Agar is not the name for a seaweed but rather of an extract of red seaweed. It has many culinary uses: jellying liquids, harmonising textures & stabilising ingredients . Since it is made entirely from seaweeds, agar is used as a positive substitute to gelatine in vegetarian and vegan diets. It has been used in Asia for centuries. Click the link to find out more about Agar.
Agar can be used for many jellying applications: puddings, savoury jellies, jams and marmalades, dressings, fruit purees and yogurts, to name a few. In addition to gelling qualities well suited to the preparation of many dishes, this little powder has other virtues. Because it has virtually no calories & gives a feeling of fullness, it has its uses in weight management and supports a healthy digestive system.
Below are some useful tips when using agar:
Agar should be sallowed to ‘bloom’ or re-hydrate in the liquid first for 10 minutes, then gently brought to a simmer while stirring until it dissolves completely, this will take about 5 minutes for powder and 10-15 minutes for flakes. Unlike gelatin, agar can be re-melted if necessary. If you are unsure as to the setting ability of your gel, test a small amount on a cold saucer – it should set in 20-30 seconds. If it does not set you may need more agar. If too firm, add more liquid.
- As a general rule:
for a hard set: 1 tsp agar powder per cup of liquid
soft set – creamy custard: 3/4 tsp per cup
jam-like: 1/3 – 1/2 tsp per cup
dressing-like: 1/4 tsp per cup
- When warming the agar mixture, stir constantly so it is not allowed to stick to the bottom of the pan.
- The agar mixture must reach 85-90 C to activate the thickening agent in the agar. Agar cannot be used successfully in a dish where the liquid is not boiled.
- Do not overcook (prolong boiling) the agar as it will loose its gelling ability.
- Dishes made with Agar will set as they reach room temprature and do not require refrigeration to gel and they will continue to harden over a couple of hours.
- Like gelatine, agar will break down and not set if exposed to the enzymes of certain raw fruits, like kiwi fruit, papayas, pineapple, peaches, mangos, guavas, and figs. These fruits can still be used in agar recipes but must be cooked first.
- it is possible to make RAW dishes using agar; just dissolve your agar in a small quantity of liquid according to the instruction above and mix it with your other raw ingredients after the gelling ability has been activated at 90 C
Powder is the easiest form of agar to work with as it is easier to dissolve and melts more evenly, making it easier to achieve a successful result. Click the link to view Pacific Harvest’s Agar powder .
Have a look at these two recipes: