Also known as ‘agar-agar’ (the Malay term for jelly), agar is a substance derived from seaweed, and a useful vegetarian alternative to gelatin. It can be used to thicken soups, to make jellies (it’s especially popular in Japanese desserts), and as a clarifying agent for brewing.
It’s most commonly available as flakes or a powder, which forms a firm, clear, mostly flavourless jelly when mixed with water. You can buy it in Waitrose, in the home baking section, or online from Wing Yip.
How to use agar:
• Substitute equal amounts of powdered agar for gelatin.
• 1 tbsp of agar flakes is equal to 1 tsp of agar powder.
• Acidic ingredients, such as lemons and strawberries, may require more agar to be added. Also, some fresh fruits – mangoes, papaya, and pineapple – contain enzymes that break down the agar, so that it will not set. Cooking these fruits before adding them to a recipe destroys these enzymes, allowing the agar to set as normal.
Have a go at using agar in our saffron and ginger pannacotta recipe.