Guests: Aisling Bea, Jason Manford, Johnny Vegas
Air Date: 10 October 2014 at 10pm, BBC Two
XL Air Date: 12 October 2014 at 10.30pm, BBC Two
The earliest record of a frog being cooked, anywhere in the world, comes from a Mesolithic site a mile from Stonehenge. Archaeologists found a charred toad's leg amongst food detritus, dated to 7596 - 6250 bc. The same dig suggested that people then were eating three-course meals: frogs with hazelnuts, then a fish course, and blackberries for pudding.
The French eat 3-4000 tons of frogs' legs a year, which requires 60-80 million frogs. Because edible frogs are now a protected species in France, frogs' legs are imported, mainly from Indonesia and Bangladesh.
When Escoffier was Head Chef at the Carlton Hotel in London, he first served frogs’ legs at a society banquet under the name Cuisses de Nymphes de l’Aurore, ‘thighs of the nymphs of dawn’ - so that no one would know what they were. He dressed them in a white wine and fish sauce with paprika, garnished with chervil and tarragon and served in champagne jelly.
Most people in the West haven’t eaten real wasab. What you get in Japanese restaurants in the UK is usually coloured British horseradish. True wasabi is a relative of horseradish, but it takes two years to reach maturity, is highly perishable, and both difficult and expensive to ship far from its native Japan. Just as we call wasabi 'Japanese horseradish', so in Japan horseradish is 'Western wasabi'.
The winners of the 2011 IgNobel prize for Chemistry were a team led by Makoto Imai. They determined ‘the ideal density of airborne wasabi to awaken sleeping people in case of a fire or other emergency', and applied that knowledge to invent the wasabi alarm.
The Leidenfrost effect is named after Johann Gottlob Leidenfrost, who described the phenomenon in 1796 in A Tract About Some Qualities of Common Water. The effect is that a liquid in near contact with a surface which is much hotter than the boiling point of the liquid forms a layer of vapour which insulates it and stops it from immediately evaporating.
To demonstrate this, we could have given the panellists a vat of molten lead. They would have wet their fingers with water and then plunged them quickly into the lead. The water would have formed an insulating layer and they would have been unharmed. Alternatively, they could have gargled with water, then taken in a mouthful of liquid nitrogen and spat it out (with potentially fatal consequences if they accidentally swallowed any). However, we opted for a different demonstration – one which didn’t give our insurance underwriters a heart attack.
The equipment we had was a Leidenfrost maze, lent to us by the University of Bath
(not 'Bath University', as they’re keen to make clear). It has a ridged metal surface, which is heated above 'the Leidenfrost Point'. When you drop water onto it, the water doesn’t immediately evaporate – instead it forms droplets and skitters across the surface so that it travels around the maze in a predictable pattern.Stephen's Cards
The writer operates at a peculiar crossroads where time and place and eternity somehow meet. His problem is
to find that location.