Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Easy Agar Jelly (or Kantan Kanten, sorry!)

As a child, I never liked jelly, possibly something to do with the way it wobbled...?! As a student I discovered the delights of vodka jelly, and little by little I grew to like it!

Some friends gave me a homemade fruity jelly yesterday, and it was delicious. But the interesting thing is it was made from agar (kanten in Japanese, written in hiragana). Agar (sometimes agar agar) is a type of seaweed which is used for gelling liquids. It is virtually tasteless, calorie-free (until you add the extras!), but contains iodine, calcium and iron and dietary fibre. Unlike gelatine which doesn't set properly if you add kiwifruit or highly acidic fruits, agar has no problems with setting. You don't have to leave it to set in the fridge, it sets in under 30 minutes even in temperatures as hot as 27C, and it doesn't melt. I've become a fan!

The above jellies I made using orange juice, strawberries and a hibiscus flower in syrup (thanks to a present from my brother!) In the fuure, I'm going to try using coconut milk and dessicated coconut, and a layered fruit jelly, and maybe one using other edible flowers setting the flowers at the bottom. I never thought I would get so into jelly!

In the UK, you can probably buy agar powder at health food shops, and it is on the Waitrose website, but certainly also on EBay, www.mountfuji.co.uk (search for kanten, I've used this website before, they are reliable), or in stick form at the Japan Centre in Picadilly www.japancentre.com (again, I've used this website before and they are reliable).


4g sachet of agar (kanten)
400ml water
200ml orange juice
fruit or flowers

  • Boil the water and turn down to simmering point.
  • Slowly add the agar powder, stirring continuously. Continue stirring and heating for 1-2 minutes, or according the instructions on the packet, until it is completely dissolved and there are no lumps.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the fruit juice.
  • Pour into 5 individual moulds, and add fruit. Leave for about 30 minutes to set.
  • Alternatively add the fruit, pour in a thin layer of liquid, let it partially set (1-2 minutes) and repeat to build up the layers.
  • Delicious chilled!

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