Previous Aftelier Perfumes’ Chef’s Essences Reviews
A couple of months ago I published three posts about Aftelier’s Chef’s Essences, which included an extensive introduction to the flavour essences, a brief review of perfumer Mandy Aftel and chef Daniel Patterson’s book Aroma (which inspired the development of the Chef’s Essences range), and a survey of my experiences using four of the Chef’s Essence Sprays: Litsea Cubeba, Black Pepper, Sarsaparilla and Violet (Alpha Ionone).
You can read my longer introduction to the flavour essences and about Aroma, as well as my experiences using Litsea Cubeba and Black Pepper in this blog post. You can read about how I used Sarsaparilla by clicking this link, and if the idea of cooking with Violet takes your fancy, click here.
A few days ago I reviewed Frankincense Chef’s Essence and earlier last week I reviewed the Magnolia Flower Chef’s Essence. These were both fascinating, “perfumey” flavours to work with and I found it creatively challenging to come up with uses and recipes for them. I think I discovered some winners though: I used them both in tea and created a lovely orange frankincense cake and a baked magnolia and honey custard, amongst other things. Click on the links to find out more.
If you don’t have time to read these previous posts, please do read on, as I give a brief introduction to the Chef’s Essences below. Today’s post focuses on the Coriander Leaf Chef’s Essence Spray. Scroll down to read my review of this essence and to find some suggestions for use and recipes.
What are Chef’s Essences®?
Put simply, Aftelier Perfumes’ Chef’s Essences are essential oils, natural isolates, resins and absolutes that can be used to flavour food and drinks. They allow the creation of magical, multi-dimensional, heightened and brand new flavour experiences. They seem high-tech, almost Willy-Wonka-esque, like something from the future, space-age. And yet, they are all based on natural ingredients. One or two sprays or drops of these essences will transform your food or drink into an experience like no other. Known flavours become dramatically intensified, others display flavour nuances and characteristics that you haven’t noticed before in the raw ingredient, and new flavour experiences become possible. Have you ever eaten Fir Needle or Tolu Balsam? I haven’t, and I know I want to experience these ingredients, not just as smells (which is how they are most commonly used and encountered), but as flavours too.
Chef’s Essences come in both concentrated form (5ml bottles with a dropper cap) and in spray form (30ml), in which the essential oils and natural isolates are diluted with organic grain alcohol. There are 17 Chef’s Essence Sprays to choose from and 54 Chef’s Essences in concentrated form. All of them can be purchased from the Aftelier Perfumes website. The sprays are very versatile and easy to use as they can be added both during and after cooking, to complete a dish.
I recently interviewed Mandy Aftel for my Thirteen Thoughts: Perfumer Interview Series, and we had some email chats back and forth at the time. In one of these emails I expressed an interest in writing a piece about Mandy’s Chef’s Essences. As Perfume Polytechnic is all about smell (not just perfume), and as this blog has explored phenomena such as synaesthesia, I thought this would be a very suitable and interesting topic for my readers. Mandy very generously offered to send me some samples of some of the Chef’s Essences Sprays. My Chef’s Essence Spray samples arrived beautifully packaged with a handwritten note from Mandy with some suggestions for use.
When I first used the Chef’s Essences sprays I was struck instantly by how much more intense the aroma of my food had become. Particularly when sprayed onto something just before eating it, I experienced the sense of a strong and beautiful aroma hitting my nostrils first, followed by the taste of the essence as I ate the food. That two-part sensation: smell, then taste (combining to form flavour), is not something I really notice much when I eat food generally, so I think that the Chef’s Essences really highlight and intensify the aroma component of eating, almost as a separate and discreet thing. I noticed that my eating also became more mindful and I ate with more care and took more time to savour the smell, taste and flavour of each Essence. Each mouthful was a heightened, sensual, novel, intensified flavour experience.
Chef’s Essences Coriander Leaf Spray
In Part Six today I will focus on Coriander Leaf Chef’s Essence Spray. As coriander is used widely in cooking, I like to think of this spray as a great replacement for the fresh herb, which isn’t always possible to get (depending on the season, or your location) or affordable. I’ve also had trouble growing my own coriander – it always bolts to seed much too quickly.
With this in mind, I’ve chosen to approach using this essence in a more practical way. I’ll provide some suggestions for use below, and also a couple of simple recipes.
This chef’s essence comes in both spray and dropper versions, and Mandy sent me a sample of the spray. If you’ve got the dropper version at home, please note that there is a ratio of approximately 3-5 sprays per drop of essence, and adjust the recipes accordingly, and also according to your personal taste!
You can use this essence anywhere that you would use fresh coriander. In terms of cuisines that use coriander, this includes Mexican, Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, and Moroccan, to name but a few. This sharp, green, fresh herb is unlike any other, and Aftelier’s Chef’s Essence is a great replacement if you can’t get it fresh. It tastes quite like the original herb, but a little sweeter to my taste buds.
Mandy suggested pairing the coriander with citrus, and I tried it with both lemon and lime, which complimented the sharpness of the coriander flavour, which also has a slightly citrussy quality.
General Use Suggestions
Add Coriander Chef’s Essence Spray to guacamole or baba ganoush, try it on tacos and use it to dress chilli beans or Moroccan tagines before serving. Add a spray or two to margaritas, or to a glass of gin and tonic, instead of a slice of lemon.
How I Used Coriander Chef’s Essence Spray
I sprayed 3-4 sprays of Chef’s Essence Coriander Leaf Spray to a bowl of Nasi Goreng, which is Indonesian fried rice, and added a squeeze of lemon. The two ingredients elevated the dish from simply tasty to delicious.
On Vanilla Ice Cream
This is one of the most unusual pairings I can imagine, but it’s sublime. Just remember to go easy with the coriander, as you can end up with a bitter taste if you use too much. Just one tiny spray onto a bowl of ice cream is all you need, and either wait a few minutes for the essence to meld with the ice cream, or stir it through to mix the flavour in. The sharp green herbal flavour contrasts with the creaminess of the vanilla ice cream and the sweetness of the ice cream in turn enhances the natural sweetness of the herb.
Simple Salad Dressing With Coriander and Lime
This is so simple, it’s hardly a recipe at all. Dress a simple salad of greens, avocado and tomato with a drizzle of olive oil, a generous squeeze of lime juice, 2-3 sprays of Coriander Chef’s Essence Spray, and some salt and pepper. Toss to combine. So fresh and delicious!
Sweet Potato Wedges with Coriander Aioli
I based this delicious recipe on the Homemade Mayonnaise recipe from Molly Katzen’s classic Moosewood Cookbook. I changed a few ingredients to make this into a coriander flavoured aioli. This is fabulous with sweet potato wedges, regular potato wedges or chips, and also as a dip for any steamed vegetable, Provençale style. I first tried aioli in Avignon in 1999, served with a plate of simple, steamed and boiled vegetables, whilst sitting in a small restaurant near the Papal Palace. I always think fondly of that meal whenever I eat aioli.
(Serves 3-4 as a side dish, or two as a large snack, with plenty of aioli for leftovers)
For the aioli:
1 large egg
3 tablespoons white vinegar
2 small cloves raw garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
1 1/4 cups oil (canola or olive)
20-25 sprays Coriander Chef’s Essence (approx. 6-8 drops, if you’re using the essence with the dropper bottle)
For the sweet potato wedges:
750g sweet potato, cut into wedges
olive oil to drizzle
sea salt flakes and pepper
Preheat the oven to 180º celsius. Wash and cut the sweet potato into wedges, leaving the skin on. Place on a baking tray lined with non-stick paper, drizzle with oil and sprinkle over salt and pepper. Toss and turn the wedges with your fingers to coat them in the oil. Place in the oven for about 20 minutes, but check to see if they need turning every 10-15 minutes or so. At the 20 minute mark, turn the oven up to 200º celsius and cook for a remaining 20 minutes, or until well cooked and nicely caramelised all over.
Place egg, salt, vinegar, 2 tablespoons of the oil and crushed garlic into a tall measuring jug (one that holds 4 cups is a good size). Using a hand-held blender, process for a few seconds. Now, keeping the motor of the blender running, slowly drizzle in the remaining oil, and blend until the aioli thickens and all the oil is incorporated. Add the Coriander Chef’s Essence and stir in thoroughly with a spatula. Use the spatula to scrape the aioli out into a bowl for serving.
Pile the wedges onto a plate, dip into the aioli and enjoy. Magic!
This is enough aioli for several meals, as it is very rich! You can serve the leftover aioli with steamed vegetables, more wedges, or spread it on sandwiches.
Consume the aioli within a few days as this recipe uses raw egg.
Note: if you don’t have a hand-held blender, a food processor or regular blender will do the trick just as well. This is a foolproof aioli – I’ve never had a problem with this recipe in the 20+ years I’ve been making it!
I hope you’ve enjoyed Part Six of my review of Aftelier Perfumes’ Chef’s Essences. Have you tried any of the range? If so, please let me know in the comments box below which ones you’ve tried and how you used them. I would love to hear about your experiences!
You can buy Coriander Leaf Chef’s Essence Spray here. You can peruse and purchase the rest of the Chef’s Essences and Sprays online at the Aftelier Perfumes website. The website also has suggestions on how to use the various flavours, as does the Aftelier Perfumes Pinterest account.
Warmest thanks to Mandy Aftel for providing me with generous samples of seven Chef’s Essences to sample and review over the last few months. It’s been such a fun creative challenge for me!