Molecular gastronomy at home with Cheeky Monkey

The guys at Cheeky Monkey have launched a spherification kit for wannabe scientists who want to try molecular gastronomy at home. Jellied spheres of flavoured liquid that burst in the mouth can be found in most Michelin starred dishes and this kit includes everything you need to make them yourself:

  • an idiots guide to the two most common techniques, “direct” and “reverse” spherification
  • one recipe for each, including melon “caviar”, the dish that persuaded Ferran Adria that spherification had a gastronomic future at El Bulli
  • sachets of sodium alginate (a natural seaweed extract) and calcium lactate, the chemicals that cause the spheres to form
  • pipettes and a syringe

The process isn’t difficult, even my shaky hands produced perfect liquid filled spheres, and the base recipe can be easily adapted. For example, Phil Howard uses this technique at his 2-michelin starred restaurant to add shots of pure red, green and yellow pepper juice to his gazpacho. Just be aware if you do decide to experiment that the acidity of the liquid will impact the quantity of chemicals required and the choice of direct or reverse spherification - get this wrong and you'll end up with a bowl of jellied gunk (I speak from experience)!

As well as the melon caviar, I also made some simple mango carpaccio garnished with blueberry caviar and passion fruit ice cream - delicious, easy to make, and good fun too.

At just £7.99, the kits are great value. The last time I bought something similar from the Ferran Adria Texturas range it cost me nearer £100 – admittedly it contained more in the way of base chemicals, but unless you’re a serious Heston Blumenthal wannabe it’s unlikely you’ll ever use that much anyway.

My verdict: if you're interested in molecular gastronomy, this is a great introduction. Some people will get hung up on whether it's “proper cooking”, but if you want to intrigue your dinner party guests and have some fun in the process who cares?

*Cheeky monkeys provided me with a sample kit to review for this post