apple kanten with raspberries & blueberries

(a delicious summer desert)

A fresh berry, warmed by the sun, might well be the taste of summer. This simple and refreshing dessert highlights these seasonal gems. We suggest you use local, organic fruit whenever possible. Or, better yet, get out to the country and make a day of it, picking your own wild or farm berries.

The delicate consistency of the dessert is due to agar agar (also known as kanten), a natural, vegetarian gelatin derived from a species of seaweed. Agar promotes healthy digestion and is high in both calcium and iron. Flavourless and versatile, agar can also be used to make jams, pies and aspics (although mixtures high in oxalic or other acids, including chocolate, spinach, vinegar or citrus fruits, will not set well). Look for agar agar in health food stores or Asian markets.

Use this recipe to whet your summer imagination. Experiment with other combinations of non-citrus fruits and juices, such as mango, pear, cherry or peach.

2 cups apple juice
3 1/2 tbsp agar agar flakes OR 1/2 tsp agar agar powder*
3 tbsp maple syrup
3/4 cup mixed raspberries and blueberries or other summer berries, washed and patted dry a few leaves of mint

  1. Mix the apple juice and agar agar together in a saucepan.
  2. Heat the mixture until the boiling point, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring often. The agar agar will dissolve.
  3. Remove from heat. Stir in the maple syrup. At this point you may check to see if the gel is ready to set. Place a spoonful of the mixture in the refrigerator for 5 minutes. If the gel sets, continue; if not, add another tbsp of agar flakes (or 1/4 tsp of agar powder) and simmer until dissolved.
  4. Rinse the moulds** with cold water and drain off the excess. Place the berries in the moulds.
  5. Pour the slightly cooled agar-juice mixture into the moulds and allow the gel to set. To quicken the setting time, place in the refrigerator.
  6. To serve, loosen the edges of the gel gently with a knife and turn out onto a plate. Or leave in the moulds and scoop out portions with a spoon. Garnish with additional berries and fresh mint. Serves 4.

* Agar agar is also available in bars. Use one bar per recipe (7 to 8 grams). Break bar into pieces, place in a saucepan, cover with juice, and let soak 10 minutes before heating the mixture. Proceed as above.

** Be creative with the moulds you choose. Try small or large bowls, parfait cups, or even ice cube trays.

Risa Salsberg has been cooking vegetarian for over 25 years and is a graduate of Dubrille Culinary. She has studied macrobiotics and whole foods in California and trained at Sanko-in, a Buddhist nunnery specializing in shojin ryori (traditional Buddhist vegetarian cookery). Risa is currently studying fine arts in Vancouver. Craig Walker first began cooking vegetarian in tree planting camps. Craig has studied macrobiotics at the Vega Study Center and has cooked professionally in Japan.

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