Word on the street is that ‘boil-in-the-bag’ is back and coming to a kitchen near you – and no, we’re not talking grey cod in an indeterminate flour-based sauce. Every foodie worth their Himalayan Crystal salt knows that the sous-vide (under vacuum) method is a standard in ambitious restaurant kitchens these days, but there are plans afoot to bring it within the reach of your average domestic god and goddess.
Sous-vide flag-bearer Heston Blumenthal spent some time late last year promoting the SousVide Supreme – one of the first attempts to replicate the commercial machines for use in a home kitchen. It produces – as you might expect – outstanding results and food journalists and bloggers went wild for the perfectly scrambled eggs and meat cooked à point at the demonstration. But this acme of culinary consummation will cost you around £499 for the machine itself, at least £50 for the separately sold vacuum sealer and, ooh, £10,000 for the new kitchen you’re going to have to build to house it.
Seeing the gap in the market, Heston is reportedly working on a cheaper, more domestic-friendly version retailing at £300 or less, vacuum sealer included. He’s so convinced – as are many – that this machine has revolutionised cooking in the last 10 years, he’s prepared to sell it to each and every one of us so we can indeed try this at home.
And therein lies a tiny problem. If we can all – hypothetically – buy and then use a sous-vide to produce restaurant-quality meals at home, why the hell are we going to go out and pay for the same in a restaurant? Let’s just ponder for a moment what exactly are restaurants offering us in return for our cash these days? We can buy better wine, cheaper; we don’t have to work around their booking slots or queue; we can produce the same quality food using the same gadgets they employ; we have access to the same ingredients, even if occasionally it requires a little effort … In short, is Heston’s well-meaning act of kitchen kindness another step along the way to doing his kin out of business?
Your starters for 10 this time are: Do you think the sous-vide really has revolutionised cooking? Would you contemplate splashing out on a sous-vide and have you ever been so wowed by/have you even ever noticed the method in a restaurant? And if you did have the space and budget to accommodate one, will it become the next back-of-the-cupboard fondue set?