Saturday, January 1, 2011

Missing Japan and Experiments with Vegan Gelatin

I knew it was a great country when we lived there and I still know it now! I think we will see the wonderful Kuzu Root starch making a return to B's diet soon, as everytime I read about it, it is always noted to improve digestive health and to strengthen intestines. She tolerated it very well when we used it with her baking (I couldn't get arrowroot and it was an excellent arrowroot substitute-- in fact, it is referred to in some places as Japanese Arrowroot, even though it is a different plant).

The other ingredient we will be trying soon that I once more can thank Japan for is agar agar. This is actually a sea vegetable found off of the coast of Japan and is used for making desserts such as custards and gels. I will be attempting to test its validity as an egg replacer. Should be interesting. . . Even if it doesn't work in that capacity, I made a beautiful coconut milk custard and a lovely mango gel (consistency somewhere between jello, jelly and custard.. . .) very VERY easily with the help of the lovely agar agar today. It set up very quickly and for each dish only required two ingredients-- the liquid (juice or coconut milk) and the agar agar. Definitely got points for a short ingredient list, quick cook time and an easy cooking experience! All things we all love, am I right? So here is the deal with agar agar. . .

You can get the vegetable itself, the flakes (I have these) and the powder. In the recipe below, if using powder, use 1 tsp instead of 1 Tbsp (you need the 1 Tbsp if using flakes). It is a little pricey, but I have read that you can often get the dried vegetable at asian food stores for very very cheap and then grind it into a powder on your own, making a large batch for very very little money. I will be testing this theory. In the meantime, if you go online to eden foods or swing by the asian food section at whole foods, you can pick up the flakes and test out this recipe:

Vegan Jello/Custard
1 cup of juice or alternative milk
1 Tbsp agar agar flakes
flavoring as desired (optional)

Pour liquid into small saucepan and blend in flakes. Allow to stand at room temperature for about 5 minutes. Then, bring the mixture to a boil. Once a nice rolling boil has been established, reduce to a simmer for about 5 more minutes, or until most flakes have dissolved. Pour mixture into small bowls (I used two ramekins for one recipe, filled about 2/3 full). Refrigerate until mixture sets up, about 1-2 hours. Cover and keep refrigerated until ready to eat.

You can also mix in some diced fruit to the mixture before it sets up to add a little something to your dessert.

I was so happy with the results that I feel the need to really test the waters with this ingredient and see what it can do! I will keep all of you posted! (I even got a new silicone shape pan for this occasion!)

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