Friday, September 26, 2008

the last of the blood oranges

I woke up dreaming about jelly. Well not the jello variety exactly, a fruit kanten. Years ago I’d made one at a cooking course run by Tony Chiodo. It was so simple and elegant that I earmarked it to be made again. That was years ago but the recipe was exactly where I thought it would be and all I really needed to procure was some agar agar.

Agar agar is a more humane option as a setting agent than gelatin. No horse’s hooves (or for that matter, slightly unpleasant odour) involved. Technically it is a sea vegetable and they go crazy for it in Japan. I found it with no problem at Tofu Trek at Vic market.

The next step was to decide just what kind of fruit offering I wished to make.

The original recipe creates the dearest little translucent jellies made of clear apple juice set with blueberries. But as this was a test run (no grand dinner party here, I just wanted to play with the medium) I settled on the last of the blood oranges and some strawberries. A simple decision really, as even for conventional fruit the blueberries were hovering around the $8 mark, while they were giving strawberries away for $1 a punnet.

To make a fruit kanten there is a basic recipe to make the jelly:

For every 1 cup of fruit juice, use I teaspoon of agar agar flakes, (heaped if you are to add alcohol – whoops that let the next cat out of the bag, didn’t it) plus a tiny pinch of salt.


As to the quantities, the original typed recipe actually used 3 tablespoon of agar agar to 3 cups of juice. But I had faithfully changed altered that as after cooking it we were told it was a typo and should have been teaspoon measures. In class we had made it with tablespoons and it was very firm, verging on hard. Though very yummy.

I cruised the net for quantities and most seemed to use tablespoons, then on a forum I found someone complaining that it seemed too firm and different to the ‘custard like’ kanten she’d eaten at a restaurant.

My texture was definitely set but a soft jelly. If you wish to do something creative like make a batch in a rectangular pan and cut it into squares to accompany another dessert then I’d suggest a tablespoon of agar agar per cup of juice.

But the ratio I used was perfect for:

Blood orange and vodka good karma jelly shots

1 cup freshly squeezed blood orange juice
1 heaped tsp agar agar
1 small pinch of salt
40 mls good quality vodka

Squeeze and strain your orange juice then place in a small pan on the stove. Add the agar agar and a tiny pinch of sea salt, and stir over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and let it gently bubble for 5-7 minutes til the agar agar flakes have dissolved. Keep stirring and checking. They actually do take this long to dissolve fully. You can remove the orange scum with a spoon, filter after cooking or leave it au naturel.

Once dissolved take the pan off the heat. Let it sit for a minute or two to before adding the vodka. Stir it through the juice then pour into shot glasses. Leave standing at room temperature for a couple of hours til they set.

Though remember, “drink responsibly", as the ads say.

But back to dessert.

I used the same quantities of blood orange juice and agar agar, plus the little pinch of sea salt. If making a larger batch use 3 cups of juice to 3 heaped teaspoons of agar agar. Once cooked I added the smallest splash of Grand Marnier. This is entirely optional but remember adding too much booze will dominate the delicate nature of the fruit and can also affect the ability to set. I arranged a quartered strawberry in the bottom of each teacup and covered with the liquid. If you are making this to impress, strain the cooked juice through muslin cloth to get a clearer liquid. It looks fabulous in clear glass but was hesitant to pour hot liquid into my best wine glasses.

Other options to the flavouring include – a squeeze of lemon, citrus zest, a vanilla pod and any decent fruit juice, combined with the best quality, seasonal fruit.

The flavour was intense and slightly tart. If you prefer a sweet dessert add some sugar at the cooking stage. But the combo of blood orange juice and strawberries went together well, with just a hint of Grand Marnier.

In the dream I used the juice of home grown, sweet tomatoes in a savoury kanten. I can’t wait til summer!

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Blogger Johanna GGG said...

you've got me dreaming of home made jelly now - tis the season to feel like such refreshing cool desserts - and once the price of summer fruit comes down I love the idea of blue berries floating in it - or even raspberries! (have never used agar agar so it will be a momentous day when I finally do)

11:33 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please excuse the pun, but a Bloody Good Use for those oranges, I must say.

I love making agar jellies - I've made panna cotta once using almond milk and it was etheral, light and lovely.

Shall rootle (thanks, Docwitch!) around in pantry to get out the agar that's somewhere in the back of the cupboard...

11:38 am  
Blogger GS said...

I should of added in bold letters - don't be afraid of agar! It's so easy to use and makes a quick treat in no time. Almond milk panna cotter sounds yum.

11:53 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

May I just add that the tomatoe-y version is now on my list of must makes? I like the way you dream, darls!

3:31 pm  
Blogger Zoe said...

Look at that colour! The last of the blood oranges here is the peel drying on skewers.

But I have some strawberries and omg mulberries! Lucy, do you think we could persuade you to post the almond milk panna cotta?

9:59 pm  
Blogger GS said...

Zoe - yes brilliant colour despite my inadequate photographic skills to show it at its best (the shot glass ones were worse :(

And I second that post idea Lucy

8:52 am  
Blogger Antoinette said...

oooh...that looks just the ticket.

I bought a packet of agar flakey-thingies some time ago, and keep looking at it intently, but nothing seems to have happened thus far.

I promise NOT TO BE AFRAID OF AGAR, (I actually have been a bit).

12:11 am  

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