The other day I received a very pleasant surprise in the mail. It was from Srivalli of Cooking4allseasons. This was a surprise ingredient ( along with a very sweet letter seen above) sent to continue the Arusuvai friendship chain where we send something to a fellow blogger for them to make a dish using the surprise ingredient. She is one of the only fellow Chennai bloggers that I have met. Unfortunately the same reasons for not blogging are also the reasons for not meeting up with everyone.
She sent me a very sweet letter and a nicely packed little packet of something. It was a puzzling few minutes for me till I figured what it exactly was. Then it struck me. China grass.
Though vegetarians, I have always stuck to using gelatine in all my desserts as it was something I was used to doing. I never really tried out the vegetarian version of gelatine which is Agar Agar or popularly known as China Grass in India.
Agar or agar agar is a gelatinous substance chiefly used as a culture medium for microbial work. It is an unbranched polysaccharide obtained from the cell membrane of some species of red algae or seaweed. It can be used as a laxative, a vegetarian gelatin substitute, a thickener for soups, injellies, icecreams and Japanese desserts such as anmitsu, as a clarifying agent in brewing, and for paper sizing fabrics. The word agar comes from the Malay word agar-agar (meaning jelly). It is also known as kanten, agal-agal (Ceylon agar), or China grass. Chemically, agar is a polymer made up of subunits of the sugar galactose. Agar polysaccharides serve as the primary structural support for the algae's cell walls.
Agar-Agar is the sea's natural gelatin. White and semi-translucent, it is sold in packages as washed and dried strips or in powdered form. It can be used to make jellies, puddings and custards. For making jelly, it is boiled in water until the solids dissolve. One then adds sweetener, flavouring, colouring, fruit or vegetables, and pours the liquid into molds to be served as desserts and vegetable aspics, or incorporated with other desserts, such as a jelly layer on a cake.Agar-agar is approximately 80% fiber, so it can serve as a great intestinal regulator. Its bulk quality is behind one of the latest fad diets in Asia, the a Kanten diet. Once ingested, kanten triples in size and absorbs water. This results in the consumer feeling more full. Recently this diet has received some press coverage in the United States as well. The diet has shown promise in obesity studies.
In Indian cuisine, agar agar is known as "China Grass" and is used for making desserts.
( Source- Wikipedia)
So after a lot of brain storming and looking for things to make, I decided to use it exactly the same way as I did gelatin and used a recipe that I already had for a Peach Pie using yoghurt, just substituting the gelatin with the China Grass.
I had a lot of doubts about it as I was not sure if it was going to set ultimately, but I carried on regardless. The recipe called for 1 tablespoon of gelatin and this was something which proved very tricky. Not sure how much was a correct quantity of China Grass to substitute, I just forged ahead with the entire quantity that Srivalli sent. I had seen other recipes calling for 5 grams of China Grass but again I was not sure how much she sent. But thankfully the entire dessert set ( I will not say it was very well set, it was still pretty wobbly. Maybe, I need to up the quantity next time round).
In all this, I have to recount my kitchen disaster which almost happened. I left the china grass after dissolving to cool down before I added it to the yoghurt mixture. When I was ready to add it, IT had already set into this mass of jelly. I promise, it was still warm like I was supposed to keep it but it was this wobbly nicely set jelly. Anyway, I still added it to the mixture. I now had this nice tasting creamy base with all the absolutely hardened china grass bits floating in it. OOPS!!! You can say OOPS again. I just put the whole thing into the blender, said a little prayer and whirred it a bit. The bits disintegrated quite nicely and I poured into the crust, said another little prayer, and placed it into the fridge.
Yipppee!! It set in a nice wobbly fashion.
But the final product was quite delicious and looked interesting too until it started to collapse as I began taking the pictures. But it sure tasted good and I finally consoled myself that THAT is the bottomline, isn't it?
Now for the recipe....
200 grams Marie biscuits powdered
50 grams butter melted
2 tablespoons sugar powdered
600 grams yoghurt ( before draining the whey)
1 cup sugar
200 grams cream, whipped
5 grams (?) China grass ( or substituted with 1 tablespoon gelatin)
3/4 cup of water
1 can peaches drained
1 tablespoon cornflour
2 tablespoons sugar
Mix the biscuit crumbs, butter and sugar and press well into a pie dish to make a crust. Put in the freezer for a few minutes to harden.
Cut 4 peach halves into small pieces and puree the remaining in the blender.
Tie the yoghurt in a muslin cloth till all the whey drains out. Mix in the sugar well.
Soak the China Grass in water and put on very low heat and cook until dissolved well. KEEP WARM.
When bearably hot, add to the drained curd and sugar mixture.
Add the whipped cream to this.
Put the chopped peach bits on the crust.
Pour the curd, cream mixture on top. Leave to set in the refrigerator
In the meantime, mix the pureed peaches with the cornflour and the sugar and cook it over a low flame till it thickens and becomes glossy. Cool it down to room temperature.
When the dessert is set, pour the pureed peaches over. Leave to set fully and garnish with cream and mint leaves.
To keep this awesome chain going, I am sending my secret ingredient to Laavanya of http://www.luvbitesforall.blogspot.com/. Hope she enjoys it and makes something interesting with it. Looking forward to it.