aren’t constructed to gorge like that…period.

  7. This is the full length story on the 6,190 calorie lunch. They could actually see the saturated fat in their blood at the end. (Or so they say.)

    Let me add my voice to the pleas to do a full post on this!

    Some quotes from the story:

    “Jon’s blood samples showed an obvious, significant difference. While his pre-meal blood sample was relatively clear, his post-meal sample was extremely cloudy — you could literally see the fat that was now flooding his system.”

    “On the other hand, my ultrasound revealed a startling change. A large dose of saturated fat causes a chemical reaction, wherein the arteries narrow and do not dilate properly. This means the heart must work harder to pump blood through the arteries. In my case, my heart was working so intensely to pump blood through my narrowed arteries, you could actually hear the difference in my blood flow.”

    “Miller [Dr. Michael Miller from the University of Maryland] said that eating high-fat foods like the ones Jon and I did is as bad as smoking cigarettes.”

    “”You are developing premature aging of your vascular system by eating an unhealthy diet,” Miller explained.”

    Hey, I just posted on this same story. Great minds think alike, I guess.

  8. I came across this link http://www.umm.edu/features/high_fat_meals.htm wherein Dr. Plotnick (from the University of Maryland) describes the test that seemed to be used by the ABC News reporters.

    I wondered why they sought out the University of Maryland doctors. I would guess CSPI pointed them there.

    The study described here is a different study. It checks flow mediated dilation whereas the one in the article is a simple ultrasound exam of the artery.

  9. Here are the links to the nutritional information on what the ABC journalists ate:
    Quesadilla Burger
    http://www.thedailyplate.com/nutrition-calories/food/applebees/quesadilla-burger
    Mega-Sized Deep Dish Sundae
    http://www.unos.com/kiosk/nutritionUnos.html
    Fried Macaroni and Cheese
    http://calorielab.com/news/wp-images/post-images/cheesecake-factory-nutrition-facts-calories-01.gif

    One serving of each only adds up to 82g of Sat Fat (122 total Fat) but 242 g Carbs. Even if they consumed more than 1 serving of any, the numbers don’t add up to 187 g sat fat.

    Sorry to clog up the comments.

    Geez, you put these up while I was writing the post about them. You could have saved me a lot of time if you had posted a little earlier. 🙂

  10. Quite interesting how you found your experience at the fat duck, you seem to be quite concerned with your diet and health in general , how do you feel about the massive amount of E numbers used at the fat duck , did you feel good ,nourished after it ? I know restaurants at the top end are not the place to go everyday for lunch if you are concerned about your diet but Heston’s food is pumped full of E numbers .

    Maybe I’m dense, but I don’t know what an E number is.

  11. I’m disappointed you did not reveal that you toasted Heston with Mad Hatter’s Tea while quoting “Twinkle, twinkle, liittle bat” and that as you left you thanked him with the words

    “‘Twas brillig …”.

    Of course no slithy toves disturbed your sleep later ……?

    In addition, I hope you were not reminded of George, while in Bray-on-Thames.

    I have wonderful memories of the occasion of a wedding up-river in Streetley-on-Thames, in The (slim) Swan!

    Thank you for the review.
    Desmondo

  12. Where are you? we miss your posts

    I have a ton of people visiting and a half dozen projects going. Time is at a premium.