Friday, 28 March 2014

Jellied Delight

In praise of jelly.

Rule one:  Do not think about gelatin.  Just don't.  Now, I've reminded you, your head will of course be full of the glutenous stuff, and your thoughts may drift towards where it comes from, but I say, don't go there.  Just pull back and concentrate instead on jelly moulds and children's parties of yore, or in my case, vicious orange wobbly domes enshrining day-glo mandarin slices from a tin, which might still put some people off, but to me is a happy memory of childhood, gullaped into a bowl and smothered with evaporated milk. Yup I was a babe of the fifties and a child of the sixties where love and vitamin C came steeped in syrup from a can, and jelly from unsavory sources, by way of Chivers.

But begone those days.  Step forth Agar Agar and other forms of 'vegetarian' gelatin that leaves the lambs and calves frolicking about in the field, toes intact:

  • Agar, agar-agar, or kanten: Made from red algae, agar is often used in Asian desserts and firm jellies. It's flavorless and has a firmer, less jiggly texture than gelatin. The powdered form of agar is easiest to measure and use; bars and flakes should be dissolved in water first. See this post for more tips. → 1 teaspoon gelatin = 1 teaspoon agar powder→ To set 1 cup of liquid, use 1 teaspoon agar powder or 2 tablespoons agar flakes or 1 agar bar
  • Carrageen or Irish Moss: Carrageen is a flavorless seaweed that can be used for soft jellies, puddings, and mousses. To use the dried seaweed (look for whole, not powdered), rinse it well, soak it in water for about 12 hours until it swells, then blend it thoroughly with your liquid. A carrageen extract called carrageenan is used in some vegan Kosher gel products like Lieber's Unflavored Jel. → To set 1 cup of liquid, use 2 ounces dried carrageen
  • Vegan Jel: Faith highly recommends Unflavored Vegan Jel by Natural Deserts. It's made with vegetable gum (we're not sure what kind), adipic acid, tapioca dextrin, calcium phosphate, and potassium citrate. As Faith wrote in her panna cotta post, Vegan Jel "sets softly, melts in the mouth, and is by far the closest thing to regular unflavored gelatin that I have found." → 1 teaspoon gelatin = 1 1/2 teaspoons Vegan Jel (
When my sis was visiting recently I happened to catch A LOT of daytime TV, which as any one lucky (or unlucky - dependent on how much you actually want to watch overweight chaps running around the country in a sports car buying junk) enough to be shut-in on the sofa will know, is the home of cookery shows and antique hunting.  And so there was James Martin, comfortably cuddly, knocking up an elegant jelly terrine using home-made cordial (sugar and fruit boiled and strained - another story, my dears) and fresh raspberries.  Oh how it wobbled and shivered and shook, and oh how my tough old heart trembled in anticipation.  Instantly I wanted jelly.  Jelly and ice cream...  and so I set forth - first step - washing the grime out of the old jelly moulds I currently use as decoration on a shelf alongside the 1001 other bits of kitchen kitsch I never get around to using...  

Next step - cling film.  I always have trouble getting the jelly out of the mould which is part of the reason I don't use them (as well as the need to scrub them first).  Yes, as pointed out by a fellow mould-collector (who also never uses her) 'but then you get indentations in the jelly' - this is true.  But if you're that much of a perfectionist, you can do it your way and just hope the plop out by themselves, or after dipping in hot water (last time I tried that, the jelly melted).

Furthermore, if you're going to add fruit, it's not going to show so much that there are a few creases in the side of the jelly (a bit like the ones I get from the pillow on my face when I wake up in the  morning).  Promise.  The proof of the pudding etc...  So here goes.

Cling film draped loosely inside the mould, then press some fruit into the dimples - very satisfying.  Dissolve the agar agar in the fruit syrup (or alternatively the cubes of Chivers, eat gelatin and turn off your imagination jelly), and pour just enough over the fruit.  Leave to set.  Put it in the icebox to help it along.  Once set, you can add the rest of the jelly in layers with different fruit if you like...  Here's one I am going to make later: