daring cooks: fish, traditional flavours powdered

this is my third month as a daring cook and the challenge was something special – a molecular gastronomy recipe a la el bulli, heston blumenthal etc.

chosen by sketchy from sketchy’s kitchen, this grant achatz recipe is from the alinea cookbook – skate with traditional flavours, powdered. or, in more explicit terms, fish, served atop a bed of green beans and banana (!) with powdered capers, lemon, onions, herbs and butter.

gulp! so, how did i get on?

making the dish was surprisingly easy once i got over the initial feelings of intimidation. sketchy chose a molecular gastronomy recipe which doesn’t require gadgets or chemicals and this is something anyone can pull off with a reasonably well-equipped kitchen (the powders can be made in an oven or microwave)

the powders – i don’t have a microwave so made my powders in the oven. everything went in at 130c and was taken out when it had dried out and could be turned into a powder. the cooking time was:

  • capers – 1 hour 25 minutes
  • onions – 55 minutes
  • lemons – 55 minutes
  • herbs – 45 minutes

the rest – the other components of the recipe were simple to make.

the final verdict:

  • would i have tried this recipe if it hadn't been part of the daring cooks challenge? no. despite owning heston blumenthal’s big fat duck cookbook, i’ve never felt the urge to try out any of the recipes. the green bean/banana/fish combination would also have put me off as this was not a set of flavours that i could imagine enjoying together.
  • would i try this recipe again in the future? yes. it’s the prefect recipe if you want to try something a bit different and challenge yourself, both in terms of making and eating it. the flavour combinations work (amazingly!) and the powders were great fun. i love the idea of experimenting with powders of various sorts in different dishes. powdered summer berries would be particularly wonderful, i am sure.

i’ve simplified the recipe as we were given it but kept in most of the detail, just adding a few notes to share my variations.

grant achatz’ skate, traditional flavours powdered (serves 4)


100g finely diced red onion

200g capers (brined, not in oil)

300g lemons

5g citric acid/vitamin c tablet (i didn’t use this)

150g coriander leaves

150g parsley leaves

100g dried banana chips

300g powdered milk

beurre monte – see below

450g cold butter, cubed

4 tablespoons water

4 skate wings (i used plaice)

300g fresh green beans, sliced into 2mm discs

sea salt

1 banana

make your powders – i did this in an oven set at 130c, cooking times are noted above. i roasted them together, putting the capers in first, then the onions and lemon, finishing with the herbs

caper powder - run the capers under cold water for two minutes to remove some of the brine then dry on paper towels. place on a tray lined with greaseproof paper and roast at 130c until they have dried out. pulse in a blender and pass through a fine sieve. mix it with the onion powder.

onion powder - spread the onion on a greaseproof paper-lined tray and roast at 130c until dry. pulse in a blender then pass through a fine sieve.

citrus powder - zest the lemons, remove any pith from the zest and poach in 1 litre of simple syrup three times (i didn’t know what this meant so just poached my lemon peel for c15 minutes. i also used much less syrup – i was making half quantities but only made 200ml syrup). dry with paper towels and move to a tray lined with greaseproof paper then roast at 130c until the lemon is dry. pulse the zest in a blender, pass through fine sieve (i didn’t do this), and mix with the citric acid/vitamin c powder (i didn’t add this).

herb powder - blanch the leaves in boiling saltwater for 1 second, submerge the leaves in ice water for 3 minutes (this ensures your powder will be bright green). dry on paper towels and place on tray lined with greaseproof paper and roast at 130c for 12 hours until the herbs are dry. pulse in a blender then pass through a fine sieve (i didn’t do this).

brown butter powder (the quantities suggested make far too much, i suggest you make a quarter quantity) – sieve the milk powder into a fine layer onto a tray lined with greaseproof paper. bake at 180c for 4 minutes, then remove for heat. if it bakes for too long, it will burn. blitz the banana chips in a blender and mix with the toasted milke powder. pass this through a fine seive and reserve.

make the beurre monte – put the water a small saucepan, bring to a boil, remove from heat and whisk in the butter 1 cube at a time. this should form an emulsion. keep this heated, but under 195 degrees. the emulsion will not break - this is your poaching liquid.

fish and vegetables:

prepare the skate – 50g pieces are recommended. bring 300ml water and ¾ of the beurre monte to a simmer over medium heat, add the fish and simmer for 2 minutes. remove the pan from heat and flip the fish over and let rest in pan for two more minutes. transfer to a warming tray lined and season with 5 grams of fine sea salt.

bring 100ml water, the remaining beurre monte, and the green beans to a boil over high heat. cook until the water has evaporated (about 3 minutes), when the pan is almost dry, remove it from heat and season with 3g salt.


take the tip of a small spoon and make a small mound of the citrus powder, the onion-caper powder, and the herb powder. swirl these around to make an interesting pattern. it is easier, and you get finer lines if you lightly shake the plate to flatten out the mounds, then swirl the spoon through it to get the pattern.

peel and slice the banana into thick slices (3mm), fan three slices on the plate, next to the powders. place the green beans on top and place the fish on top. sprinkle the fish with the brown butter powder.