Carrageen seaweed pudding with raspberries.
“The common plants which appear best to identify the purple zone are the two well-known gristly weeds sold as Irish moss, which are eaten by the wise in the shape of jellies and blancmanges. The colour of both is purple. The Irish moss of the shops, or carrageen of the Irish, is called by the savans Chondrus crispus or the curly gristle. The blade is variable in breadth,—gristly, branching doubly, flat or curly, with wedgelike segments, and tops that seem to be broken off. A gristly plant popularly confounded with the curly gristle, is called, by the learned, Gigartina mamillosa. Ladies who have studied these plants with culinary views, prefer the Gigartina mamillosa to the Chondrus crispus. The plants are both chondri or cartilages, or gristles – these three words mean but one thing – only the latter have tubercles like grape-stones scattered over the disk of the blade, and are therefore called the gigartina or the grape-stones. The grape-stone gristle, which is excellent to eat, is distinguished by having the grape-like tubercles supported on little stalks, or mamillosa. The mamal gristle has a thick, fan-like, channelled and irregularly branching frond, with oblong and wedge-shaped segments. It is often found rolled up like a ball. The substance is tough, and when the fruit does not ripen, the tubercles become leaflets. The druggists sell both plants, confounded together, at prices varying from a shilling to four shillings the pound, I never regret my money whatever price I pay for it. After having been pretty well knocked about in the world, and after having dined at many of the different sorts of tables spread in it, I declare I fancy I have never eaten better food than the gristly seaweeds. However, after every storm, hundreds of cart-loads of it are carted away to manure the fields.”
While carrageen seaweed may be unfamiliar to most now in fact it is consumed more now than ever before as the carrageenan polysaccharides extracted from this seaweed are extensively used as additives by the food industry as thickeners and stabilizing agents. It has a much longer history of use as a food buy the people of Ireland and islands of the Scottish west coast. The Gigartina mamillosa mentioned is now known as Mastocarpus stellatus or the false Irish moss. The author then goes on to recount the previous popularity of carrageen in their time in its use as an alternative to gelatin to set puddings in Britain as a whole and now just the coastal Celtic peoples. It is certainly no longer sold in my local chemists shop.
“I am not alone in my partiality for Irish moss. There was a time when it was a fashionable dish; and it is still, everywhere in France and Great Britain, more or less prescribed as food for invalids. The poor of Brighton use it instead of arrowroot. The curly and marual gristles are bleached like linen and cotton, and when dry will keep for years. An amiable and interesting writer – the late Dr. Landsborough – gives a recipe for cooking it, which is found to be excellent from experience. “When used, a tea-cup full of it is boiled in water; this water, being strained, is boiled with milk and sugar, and seasoning, such as nutmeg, cinnamon, or essence of lemon. It is then put into a shape in which it consolidates like blancmange, and when eaten with cream it is so good that many a sweet-lipped little boy or girl would almost wish to be on the invalid list to get a share of it.””
Whilst not an invalid child this recipe inspired me to attempt my own seaweed pudding. My fresh carrageen seaweed is from the excellent little company Just Seaweed run by Iain Mckellar who harvests and sells seaweeds from the Isle of Bute on the west coast of Scotland. As this seaweed is quite a common one I expect it could also be found locally to my area.
Carrageen (Chondrus cripus)
This is not intended as an authoritative method as it is only the first time I have tried it and I record this method as much for my own benefit.
- A handful of fresh carrageen seaweed.
- 2 cups of whole milk.
- 2 cups of water.
- Ground cinnamon.
- Ground nutmeg.
- Wash a handful of the fresh carrageen seaweed well under cold water.
- Add the washed seaweed to 2 cups of water and bring to the boil.
- Simmer for about half and hour until the water starts the thicken. The seaweed will change color from purple to green.
- Strain through a sieve squeezing the liquid from the leaves of the seaweed. This resulted in about 1 cup of liquid.
- Mix this liquid with a cup of milk, sugar to taste, cinnamon and nutmeg.
- Heat gently mixing it until the milk is hot.
- Pour into a bowl and put in the fridge to cool and set.
Somewhat surprisingly there is very little seaweed taste in the resulting pudding, only what could be described as a slight hint of grassy flavour that does produce a unique taste. The texture is rather different than a similar pudding made with gelatin resulting in a more smooth slippery feel to pudding.