Flavour pairing science reveals exciting combinations

Peter Coucquyt, Foodpairing2
Peter Coucquyt, co-founder of Foodpairing.

What do oysters, kimchi, rose and emmental cheese have in common? It turns out their flavours are all good pairings with Cervena® venison.

These novel combinations have emerged from applying science to aromas, also confirming that the best flavour pairings for pan-fried Cervena venison are indeed the delicate flavours associated with spring and summer dining.

Inspired by Fat Duck chef Heston Blumenthal’s work on flavour pairing, Belgian food technology company Foodpairing® was co-founded in 2009 by Michelin-star chef and culinary scientist Peter Coucquyt, bio-engineer Bernard Lahousse and business developer Johan Langenbick. Using chemistry, physics and data science, the team has developed an innovative platform to calculate surprising food and drink pairings for chefs and the food industry. Using advanced algorithms, for which patents have been applied, entirely new, scientifically-based and fully customisable recipes can also be generated.

With, on average 80 percent of flavour experience down to aroma, Foodpairing’s method uses gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC-MS) to analyse the aroma characteristics of a food item.

The aroma profile of raw and pan-fried Cervena was recently analysed under commission from Deer Industry NZ.

“This was initially undertaken to be used during the Summer Cervena promotion but I see it as a great marketing tool which can be used in a number of markets,” explains DINZ Venison Marketing Manager Nick Taylor.

There were four steps to the work: analysis of the aromas associated with Cervena; establishing the aroma profile; comparing the aroma intensity and complexity to similar products; then finding out which flavours most distinctively match the Cervena profile.

Foodpairing Workshop Cervena_best pairing copy 2
The analysis revealed ten distinctive pairings for raw Cervena, including ciabatta bread, mussels, cucumber and chocolate.

Foodpairing’s analysis identified 14 main aroma types, which between them have around 70 subordinate aroma descriptors. Initial analysis revealed grass-fed raw Cervena is predominantly determined by green, dairy and caramellic notes, with descriptors of butter and onion, and undertones of phenolic acid and cucumber.

“This is because raw meat contains a lot of lipids, which are precursors for aroma molecules, and their oxidation” explains Foodpairing’s Peter Coucquyt. Aldhydes, for example, have a green, grassy, fatty smell, 1-octen-3-one has a more green, metallic, blood aroma. (Z)-1,octadian-3-one smells like geraniums, while citrusy notes have a more green, waxy smell in raw meat. Another 4-hydroxy-2,5-dimethy-3(2H)-furanone is responsible for the meaty smell, he explains.

“The animal and phenolic smelling molecules can be attributed to the deer’s diet.”

However, after pan-frying, the aroma type adjusts to caramel, with less prominent dairy, nutty and buttery descriptors and heightened rose, honey and floral flavours.

“Many of the aroma molecules present in raw meat are precursors to the typical savoury, meaty molecules that are developed in the process of pan-frying the meat,” explains Coucquyt.

“The three most important chemical reactions that occur during this process are the Maillard reaction, Strecker synthesis and caramelisation. Pan-frying not only creates new molecules but also changes the concentrations of those already present  in the raw meat, such as the green, fatty and cucumber-like smelling aldehydes.”

When comparing the profiles of pan-fried Cervena with wild Belgian product, the analysis showed Cervena has a less complex aroma and a much more subtle flavour with stronger caramel and nutty and less distinctive floral elements.  The aroma of the Belgian venison, however, was more intense and complex, as might be expected from a game product.

While different cooking methods would present slightly different aroma profiles, what is most interesting for Taylor is the analysis confirmed Cervena is less intense and complex than European deer meat, which makes it more suitable for the fine and delicate flavours of spring and summer.

“While we already knew this, it gives us science-based evidence to guide us further towards presenting a distinctive flavour profile for Cervena in the summer programme,” says Taylor.

Peter Coucquyt pan-fried Cervena
Peter Coucquyt demonstrated how well pan-fried Cervena paired with kimchi and lettuce among other ingredients in a taco at the workshop.

Coucquyt and his team then used the Foodpairing Flavour Database to establish the best and most distinctive pairings of products that share key aromas – ranging from zero percent for no-match and 100 percent for the best match.

“We found the most important drivers for the pairings with raw Cervena are the orange, grass, floral and buttery aromas, while the pairings with pan-fried Cervena are mostly driven by orange, fruity and floral descriptors,” he reports.

The analysis highlighted a number of interesting distinctive pairings for Cervena including, oysters, kimchi, rose and emmental cheese, notes Taylor.

As part of Foodpairing’s work, Coucquyt hosted a workshop in Belgium for the sales staff from one of the wholesalers who sells Cervena during the summer, which Taylor also attended. Participants were invited to try Cervena with a wide variety of ingredients. Feedback from the sales staff, many of whom are former chefs, suggested the Foodpairing approach was a novel way to present Cervena.

“Many of the sales team didn’t realise Cervena could be matched with such a wide variety of ingredients,” he reports.

“For the 2019 Summer Cervena campaign, we hope to undertake a number of Foodpairing workshops with chefs in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, as well as looking to use the findings in the North American and New Zealand markets.”

Chefs, foodies and the food industry can access the database at www.foodpairing.com/en/home

This article appeared in the latest edition of Deer Industry News magazine (December 2018/January 2019) is reproduced here with permission. Check out the magazine for more in-depth deer industry specific news, including on-farm fieldays, trials and more.

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