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Infusions Lesson from Winner of The Taste

Monday, 24 November 2014

A group of girls from Year 7 to Year 13 was given a lesson in infusions from Debbie Halls-Evans, winner of Channel 4’s The Taste cooking competition earlier this year. She talked to the girls about adding additional layers to their food by using flavoured salts, sugars and oils.

Debbie brought with her a selection of the different infusions she prepares herself and talked the girls through the process of making each of them. They were delighted with the unusual combinations, from cinnamon, vanilla or mint sugars to lavender sugar and rose sugar created from garden plants. They were amazed at the powerful curry scent from the garam masala salt and the rich aroma of the applewood smoked salt. They were also able to smell coriander and lemon salts, and the slightly more unexpected vanilla salt. She also brought along coriander oil, oregano oil and sage oil for the girls to see.

Debbie explained the importance of preparing the infusions correctly while passing around examples for the girls to smell.

She went on to talk about how interesting it can be to create unusual combinations for infusions; for example, she made a basil syrup as a demonstration, combining sugar, water and fresh basil to create a strongly flavoured ingredient that could be added to sweet dishes.

All the while, Debbie spoke to the girls about the importance of creating what she termed “a 3D flavour” that uses all five tastes – bitter, sweet, sour, salty and umami – in every dish. She used a chocolate cake as an example: although it needs to be sweet, the other flavours make for a much richer and more interesting taste experience. This can be achieved in any dish by using salts, sugars and oils infused with additional flavours.

The girls were also able to ask Debbie for suggestions about how to make some of their favourite foods. This led to a really interesting series of tips, from poaching chicken in coffee for an intensive flavour hit or milk to whiten the meat, to what interesting taste combinations are best to use with chocolate, to even discussing the many different flavoured butters that can be easily created.

At the end of the talk, Debbie gave the girls the opportunity to try some of her creations. She spoke about how to make salted caramel meringues and demonstrated making a Chantilly cream, then offered these to the girls to taste. She also offered raspberries with vanilla salt, and finished her demonstration of the basil syrup so that the girls could try it before the end of the session.

The girls were all eager to try these special taster treats, which were full of intense complimentary flavours.

As many of the girls present were GCSE and A-Level students, this was the perfect opportunity to pick up tips and a great way for them to start to think about adding extra flavours to their food. Many of the girls left the talk chatting about the many ideas that Debbie had inspired.

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Two of the A-Level students who attended the talk with Debbie

Two of the A-Level students who attended the talk with Debbie

Debbie showed the girls how to create a basil syrup

Debbie showed the girls how to create a basil syrup

The girls couldn

The girls couldn't wait to try the salted caramel meringues