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.