Umami. Myth or reality? (written by will: nerd or geek?)

Umami is a taste, just like sweet, salt,
sour and bitter. These are like the primary colours in art: They can’t be made,
but they make every taste when we eat a meal. Umami is hard to put a flavour
memory on, but I think of it as a Japanese dashi broth. It is also the taste of
the roast meats, or of the golden brown part of a lovely steak. Umami was
discovered relatively recently, but with it we can understand so much more
about cooking and ‘why foods go with each other’. This recipe is for mushroom
ketchup that I have adapted for my purposes, and, because mushrooms contain a
lot of umami it works perfectly with meat, particularly steak. Another two
ingredients that contain umami are potatoes and tomatoes. Both of them are
loved throughout the world, and this is because when we were developing
hundreds of thousands of years ago, meat was scarce, so we developed a love for
the taste of it. So, next time you cook any meat, just think what you are
tasting, and hopefully, with this mushroom ketchup you will be able to much
more easily.
So here it is:
Start by taking 1 kilogram of button mushrooms. Finely chop them, add 50 grams
of salt, and put in a damp muslin bag, suspending it in the fridge, over a bowl
overnight. (The salt draws out the moisture and releases “pure mushroom juice”.
For every 600ml of juice, add 130ml red wine, a finely chopped shallot (cooked
in olive oil for about 20 minutes over a low flame), 1 clove of garlic, 2
“matchsticks” of ginger, 50ml of red wine vinegar and 1 tablespoon of red wine
vinegar. Bring this to the boil, and then pass through a fine sieve.  Add
around 2 tablespoons of  corn flour and whisk over a low heat until
thickened. (Adjust this amount of cornflour depending on how much liquid you
have etc.)
Chef’s note: Yes, do serve with pickled mushrooms; it really is a winner!


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