Saturday, August 28, 2010

Jelly.

I confess that I got into jelly this Summer. I haven't really eaten too much of it since I was a child, really... especially not after discovering what goes into gelatine. Ughhh. Anyway, I've discovered lovely little sachets of agar-agar are readily available here, portioned into the perfect size for 500ml of liquid... which, incidentally, is the same size as the Alpro Soy Yoghurt containers that I seem to throw into the recycling every second or third day. Yeah, I know, I love my natural yoghurt. Not that you can tell by the matching yoghurt beakers, or anything...

So, here are three jellies that I made within the space of a few days. The first is a mixed berry, made with the first batch of berries that I'd managed to collect for the season. Some of them were a little sour, but simmered gently with just the tiniest touch of sugar, they made for the best jelly I've ever tasted.

That's not to discount the others that I made, but really, they're not as seasonal. The second was a latte-flavoured jelly, made with soymilk and espresso. I probably could have upped the sugar a little, because I was using unsweetened soymilk, but it was still a delicious snack. Plus it made it so much easier to deal with my coffee addiction in a stuffy, airless apartment. I don't even own a fan here, and air conditioning in this country is simply non-existent.

There's my latte-jelly, sort of like a bastardised panna cotta, hanging out with it's homelier cousin, the coffee mug. Agar has a firmer set than conventional gelatine, so if you're very careful, and don't use fruit with anti-setting enzymes (I'm looking at you, Citrus!) then you can slice it into cubes. Admittedly I just tended to eat it directly from the beaker...

The other notable mention in my jelly collection is our old friend, Elderflower. I realise that Elderflower has had something of a revival in the last few years, and admittedly, I'm thrilled. Elderflower cordial is a joy of Summer - fresh, floral, and deliciously sweet. I'm not a sugar fiend, but Elderflower cordial could potentially convince me otherwise. So, I used a simple cordial to make the elderflower jelly. You can see the colour better in the first picture of this post, which was the tiny bit of leftover that I set into a shot glass... for "testing" purposes, of course. Not so I could snack on it before the rest had set.

The process of making jelly itself was incredibly easy: Simmer 500ml liquid with one sachet of agar powder (probably about 2tsp) for at least two minutes. You don't even need to refrigerate the jelly liquid, because agar, unlike conventional gelatine, sets at room temperature. That's some might smart seaweed.

I obviously didn't want to simmer the berries and the agar together, so I cooked the berries in 2 cups of water first, with a tablespoon of sugar. I'll point out that the agar powder contained a touch of maltrodextrin, which is a sugar, so I was reluctant to add more. I needn't have worried, because the maltrodextrin didn't add any extra sweetness. A little water cooked off in the process, so I simply topped it up when I measured to see how much berry-syrup I'd created.

The coffee was even easier. I made a fresh pot of espresso on the stove, measured out about 300ml of soymilk, which was what I had left in the open carton in the fridge, and then boiled that with the agar. I added espresso to taste, and topped the rest up with more soymilk... it was strong and delicious.
Finally, the elderflower jelly, which was easiest of all. I just boiled the agar in 400ml plain water, added Elderflower cordial to taste (ready-made from a certain furniture producer, sorry!) and then topped it up with a little extra water. Too easy for words... so I'm not quite sure why I'm writing about it. Hm. Probably something to do with it being incredibly easy, incredibly delicious, and something I want to encourage you all to try...

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