Food pairing, the matching of unusual flavours in revolutionary combinations, is chic these days. Bruges-based Bernard Lahousse has made a career of it. A bioengineer with a penchant for gastronomy, he works as a consultant with world-renowned chefs and major food companies at the cutting edge of food science. After some time in the business, it became apparent that a website could facilitate this work.
Enter www.foodpairing.be. In 2007, Lahousse has been putting some of the basics of his research online as a resource for chefs and companies, and the average foodie can benefit. It was a success from the very beginning, with over 100,000 visitors in its first month online.
The site has two functions: first, food pairing – what goes well with what. Second, the “replacement” feature, indicating what ingredients can combine to make, for example, a basil flavour.
As Lahousse stresses, the site is for “inspiration only”. While a set of several flavours may combine to taste like basil, the difficulty is in the proportions. In other words, you’ll need a month of laboratory work to replicate basil using coriander, tarragon, cloves and laurel.
But that was hardly going to stop me from having a go of it. I started with a food pairing: Brussels sprouts and mango. With some trial-and-error, I believe you could find a preparation that would bring out the complimentary flavours, but I was not inspired to put in too much time on this combination. I moved on to grapefruit – first sampled with coriander, then with peanuts. Both combinations were strangely compelling, and I imagine some of my forthcoming houseguests will be treated to a salad with these three ingredients. Score one for food pairing.
Lastly, I tried my hand at a food replacement. For my “control”, I heated apple juice with a cinnamon stick. To replace the spice, my second pot used lemongrass, lemon peel and cardamom as mulling spices. The results were surprisingly similar. I was keenly aware of a peppery element in the cinnamon missing from the experimental version, but I can also imagine that a few tries working with the right ingredients could create an effective cinnamon replacement.
For the creative home cook, Foodpairing.be delivers on the “inspiration” it promises. Take a peek and then start surprising your friends, family and your taste buds.