BRAD     |     EMILLIE

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

A heathen on Ash Wednesday

Yes, I'm a heathen, and a fairly ignorant one at that (thanks Mom and Dad). And while Brad is a well-educated Doukhobor, we are both fairly clueless when it comes to Catholic traditions.

Yesterday was Pancake Day. And I duly served a meal of buckwheat crepes with spinach and cheese sauce. Our student ate store bought pancakes with sugar and lemon (having seen the huge displays of lemon, sugar and pancakes in all our local grocery stores I was pretty certain that he'd prefer the more traditional approach to Pancake Day.) Tried some out myself and the lemon juice addition wasn't half bad!

Today is Ash Wednesday. I don't know what planet I was living on last year... but it took until this year for me to figure out what the "ash" part of Wednesday meant. I first noticed the black smudge on one of Nikolai's friends and assumed it was a typical patch of toddler dirt. Then I noticed her mom and her baby sister had the same smudges. It was like a light bulb lit up in my brain and all of a sudden I was seeing black smudges on everyone! At the moment I'm feeling very medieval and plague-ish about the whole thing. Perhaps everyone will figure out my ignorance..? ...and I don't know where to look.... It's impossible to avoid the smudges now that I've seen them... but is it rude to look? Needless to say there have been a few awkward moments of trying not to stare...

So I've decided to stay inside and use the Internet to figure out the meaning of this very public display of Catholicism.

And I've decided to start sharing some Irish recipes in this run up to St. Patrick's Day. Unfortunately, our local weather forecaster, The Donegal Postman (so infamous that I hear about him from absolutely everyone, including the weatherman on my morning radio), is predicting snow for St. Patrick's Day... and given his Infamy, I guess it must me true.

Anyways, this past weekend I finally braved my better judgement and broached the subject of my Carrageenan (Irish) Moss. I first purchased this last year in the excitement for something new. However, the seaweedness of the moss caused me to loose my resolve, and I remained pretty uncertain about the whole thing... (all my tastings during the cooking process were pretty fishy-tasting) until Nikolai tasted the pudding. Seconds were provided, and with no thirds left to dishout, I realized that I may expand my repertoire beyond the very typical milk-based puddings made of the Irish Moss.

Using Irish Moss:

1. Make sure the seaweed is well washed of sand, dirt, etc. Then allow it to dry naturally in a paper bag.

2. Before use soak for ten minutes in tepid water to get rid of any remaining salt, grime etc.

3. Simmer in liquid of your choice.

4. Strain and chill. (My pudding solidified without even being put in the fridge).

NOTE: one ounce of dried Irish moss will gel one cup of liquid.

(and this recipe is completely my own... I couldn't really find any pudding recipes that sounded promising. Irish moss was discovered as a food source during the famine, and thus puddings were traditionally made with very little sugar. And all the recipes I found only used fruit to sweeten, though a few recipes used Irish moss to set a "cheese" flavored with herbs. Anyways, the only stories of Irish moss pudding I've heard generally included the words "disgusting" and "inedible" in the descriptions. But I assure you that this recipe is fully vetted by my 2 year old.)

1. Soak a handful of dried Irish moss for 10 minutes in tepid water.

2. Drain and add to 2 cups of milk. Bring to a boil then simmer for 20 minutes (careful not to scald the milk).

3. Strain through a fine sieve, careful to squeeze out all the Irish Moss "jelly" into the pudding.

4. Add 2-3 tbsp of granulated sweetener and stir to ensure the sugar dissolves into the milk.

5. Flavor with 1 tsp of vanilla. This pudding tastes like a simple vanilla custard. I would recommend serving it with fruit or a cake.

Lastly, I'd like to finish with a few reasons to consider using Irish Moss.

-a vegetarian/vegan alternative to gelatin, which is cheaper than Agar, and sets without sugar (unlike many pectins).
-Can be used to replace egg whites in vegan foods (soak for 36 hours in the fridge, until it's clear and puffy, then blend into a paste)
-Pretty nutritious (like all sea vegetables)
-and it's part of your Irish heritage! (Aren't we all a wee bit Irish sometimes?)


Anonymous said...

Isn't this the same as agar-agar? Can you do anything else with it?

Emillie said...

I haven't tried any other recipes yet. But I imagine you could do anything with it that you would do with gelatin or agar. I will do some more experiments! Agar agar is just from a different seaweed, but basically it's the same thing. Generally Agar is sold in a pre-made block, but I bet you could find Irish Moss loose in Victoria. It would be much cheaper than Agar.

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