For those unfamiliar, sous vide is a French method of cooking food in airtight plastic bags, immersed in warm water that’s much lower in temperature than standard cooking methods, for a good deal longer. Thrown by its exotic french name, I never once imagined I could be a sous vide pro. I’m not there yet, but I’m proud to say I’m well on my way thanks to the Nomiku Immersion Circulator - a nifty contraption new to market this season after a successful Kickstarter campaign.
At first glance, Nomiku bears a rather unnerving resemblance to a giant…neck massager. But aside from its unconventional appearance, Nomiku could not be simpler to use. No buttons to press, no mess, only a very slight risk of electrical shock, what’s not to love?
It works simply: clip Nomiku onto the side of a pot of water. It starts itself automatically when the cord is plugged into the wall. The LCD screen immediately displays the current temperature of the water in the pot, and all you need to do is spin the green dial surrounding the screen to set Nomiku to your desired temperature. The little guy quietly hums and bubbles away, heating and circulating the water, cooking your food until you press the screen down to turn him off.
As far as the preparation method goes, here’s where sous vide can get a little tricky. In order to cook evenly and safely, the food must be cooked inside an airtight bag. You can accomplish this a variety of ways, the easiest being to use a vacuum sealer, such as the Sous Vide SVV-00200 Supreme Vacuum Sealer. I’m sure I’m not the only person in town who doesn’t have my own personal vacuum sealer, so I was looking for Plan B. You can use heat-proof Ziploc bags (found at any grocery store) in the appropriate size, then eliminate the air as best you can. This can be done by using your hands or by slowly lowering the open bag into the pot of water, letting the water force the air out of the bag.
I thought, why not dive in head first? So, I chose the most difficult and awkward-looking recipe I could find in the Nomiku guide book (included in the box): a 2 kg Pork Loin Roast wrapped in a Bacon Basketweave.
I have to admit, I was extremely sceptical that such a massive slab of pork was going to cook at 60C - even when left for the allotted 3 hours - so I turned my oven on as a backup plan. Well, how wrong I was. Once I managed to wrestle the beast out of the plastic bag and into the hot pan for the ‘finishing sear’, I was a believer.
The 'roast’ was cooked evenly from end to end and everywhere in between, and possessed a similar colour and consistency to deli ham.
Perhaps it was just beginner’s luck, I thought. The next night, I tried coho salmon - a riskier technique in that the temperature was much lower and it only went in for 20 minutes. The salmon came out flaking, but with a sashimi-esque center. This doesn’t bother me, as I like both meat and fish rare and raw, respectively. It’s been 24 hours, and I don’t have food poisoning, so I’ll give the salmon test a thumbs up.
Today I was feeling reckless and gutsy; away with the recipe book! I can do this all by myself. I tried green beans in one bag, and a whole gala apple in another. I overcooked the beans (that was my fault, not Nomiku’s), but the apple was a lovely thing. It came out of the bag totally intact, and when I sliced it it maintained its form but the texture was warm and very soft. This would be an excellent way to introduce babies to new foods. Speaking of babies, I also used the handy hot water to warm several bottles throughout my experiments.
All up, I would give the Nomiku an enthusiastic endorsement. If you’re looking for a slam-dunk present for a major foodie in your life, this is the gift to buy this year. Make sure you wrap it up with a box of Ziploc or vacuum-sealable bags too, so they can get experimenting right away. - Dee