Carragheen Pudding

Carragheen is a small red seaweed with great setting properties, found in the Hebrides and Ireland. If you’re not in either of these places picking from the shore, there’s a good chance your local health-food shop will have it–or, bring it back dried from holidays in Ireland and Scotland.

Sorry for the lack of an update yesterday. My Internet connection was on the blink. Thankfully everything is working now.

Rather than try my local health shops, I decided to turn to the Internet first for finding Carragheen. My initial search came back empty, but I did find that Carragheen is known by many names: Irish Moss, Carrageen Moss, Irish Carraigeen, and scientifically as Chondrus crispus. Another quick Google search for Irish Moss was much more fruitful, and a little eye opening. Carragheen is used in countless products, from toothpaste to ice cream to lunch meats. Where I finally managed to find some dried for purchase however, was at a beer brewing website. Apparently Carragheen is “used during the boil as a ‘kettle coagulant’ to help proteins precipitate, resulting in clearer, haze-free beer.” I’ll have to keep that in mind if I ever decide to start brewing at home.

Here’s the star of this pudding, Carragheen. In its dried state it had a very strong seaweed smell to it, much like the nori one would use for making sushi rolls. Now, the recipe at no point mentioned whether or not the Carrageen should or shouldn’t be re-hydrated, and if it were to be re-hydrated, how long should it soak. Had I taken more than five minutes to debate this little matter, I’d probably have re-hydrated the seaweed. But I didn’t do that.

Nope, I dumped it all in pot with the correct amount of milk and some superfine sugar, oblivious to the fact the Carragheen was thirstily slurping up every drop of moisture it could. About ten minutes into the cooking time, I finally noticed that the seaweed was not melting away as the recipe had told me, but it was getting thicker. Much, much thicker. So I added a little bit of milk to keep my pudding from burning. Then I added a little more. And then a little more, with some more sugar.

Eventually, I had added the whole gallon of milk. I’m just going to chalk this up to a learning experience. I’ve never cooked with agar-agar or any other seaweed thickener before so that’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it.

I strained all of the unmelted Carragheen out of the liquid, and then poured it into little ramekins for individual portions. These little guys were placed in the refrigerator to cool down and firm up…

…which they did admirably. I then added a nice blob of raspberry jam on top of the pudding, followed by a mound of sweetened whipped cream. The funny thing was, the pudding was so unbelievably slick that the jam kept sliding off the top of it. This was the best picture I could muster, so I do apologize.

This dessert is very, very unusual, but in a good way. Texture-wise it was like an ultra thick, rubbery custard. The pudding by itself had a mildly sweet, seaweed-like flavor to it. Though when combined with the jam and whipped cream, the pudding began playing the part of a backup singer. When I took a bite, the pudding was still there and still an important part of the song, but muted. The jam and the rich whipped cream took center stage, but they would have been way too sweet without the balance of the Caragheen. I can also see the pudding working with almost any flavor jam, so diners will be able to tailor it to specific preferences with little trouble. This recipe is a winner for sure.

One down, one hundred and twelve to go.

Chocolate Ice Cream

With the aid of Leah White, my pastry chef (who has been a great help with various puddings and pastries and their technicalities), we tried to create a wonderful dark bitter chocolate ice cream. We have failed so far, so if anybody can help, please communicate with us at St. John at 011 44 20 7251 0848. Even so, seeing as chocolate ice cream is fundamental, I have included the recipe we currently use. It is not as dark or as bitter as I could wish for, but is rich and delicious.
I’m afraid before you go any further you will need an ice-cream machine.

I’ve been kicking around the idea of a vanilla and tarragon ice cream in the back of my head for a while, but I was finally inspired to give it a shot after reading about Hank Shaw’s Oregano Ice Cream on his blog, Hunter Angler Gardener Cook. I highly recommend adding it to your favorites, Hank updates often, and it’s always a good read. Anyhow, after I picked up the ice cream maker I remembered that I had needed to buy one to make this recipe. Two birds with one stone!

The recipe starts off with simply bringing a little over two cups of milk and heavy cream to a boil, and then dropping the heat down to let things sit at a simmer.

My wife brought home some 70% cocoa solid buttons made by El Rey. These were roughly chopped …

… and added to the milk/cream mixture.

While the chocolate begain melting and mixing with the dairy, I had my standing mixer whisk half a dozen egg yolks with confectioner’s sugar. The recipe asked for caster sugar but my local megamart was fresh out.

Once the sugar was completely integrated with the yolks I tempered it, added it to the pot on the stove, and stirred until it was nice and thick.

In the meantime I chopped up some Lindt unsweetened chocolate and added it to the pot, which made the mixture a very rich, dark brown once it melted.

I let the chocolate cool a little bit, and then strained it through a sieve to remove any small particles of unmelted chocolate.

As a kid, my father used to make the best vanilla ice cream; however, the machine seemed to take forever, and even when it was done the ice cream was really soupy. We’d have to stick the canister in the freezer and wait even longer for it to really be considered ice cream. Technology is an amazing thing, because now we can have real, honest to goodness ice cream in under 20 minutes.

Here’s the ice cream with some pirouette cookies and a little bit of bittersweet chocolate grated on top. Mr. Henderson couldn’t have described the results any more aptly. The general consensus was that it was indeed “rich and delicious”. Too many desserts these days are cloyingly saccharine, but this was not overly sweet, which was a welcome surprise.

One down, one hundred and thirteen to go.