But until last year, no one had realised that the cooking liquid we so frequently pour down the drain would open up an exciting world of recipes for people that – for ethical, medical or personal reasons – don’t eat eggs.
Inspired by French tenor Joël Roessel’s experiments with the molecular gastronomy of bean water, software engineer and vegan enthusiast Goose Wohlt discovered that the liquid itself had all the properties of egg white and whipped up a batch of perfect meringues to prove it. After posting his results on Facebook, the group ‘Vegan Meringues – Hits and Misses!’ was created and the community (which today has over 43,000 members) enthusiastically shares preparation techniques, tips and eggless recipes for macarons, marshmallows, nougat, cheese, mayonnaise, cocktails… the list is ever-growing. The ingredient needed a name and Wohlt decided on aquafaba (a combination of the Latin for water and bean).
However, why aquafaba works is still largely unknown. A recent study by The Norwegian Food Research Institute, funded by donations, revealed that the liquid is primarily composed of starches and proteins but, while these findings are significant, they do not provide a complete understanding. Further analysis is necessary and Wohlt believes the results will help both the domestic and commercial development of aquafaba.
But for now there is the matter of what to do with the excess of chickpeas… hummus anyone?