My daughter, as you might know already is allergic to gluten, dairy and most nuts. This cuts off some delicacies for her, though not all. With my inclination to not use xanthan gum, the limitation only increases. What I cannot make for her, I make up by making other desserts she likes, as many times as she likes. That is quite a few times!
For ages now I have been wishing to make mousse and though non-dairy-soy-cream allows me to do that, it does not make me cent percent happy. I am reminded even as I relish, that it is synthetic. For long I have been on the look out for agar-agar flakes. Agar is a gelling agent made from a sea-weed, used extensively in Asian cuisine. It is known as ‘kanten’ in Japan, ‘dai choy goh’ in China, and ‘China grass’ in India. I used to get it at my local kirana shop till about six years back, and for some reason, no one seems to be stocking it anymore.
Last week presented me with an opportunity to visit Parel, and after my work was over I went to Food Hall, a shop in Palladium Mall, just because I knew they would have agar-agar. Only they did not know it was easily available in India and all they had in stock was an imported variety. This was in the form of small flakes. I bought it only because we haven’t had puddings and the like for nearly six years! Jr.H and Jr.P were both pleased as a punch. This, they knew, was a huge indulgence. It burned a hole in my pocket, but on the positive side, it is organic and works great.
Ever since, Jr.H and I have been wrapping our heads around several ideas. I kept reminding her that it had to be Indian flavours, and I had to remain true to my ‘veganmofo’ theme. At last we settled on making a mousse with coconut milk. “Use jaggery,” Jr.H said. I knew I would use cardamom too. Jaggery has a strong, earthy sweetness, and cardamom compliments it perfectly.
Before I got on to make the dessert, I googled to check whether anyone else has tried it. And guess what? Turns out that it is a famous Malay dessert! So much for my ‘eureka’ moment. In Malaysia jaggery is replaced with gula melaka or gula merrah. In Europe you could try using voll-rohrzucker, or unrefined cane sugar. I followed google to a recipe on ‘My Kitchen Snippets‘. It was what I intended to make, so I used the same quantity of agar as given in that recipe. I however decided to go ahead with cardamom powder added to the jaggery.
If I made this again the only change I would make is adding 3 tsps. of agar powder instead of 2.5 tsps., and simmering for 5-6 minutes instead of 3 minutes. As you can see in the photograph below, the last mould into which I poured the jelly had some flakes that were not completely dissolved. It wasn’t much, but for the perfect mousse, it could have been avoided by simmering for another 2 mins. I also felt that my jelly was a little wobbly. I did not listen to my instinct that told me to go with 3 tsps. of agar. Small mistake. I have made the adjustment in the recipe below. Did these affect the taste? No! My jelly was firm till I cut it, and it melted in the mouth.
I served it to P’s cousin U, who visited this evening and he absolutely loved it.
Recipe: Indian coconut and jaggery panna cotta | pudding | flan | jelly
Serves: 8 small dessert portions
(I used small pudding moulds. Kulfi moulds or jelly pans are fine too)
Coconut milk (first extract) – 85g | 1/2 cup
Coconut milk (second extract) – 62g | 1/3 cup
(Mix the two together)
Water – 300ml
Jaggery – 100g
Agar-agar flakes – 3 tsps.
Green cardamom, podded and powdered – 1/8 tsp.
Clean and keep moulds ready as this gets done in under 10 minutes, and needs to be poured immediately.
Mix water, jaggery, cardamom powder and agar-agar in a steel saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 6 minutes or till the agar-agar completely dissolves in the liquid. Sieve through a fine strainer to remove impurities from the jaggery.
Put the sieved liquid back into the saucepan, and place on heat. Add the coconut milk and bring to a boil, stirring lightly, on medium heat. Immediately pour into the moulds, or jelly pan.
Set aside undisturbed for 2-2.5hrs till the jelly is set, at room temperature. Place in refrigerator once set, and serve when cold enough.
It will form two layers. One with jaggery-water, and one with the coconut cream. The top parts tastes like panagam set into a mousse.
Jr.H had planned that I should also sprinkle raw sugar and use the blow torch once it was set, but we could not wait to dig in. We had got a taste from the liquid stuck to the pan, after pouring into the moulds and it was creamy and delicious. Obviously could not wait.
It can be set in a tray or plate and served this way too: The black specks are cardamom powder.
This makes a great dessert for little children too. It does not contain processed foods, no refined sugar and it has the rich goodness of coconut milk.