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Gelatin, A Dessert Friend

There’s a Ballymaloe-inspired dish sitting in my refrigerator right now. It’s Yogurt and Cardamom Cream, a replica of the dessert I made as part of my practical final at the cookery school. It’s also an easy way to learn about using gelatin (called gelatine in the UK).

For a serving of say, 4-5, here’s what you would do. You first remove the seeds from 4-5 green cardamoms and crush them. Then you take 1/2 cup milk, 1/4 cup castor (superfine) sugar, 1/2 cup cream, and the crushed cardamom and heat them in a saucepan, stirring until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm.

Separately, you take gelatin (either one leaf or one teaspoon powdered) and place it in a glass measuring cup (the kind with a handle that can hang from a saucepan). You cover the gelatin with a sprinkling of water, about 2-3 tablespoons and leave it sitting there for a few minutes. This is so the gelatin sponges. Meanwhile you simmer water in a saucepan, so that after the gelatin sponges, you can hang the measuring cup with the gelatin on the side of the pan. It’s okay if the bottom of the measuring cup touches the water. The idea is for the gelatin to get heated enough to become completely clear. (You don’t have to use a measuring cup; you could also use a bowl — just something that allows you to see when the gelatin becomes transparent).

Now here is the potentially tricky part. You have to mix just a little bit of the cardamom-infused milk into the gelatin. I stir like mad! Then, you pour this mixture into the rest of the cardamom-infused milk — and keep stirring. You don’t want anything to seize up!

In another bowl, you whisk 1 cup plain yogurt until it is smooth and creamy and then you stir it into the cardamom mixture.

You can pour your yogurt cardamom cream into any number of glasses or dishes. I prefer small glasses because this dessert can be addictive and you don’t want to overstuff someone on something so good. You can refrigerate these overnight, or at least for a few hours — and you can top it with your choice of lovely fruity mixtures. For instance, pomegranate seeds that have been sprinkled with a little rose blossom water, or sliced sugared strawberries, or in the case of my final exam — kumquat compote.

Above is a similar dessert to the yogurt cream called passion fruit mousse. For these recipes, of course you can consult the Ballymaloe Cooking School Cookbook.

One or two more words on gelatin: Growing up, we used agar-agar, bought from the local Asian grocery store, as a vegetarian substitute to traditional gelatin. It’s a flavourless substance made from various sea vegetables. Also, if you remember, at Ballymaloe we made a traditional carrageen moss pudding — using the seaweed picked from the seashore as the gelatinous substance in the dessert. This too can be topped with a variety of fruit compotes (whatever’s in season?) or else an Irish coffee sauce.

UPDATE: Just saw that Rory has a recipe for poached rhubarb up on his blog (yes, Rory has a new blog!). Poached rhubarb would work well with the carrageen moss pudding. Also, there’s an excruciatingly lovely photo of fresh rhubarb on his site.

**Special thanks to Liz Powers for supplying these dessert photos.**

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