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Tony Tobin, celebrity chef, assaults your tastebuds

PUBLISHED: 15:47 14 September 2010 | UPDATED: 16:59 20 February 2013

Surrey Life's resident celeb chef Tony Tobin on bringing an element of surprise to your cooking

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine March 2010

Surrey Life's resident celeb chef Tony Tobin on bringing an element of surprise to your cooking

One of the greatest pleasures that falls to any chef is surprising peoples taste buds.
Good restaurants like to start your taste sensations off with a small amuse bouche a bit like warming up before a race. A little something to limber up the taste buds and get the gastric juices jogging on the spot.

But in this case, Im not talking about getting ready, Im talking proper surprise. The sort of taste that delivers a pleasant shock when someone inserts a fork or spoonful of something that they are not quite sure of into their mouths... and zing! They pull an expression that simultaneously comprises a pout, a wrinkle of the eyebrows and a widening of the eyes in pleasure. Hopefully followed by a mid-mouthful, Wow!

Thats a very particular sensation and its something that every chef loves.

Can anyone think of a name for it? Answers on a postcard please. For the time being, lets go for... oh, I dont know, a yumple. As in, Ooh, that was a real yumple.

When thinking of great yumples I have known, there are some ingredients and sensations that stand out the best of which tend to be those where the eyes are expecting a plain taste but the mouth experiences a rapid about-turn.

These are most prevalent with ingredients that look incredibly innocent but are capable of triggering a yumple whenever served or combined into a mouth-tingling parcel. When entertaining, these are useful to store in your armoury as dinner party surprises.

To get you in the mood for considering yumples, try the amazing basil test. This will teach you something about your senses. Just grab a leaf of fresh basil and before you pop it in your mouth, hold your nose. Chew it a little, and youll notice theres very little taste. Then, let your nostrils open. Now you werent expecting that! Basils flavour needs both nose and mouth working together to deliver the taste.

A yumple requires something similar. It has to deliver a sensation that is either different or very much better than your guests might expect.

Sometimes the key is texture, sometimes contrast... and sometimes just raw zing factor.

A pleasant surprise
The best surprise textures tend to be those that deliver either a delicious collapse in the structure of the food youre popping in your mouth or else a sharp contrast between two textures that are combined.

Think chocolate eclairs... For me, biting into that fairly solid-looking exterior and experiencing the thin layers of pastry collapsing on to cool cream through the sweet goo of the chocolate on top is exquisite.

Or how about those tiny marinated red pepperdew peppers full of cream cheese that M&S are now selling? Hard to stop those once you start!

Contrast is equally effective. The peppers have an element of this sharpness and crunch wrapped around garlicky cream cheese. You can do plenty of this with unusual dessert experiments. Try adding a little rock salt to crme caramels or chocolate tarts, or popping the kids favourite sweet, the mouth popping Space Dust, into mousses or trifles. They offer a real yumple experience because they are covered in a thin layer of fat so the mini-explosions dont start until it is in your mouth. Sounds weird? Try it.

Another two favourites of mine are thick balsamic vinegar on top of sorbets and black olives with strawberries and shaved parmesan cheese. These are real sounds mad but tastes fab candidates.

Finally, he said, easing seamlessly into this months super recipe, I give you wasabi. Wasabi is at the top of the pile when it comes to yumples. Most people only ever experience it when visiting a sushi restaurant and dabbing a spot of innocuous looking green cream on to their raw tuna. Pow!

Personally, I think that wasabi is usually best when served with raw or smoked fish. Ive eaten it with gravadlax before, which adds an extra dimension of surprise and flavour. However, this months recipe includes two yumples alongside a lovely fillet of lamb wasabi pikelets (remember those?) and spicy beetroot. Cook, serve and dont eat yours until youve seen the yumple effect on your very lucky guests. Happy cooking!

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