Sous vide cooking with Clifton at Home

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Clifton at Home - water baths

 

A couple of weeks ago, I spent the morningĀ in Weston-super-Mare. No, not playing on the arcade machines at the pier – I was there to spend time with Clifton at Home, who have recently introduced a range of sous vide water baths for home use.

The third generation family business started life as a company making water baths for pharmaceutical and hospital use…until, that is, they were approached by a few top chefs (including Daniel Clifford) who enquired about the potential for them to develop the equipment for use in professional kitchens. And so they did.

Now they make almost 10 different sized water baths, and they’re brand leaders in the UK catering market. It was hard at first, said MD Melvin Dickson on the day – chefs simply didn’t know what they were looking at. Now their water baths are incredibly popular – so much so that this local brand now white labels them for other manufacturers too.

On the date in question, I arrived with other bloggers to get an introduction to Clifton at Home and their water baths, starting with an intro to the company from Melvin and marketing manager Charlotte. We were then introduced to Dez Turland – the development chef at Devon’s Saunton Sands Hotel – who’s been working with the Clifton brand for the last 4-5 years.

Clifton at Home - Dez Turland

“It’s all about controlled cooking and controlled temperatures”, he says. He’s a big fan. In a busy kitchen, he’s seen a huge reduction in wastage, as the water baths allow for great portion control. He even cooks joints of meat sous vide for his Sunday roasts – telling us that there’s no more than 2-3% shrinkage in a water bath, whereas an oven-cooked joint will see shrinkage of around 30% when cooking. The fact that it costs less than 3p an hour to run a Clifton water bath helps them to save money on utilities too.

We were shown how the water baths work – you basically decide what you want to cook, vacuum pack it (or seal it in a special bag with a hand held pump that removes the air) and cook at the temperature and for the amount of time that you want. Dez told us that a lot of it’s down to experimentation – different chefs will cook the same dish or ingredient in different ways, but it’s all down to personal preference.

To show us how easy it is to use the water baths, we were then tasked with making our own lunch! While Dez had prepared the starter, it was up to us to make our own main course: an Oriental chicken dish served with noodles – everything cooked sous vide.

First, we were presented with our ingredients: a chicken breast, pineapple, spring onions, chillies, matchsticks of ginger and noodles.

 

Clifton at Home - chicken ingredients

 

We added everything bar the noodles to a bag especially designed for water bath use, choosing how much of each ingredient to include to suit our tastes. After mixing honey with soy sauce, we added this to the bag too, and pumped all of the air out, ready for cooking.

 

Clifton at Home - Chicken in bag

 

The noodles were combined with a splash of oil and a sprinkling of sesame seeds, as well as a few leftover slices of spring onion, and we again pumped the air out of the bag before cooking.

 

Clifton at Home - noodles

 

While the chicken was cooking (45 minutes at 65 degrees), we were taken on a tour of the premises, starting with an impressive garden that you wouldn’t expect to see behind a building on an industrial estate…

 

Clifton at Home - Garden

 

The team have their own orchard, grow their own veg, recycle rainwater to water plants…it’s pretty impressive. They also have three beehives, each home to 20,000 bees, and make their own honey (which I was kindly given a jar of to take home). The money they gain from selling the honey is ploughed back into the garden, with the latest funds being used to create a wildflower meadow to keep the bees happy.

We were then given a tour of the factory where all of the water baths are made – it’s a fully British (and Weston-based!) operation. Much of the equipment and machinery used to make the water baths has been created by the Clifton Food Range team themselves: when we visited, there were various machines that cut and added vents to the exterior, that bent the metal into shape, that tested and calibrated the finished water baths…it’s an impressive operation.

And then, it was time for lunch. We started with a dish that Dez had prepared for us: spiced sag aloo with smoked haddock and a poached egg. The combination of spinach, potatoes, chilli and tomatoes had been cooked at 85 degrees for an hour, while the eggs had been poached at 64 degrees for the same period of time. The haddock, simply dressed with coriander and lime, was cooked for 15 minutes at 48 degrees, and the whole thing was served with yoghurt and a curry dressing.

 

Clifton at Home - Haddock and Sag Aloo

 

It really was amazing. The haddock had a fantastic consistency, while the vegetables were perfectly cooked. The poached egg was really interesting – the sous vide cooking had given the yolk a gel-like consistency, which kept it tasting “runny” but avoided it running all over the bowl and combining with the other elements of the dish.

It was then time for our chicken dishes – and mine tasted amazing, if I do say so myself! The chicken itself had been briefly seared after the water bath, and had a fantastic poached consistency, while the fact that all of the accompanying ingredients had been locked in a sealed back meant that the none of the flavour had been lost.

 

Clifton at Home - Oriental Chicken

 

There’s apparently no limit to what you can do with a water bath – we were even shown a video on sous vide cocktails! The Clifton at Home range is compact enough to sit on a kitchen counter without taking up excessive amounts of space, and there are various different colours available to suit a range of different kitchen styles. I’m seriously tempted…

 

Many thanks to Clifton at Home for the invitation to spend the day at their premises.

 

 

One Response to Sous vide cooking with Clifton at Home

  1. I have been using sous vide techniques at home regularly for the last seven years.

    If I were looking for a machine now, I would start with something like this one:-

    http://anovaculinary.com

    Various people produce similar devices.

    A decent vacuum sealer is essential.

    I use one of these
    http://www.makro.co.uk/foodsaver-vacuum-sealer.html?gclid=Cj0KEQiA-ZSzBRDp3ITHm5KO_JYBEiQA1JjHHMFZ2Toge5KVjsAxz7EbPq4pac_rOh1IfkhZYa_o7ScaAsYs8P8HAQ

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