Carrageen is traditionally used to treat common colds and flu. It is has been shown to have antiviral properties and used to help with respiratory problems like bronchitis and coughs. Luckily, Carrageen is also commonly found around all the coasts of Ireland and can easily be collected and made into a sweet dessert.
Carrageen can be collected only on the lowest spring tides. But sometimes that seems too long to wait and with the winter storms small fragments often break off and are washed up on the beach. I collect and dry these for use in carrageen deserts. Often Carrageen or Irish Moss is collected as a mixture of two seaweeds (Chondrus crispus and Mastocarpus stellatus) . They are both red seaweeds; Chondrus has flat fronds which divide to form a fan shape, Mastocarpus has edges that curl to form a gutter and its reproductive bodies look like the pips of grapes giving it its common name Grape Pip Weed. (See picture Chondrus to the left and Grape Pip Weed to the right)
I have been experimenting with recipes now for a while and finally I have a carrageen recipe that works for me. Many recipes require lemon , which I find makes the milk curdle, or honey which seems to interfere with the set. Also many add an egg, but this really isn’t required as long as you cook the carrageen for long enough.
700ml full fat milk and spoon of sugar to sweeten (or 700 ml of Soya Milk to make it vegan friendly)
A full hand of carrageen (as much as your hand can hold)
Soak carrageen in water 10 mins and rinse well (sandy dessert is not the taste we are aiming for). Put the carrageen into the soya milk or sweetened full fat milk and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and cook for 10 minutes or so and then blitz with a food processor. Cook until it is gloopy. In total around 30minutes. Sieve the mixture and allow to set. Now I like it both plain and with a caramel top. If you want a carmel top take 100ml water plus 75g of sugar and bring to boil, keep stirring under it becomes chestnut in colour and then pour over your set jelly. The caramel top makes it taste like creme caramel.
1. Carrageen heating in milk
2. Strain the mixture
3. Allow to set