ABOUT STARCHES AND THICKENERS
There is alot of confusion about starches, and how to convert recipes using one to using another. I hope that this information will help you.
First of all, kuzu and arrowroot are NOT the same thing-- I wish people would stop selling them as the same thing! I think the confusion stems from a popular term for kuzu-- "Japanese arrowroot". Kuzu is made from the root of an eastern Asian vine, Pueraria lobata. It is grown for fodder, forage, and root starch, and is a widespread "weed" in the southeast United States. asiafood.org says that you should use "half as much as you would arrowroot", just to confuse us further!
Arrowroot is a starch made from the roots of a tropical American perennial herb, Maranta arundinacea.
Not all starches are alike-- some are better for some jobs, and some for others, and they react differently to heat, acid, etc.
Here is an excellent article on the right starch for the job by food scientist Shirley O. Corriher.
There is also a good entry on starches and thickeners at Cook's Thesaurus. Here are some of their Tips:
"To avoid lumps, mix the starch with an equal amount of cold liquid until it forms a paste, then whisk it into the liquid you're trying to thicken. Once the thickener is added, cook it briefly to remove the starchy flavor. Don't overcook--liquids thickened with some starches will thin again if cooked too long or at too high a temperature.
Cornstarch, arrowroot, and tapioca are the most popular starch thickeners. They have different strengths and weaknesses, so it's a good idea to stock all three in your pantry.
Starch thickeners give food a transparent, glistening sheen, which looks nice in a pie filling, but a bit artificial in a gravy or sauce. If you want high gloss, choose tapioca or arrowroot. If you want low gloss, choose cornstarch.
Cornstarch is the best choice for thickening dairy-based sauces. Arrowroot becomes slimy when mixed with milk products.
Choose arrowroot if you're thickening an acidic liquid. Cornstarch loses potency when mixed with acids.
Sauces made with cornstarch turn spongy when they're frozen. If you plan to freeze a dish, use tapioca starch or arrowroot as a thickener.
Starch thickeners don't add much flavor to a dish, although they can impart a starchy flavor if they're undercooked. If you worried that your thickener will mask delicate flavors in your dish, choose arrowroot. It's the most neutral tasting of the starch thickeners.
Tapioca starch thickens quickly, and at a relatively low temperature. It's a good choice if you want to correct a sauce just before serving it."
Many "experts" tell you to use arrowroot in the same way as cornstarch (see the tips and articles above above) and the same amounts as cornstarch, but this is not true-- you need more arrowroot. Here is a conversion chart that I made:
CORNSTARCH-ARROWROOT CONVERSION CHART:
(3 tsp.=1 T.; 12 tsp.=4 T.=1/4 c.)
1 tsp. cornstarch= 1+3/4 tsp. arrowroot
2 tsp. cornstarch= 3+1/2 tsp. arrowroot
3 tsp. (1 T.) cornstarch= 5+1/4 tsp.(or 1 T. plus 2+1/4 tsp.) arrowroot
4 tsp. cornstarch= 2 T. plus 1 tsp. arrowroot
5 tsp. cornstarch= 2 T. plus 3/4 tsp. arrowroot
6 tsp. (2 T.) cornstarch= 3 T. plus 1+1/4 tsp. arrowroot
7 tsp. cornstarch= 4 T. (1/4 c.) arrowroot
8 tsp. cornstarch= 4 T. (1/4 c.) plus 2 tsp. arrowroot
9 tsp. (3 T.) cornstarch= 5 T. plus 1/2 tsp. arrowroot
10 tsp. cornstarch= 5 T. plus 2+1/4 tsp. arrowroot
1/4 c. cornstarch (4 T.)= 6 T. plus 2+1/2 tsp. arrowroot
1/3 c. (about 5+1/2 T.) cornstarch= 1/2 c. plus 1+3/4 tsp. arrowroot
You can multiply further for any other amount.
What do I use? I use cornstarch for most jobs because it's easy to work with and even the organic variety (available in health food stores) is cheaper than kuzu or arrowroot.
AGAR-AGAR (KANTEN, CHINESE GEL)
Asians are fond of molded jellies (some from fruits and nut milks, but other made with sweetened beans and even corn), but many of these are jelled with a seaweed-derived gelatin called agar-agar (kanten in Japanese) rather than the gelatin derived from animal hooves and skins that is commonly used in Western cooking. For this reason, agar (it is generally referred to this way today) has been adopted by Western vegetarians and it is easily available in health food stores, in bar, flake and powder form. A further advantage over animal gelatin is that it will set at room temperature.
The bars of kanten are more difficult and time-consuming to use, so I recommend flake or powder form. To jell 2 cups of liquid, you need 1 tsp. of agar powder, or 2 T. of agar flakes, soaked in the liquid for several minutes and then simmered or microwaved until it dissolves. It does not need to be strained. (As a comparison, 1 T. or one packet of unflavored animal gelatin will gel the same amount.) You need to use 6 times more of the flakes than the powder.
If all you can get is the bar kanten, one bar will jell about 3 c. of liquid. Break the bar up into several pieces and combine it with your liquid in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Agar-agar does not melt well, and tends to be overly firm, but you can make a nice jelled dessert by mixing it with a starch, such as cornstarch (organic is available). Here is a basic recipe:
BRYANNA’S VEGAN FRUIT JELL
© Bryanna Clark Grogan 2005
Using agar alone makes a kind of rubbery jell. If you add some starch it makes a more delicate jell.
4 c. sweet fruit juice of choice
OPT: sugar or other sweetener to taste if juice isn't sweet enough
OPT: some grated citrus rind. 1/2 tsp. vanilla or other flavoring , if desired
2 tsp. agar powder (OR 1/4 c. agar flakes)
1 T. cornstarch dissolved in 1 T. water
OPTIONAL: fresh fruit to add to jell
Sprinkle the agar over the juice (with sweetener, salt and any flavoring). Let soak a few minutes. Then cook over medium heat til boiling. Agar powder just needs to simmer for a minute; flakes should simmer at least 5 minutes. Add dissolved starch and stir in. Boil for 30 seconds.
Pour into a bowl or small bowls. Place in refrigerator. When half-jelled, you can stir in fruit. Let set until firm and cold.
AGAR-AGAR TABLESPOON FLAKES TO POWDER RATIO LIST
1 TABLESPOON AGAR-AGAR FLAKES = 1/2 TEASPOON AGAR-AGAR POWDER
2 TABLESPOONS FLAKES = 1 TEASPOON POWDER
3 TABLESPOONS FLAKES = 1 1/2 TEASPOON POWDER
4 TABLESPOONS (1/4 CUP) FLAKES = 2 TEASPOONS POWDER
5 TABLESPOONS FLAKES = 2 1/2 TEASPOONS POWDER
1/3 CUP FLAKES = 2 3/4 TEASPOONS POWDER
7 TABLESPOONS FLAKES = 3 1/2 TEASPOONS POWDER
8 TABLESPOONS (1/2 CUP) FLAKES = 4 TEASPOONS POWDER
NOTE: Certain ingredients may interfere with the jelling of agar, so you may have to experiment to see if you need more than the recommended amount of agar to achieve the degree of firmness you want. Acid foods like lemon juice, vinegar, and fruit juices may pose problems, and also foods containing oxalic acid, such as chocolate, spinach, and rhubarb. Try using half again as much, especially with citrus juices, tomato, and pineapple.
To jell about 2 c. of liquid:
1 T. animal gelatin= 2 T. agar flakes=1 tsp. agar powder =2/3 of a bar of kanten = 1 tsp. powdered carageenan or irish Moss= 0.3 oz. (10 g) packg. vegetarian kosher jel (such as Carmel or Kojel—NOT Emes), about 4 1/2 tsp.
(kosher jel should be sprinkled on the cold liquid)
BESAN OR CHICKPEA FLOUR
Flour made by grinding chickpeas; found in some large supermarkets, health food stores, East Asian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean markets. “Besan” is the Indian word for it.
CARRAGEENAN OR IRISH MOSS
Irish moss or carrageenan is a sea vegetable product (NOT, as I read on one website "a parasite that grows on oak trees in Ireland"!!!???).
Irish moss is Canada's most valuable commercial seaweed, and is one of the red algae, usually Chondrus crispus, but several other seaweeds are sometimes called Irish moss. It is called carrageen in Scotland and Ireland, and was named after a town near Waterford in Ireland, Carragheen. But the town may have owed its moniker to an Irish term for the moss, cosáinín carraige, literally in Erse “little foot of the rock”. Chondrus crispus is related to another popular edible seaweed called dulse. Irish moss is exported from Prince Edward Island and processed to yield a hydrocolloid, carrageenan.
It is the basis of vegan kosher jels. Carrageenan or kosher jel melts to a very runny consistency, and agar does not melt well at all, so a combination of the two works well in savory firm mixtures, such as vegan "cheeses". I use carrageenan because it is cheaper than kosher jel. (Even though carrageenan seems expensive, you only need 1 tsp. for every 4 1/2 tsp. [1 pckg.] kosher jel!) Carrageenan needs to be cooked for a few minutes in liquid just like agar.
If you have heard claims that carrageenan is harmful to your health, be advised that there is no evidence of harm from the un-degraded product, which has been used for centuries in Ireland, Scotland and the Maritime Provinces of Canada, where it was considered (and still is) especially helpful for invalids or anyone with "a delicate digestion".
In a Q&A health column in The Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper there was a question about the food additive carrageenan, which the inquirer suggested causes stomach ailments. Cinda Williams Chima, registered dietitian on the faculty of University of Akron, responded that food-grade carrageenan is a purified extract from tropical and cold-water red seaweeds. Carrageenan has been closely scrutinized as a potential health hazard. Like xanthan gum, carrageenan is often used by natural foods companies because it is a naturally sourced ingredient with a long history of safe use in food products.Unfavorable health effects (ulcerations and cancers of the GI tract) have been linked to poligeenan,a low molecular-weight, chemically degraded carrageenan derivative sometimes used in nonfood products. Read more details here: http://www3.uakron.edu/chima/text/Concerns%20about%20Additives.pdf
"Several studies in the early 2000s suggested that a certain type of carrageenan — degraded carrageenan, which has been hydrolyed, or broken down by acid — could cause gastrointestinal problems, including cancers. The degraded type is not typically used in food. In fact, only the undegraded variety has been deemed safe for human consumption by the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) and approved for use in foods by the Food and Drug Administration in the US." http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-carrageenan.htm
See also http://www.vegsource.com/articles/silk4.htm and http://www.vegsource.com/articles/silk3.htm
From the last article : " Cohen glorifies an animal researcher, a woman who earns money from the death of animals. Cohen, who very recently publicly proclaimed proudly his complete abhorrence at even mentioning animal studies, spends his entire column today promoting the work of Joanne Tobacman, M.D., University of Iowa assistant professor of clinical internal medicine. Cohen cites no studies pointing to carrageenan as hazardous for humans, instead presenting a love letter to Dr. Tobacman and her work -- which is based on vivisection."
"2. Studies in laboratory animals in which carcinogenicity was suggested have involved product and use levels that are different than the low levels of carrageenan used in food." AND
"4. Also not pointed out in press reports, is a review paper by Samuel Cohen, M.D., Ph.D. (Chairman of the Department of Pathology/Microbiology, Medical School at the University of Nebraska) and Dr. Nobuyuki Ito (Professor Emeritus, Nagoya City University Medical School, Japan) due for publication next year and considered by JECFA in their deliberations. Drs. Cohen and Ito, both well-known and respected cancer researchers evaluated and rebutted the evidence of claims of carcinogenicity. "
As you will glean from these articles, what you want to avoid is degraded carrageenan (poligeenan), but that is not really available to the home consumer, anyway. In my experience, for cooking, the more refined, white, powdery, non-smelly, tasteless type is the best. This IS refined, but it is not the same as "degraded". "
Many health food stores sell carrageenan or Irish Moss, and it is used in brewing, so home beer-making supply stores often sell it, too (but it tends to be more expensive from brewing stores). Soapmaking supply outlets often sell it, too, but it IS an edible product, like cocoa butter or coconut oil that are also used in soaps and bath products. These outlets usually sell the nice pale, powdery variety, which is more versatile. Herbal outlets also often carry it, but often in a more granular form.
This is what the product should preferably look like-- it should be powdery and not smell strongly of seaweed (otherwise your product may taste like seaweed-- not pleasant in some things!):
This product (pale colored and powdery) can be ordered in the USA from:
http://www.lepicerie.com/search.php?mode=search&page=1 They sell two types, kappa and iota. "The kappa class produces a solid, firm gel when mixed with water, and is known for reacting well with dairy proteins. The iota class produces a soft gel when mixed with water, and tends to gel more easily when combined with calcium."
The following source sells a vegan, kosher carrageenan jel powder (Genutine®) that can be used in recipes in place of the plain carrageenan powder in equal proportions. It is considerably less
expensive than the item above:
"A natural hydrocolloid, carrageenan is a natural extract from specific red seaweed species that are farmed and processed. It is used as a suspending and emulsifying stablizer, thickener, binder and gelling agent. This type of carrageenan is mixed with locust bean gum and standardized with sucrose. It is a gelatin replacer for water gels."
Both of these sources will ship to Canada.
A carageenan product called Just WholeFoods VegSet is sold in Canada online. (Carrageenan, Acidity Regulators: Sodium Citrate, Potassium Citrate.)
From other sources, your product may be grainer and look like this:
which may not be a bad thing, as long as the odor and taste of the sea are not too strong, but, the whitish, powdery version is preferable. Some of the carrageenan sold online is very stinky!
Irish moss or carrageenan has been used in milk puddings, custards and jellies for centuries in Celtic countries, and is also used in the Caribbean and the East Coast of Canada.
Pronunciation CHEE-lay chee-POHT-lay
Smoked jalapeño chilies. You can buy them dried, or in cans in a sauce called “adobado” or “adobo”. They are very hot and have a marvelous smoky flavor. I puree the canned product after opening and freeze it, then just scrape out the amount I need. Buy them in Mexican markets or large supermarkets.
Pronunciation: FEE-lay or fih-LAY This powder is made from the same leaves that used to give root beer its distinctive flavor, back in the days before artificial flavorings. Southerners add filé to their gumbos to thicken and flavor them. The powder gets stringy when it's heated, so add it only after you've removed the gumbo from the heat source. Filé also doesn't reheat well, so add it only to the gumbo that you're planning to eat right away. Substitutes: okra (Cooking this vegetable in your gumbo is another traditional way to thicken it.) OR cornstarch (lacks filé's distinctive root beer-like flavor.)
are small brown or golden seeds that are a great source of fiber, cancer-fighting lignans, and heart-protective fatty acids. The ground seeds provide the most lignans (which are now believed to be protective against breast cancer) of any food. You can buy ground flaxseed (or “flaxseed meal”), but it should be in the refrigerator section. Or, you can grind flaxseeds in a spice mill or coffee grinder, a little at a time, or freeze larger amounts. Add them to shakes, cereals, breadcrumb toppings, baking, etc..
Flaxseeds are also very useful as an egg substitute in baking. Check out this vegan Daily Flax webpage.
Here's how I make flaxseed egg replacer (from my book "The Fiber for Life Cookbook"):
FLAXSEED—THE HIGH FIBER EGG REPLACER
When blended with water, high-fiber flaxseeds make a viscous mixture similar to egg white, so they make a good egg substitute in some baked goods when only an egg or two is called for. Simply blend 1 T. raw flaxseed (frozen is fine) with 1/4 c. water for each egg and use it immediately in your recipe (you can use warm water if the seeds are frozen). This can be done in a blender or with a hand blender.
If you want to use this, but don’t want the flecks of brown skin to show, you can strain it through a fine sieve or cheesecloth.
You may want to experiment with adding about 1/2 T. of powdered Energ egg replacer per 1/4 c. of flaxseed egg replacer in some recipes, to compensate for the leavening power of the egg, as well.
I find that eggless doughs often taste a little “flat”, so I usually add a little more salt, too.
NOTE: I find that this egg replacer can be a bit drying to some baked goods (flaxseeds suck up liquid), so I use it judiciously, not for everything.
NUTRITIONAL YEAST FLAKES ("GOOD TASTING" YEAST FLAKES)
Nutritional yeast is not a live yeast. It is a very concentrated source of protein, B vitamins (including B12, in the case of Red Star Vegetarian Support Formula), and minerals. It should NOT be refrigerated, but can be kept in a covered jar in a cool, dark, dry place and will keep for a very long time, like most dried foods. If you can only find the powdered form (called “Engevita yeast” or “Bio-yeast”), use half as much as the amount of flakes called for, as it is more concentrated. "Engevita yeast , produced from a selected strain of yeast Saccharomyces Cerevisiae
According to Joanne Stepaniak in "The Nutritional Yeast Cookbook":
"Red Star derives its primary grown nutritional yeast from pure strains of Saccharomyces Cerevisiae grown on mixtures of beet and cane molasses."
AND she further states:
"Many people confuse nutritional yeast with brewer's yeast or Torula yeast. Brewer's yeast is a byproduct of the brewing industry, and Torula yeast is typically grown on waste products, such as those from the wood pulp industry."
VEGETARIAN KOSHER JELS:
These are made from the seaweed product carageenan, plus vegetable gums. They take longer to jell than agar, but make a more delicate product. The other advantage is that it does not have to be cooked at all, just mixed with hot liquid. They are called “kosher jels (or gels)” because they were developed for use by orthodox Jews who do not mix milk and meat products together. However, there have been rabbinic rulings that certain animal and fish gelatins are considered kosher, so be careful that the kosher jel you purchase is made from carageenan and/or vegetable gums only.
Carageenan (or Irish moss) powder may work (use about 1/4 as much as you would Emes), but be careful which kind you buy-- the wrong kind can taste! See the entry on this page on Carrageenan.
NOTE: Kosher jel should be sprinkled on the cold liquid.
**WATCH OUT FOR "ADIPIC ACID" IN KOSHER JELS! IT MAY OR MAY NOT BE VEGAN, SINCE IT IS OXIDIZED FROM A VARIETY OF FATS. GEFEN BRAND CONTAINS THIS**
If you want to buy this in bulk, consider ordering this product:
A vegan, kosher carrageenan jel powder (Genutine®) that can be used in recipes in place of the plain carrageenan powder in equal proportions. "A natural hydrocolloid, carrageenan is a natural extract from specific red seaweed species that are farmed and processed. It is used as a suspending and emulsifying stablizer, thickener, binder and gelling agent. This type of carrageenan is mixed with locust bean gum and standardized with sucrose. It is a gelatin replacer for water gels."
Online vendors that sell vegan kosher jels, flavored and unflavored:
http://www.karmavore.ca/ (Canada-- look under Spreads, Puddings, Dessert)
Veganessentials.com (good service to Canada, too)
CAUTION: follow the directions with the jel you purchase-- not all of them work the same. Agar-agar (another seaweed jel) does not work quite the same either (it doesn't melt well, for one thing), but you can make a nice jelled dessert by mixing it with a starch, such as cornstarch (organic is available), so that it is not overly firm. See a basic recipe here .
To jell about 2 cups of liquid:
1 T. animal gelatin= 2 T. agar flakes=1 tsp. agar powder =2/3 of a bar of kanten = 1 tsp. powdered carageenan or Irish Moss= 0.3 oz. (10 g) packg. vegetarian kosher jel (such as Carmel or Kojel—NOT Emes), or about 4 1/2 tsp. (Kosher jel should be sprinkled on the cold liquid.)
VEGAN WORCESTERSHIRE SAUCE
VEGETARIAN OR VEGAN (ANCHOVY-FREE) WORCESTERSHIRE SAUCE:
“The Wizard” Vegan Worcestershire sauce, available in some health food stsores and from http://www.veganstore.com/ (Pangea) and also from http://www.veganessentials.com/
In New Zealand: it's Whitlock’s brand
You can buy Anchovy-Free Worcestershire Sauce from
http://www.healthy-eating.com/ under “Flavorings”
I THINK that Safeway’s own brand of Worcestershire is anchovy-free, and maybe Heinz also, but you’ll have to check the labels to be sure. Lea & Perrins is definitely NOT vegetarian. I don’t know about French’s.
If you want to make your own, it’s easy! The ingredient list is long, but it makes enough for a few months.
BRYANNA’S VEGETARIAN WORCESTERSHIRE SAUCE
makes about 2 c.
Most commercial Worcestershire sauce is made with anchovies, so is not considered vegetarian. Although there are a couple of brands which contain no anchovies, they may not be available in your area. Here's a fast and very good homemade version that will keep for many months in your refrigerator. IMPORTANT! Shake before pouring.
1 c. cider vinegar
1/3 c. dark molasses
1/4 c. soy sauce or mushroom soy sauce
1/4 c. water
3 T. lemon juice
1 and 1/2 T. salt
1 and 1/2 tsp. powdered mustard
1 tsp. onion powder
3/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. EACH garlic granules, cayenne pepper, and ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. EACH ground cloves or allspice and ground cardamom
Combine all of the ingredients in the blender. Pour into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour into a clean jar with a tight lid and refrigerate.
YEAST EXTRACT (MARMITE, VEGEMITE, ETC.)
There are several brands of nutritional yeast extract, but I like Marmite the best. Marmite is easy to find in the UK, Canada and anywhere else in the British Commonwealth. In the US, you may have to go to a gourmet grocery or a store frequented by Brits to find it. Here are some online sites to find Marmite and other yeast extracts.
(If you can’t find Marmite you can try using dark, or red miso (probably more-- even twice as much), but it just doesn't have the same "beefy" taste that Marmite does, and that’s no solution for any one allergic to soy.)
Where to buy Marmite all over the world:
This site sells Marmite for $6.49 for 4.4 oz. jar.
This site ships Marmite anywhere in the world:
Vegemite is the Australian version of yeast extract-- I know Aussies think it's the best, but I find it saltier than Marmite. But you can use either. Vegemite is distributed by Kraft Foods in North America. You can order Vegemite online at the following address;
There are some other brands of yeast extract-- Vegex and Sovex are two. You might be able to find it through a local Seventh Day Adventist church, or ABC Christian store (Adventist Book Center):
ADVENTIST BOOK CENTER STORE LOCATOR FOR NORTH AMERCIA:
http://www.adventistbookcenter.com/ (look for the ABC store locator on the menu on the left-hand side of the page)
(These stores sell vegetarian and vegan foods as well as books, they are often in rural areas, and have buses that go to even more rural areas several times a year, and they are world-wide. They carry kosher gel, Better Than Milk powder, vegetarian meat subs, yeast extract [Savorex] and many other foods, some hard to find. Prices are excellent [bulk items available] and the people are friendly.) Some of the locations have online ordering, too (for instance, the British Columbia store in Abbotsford at http://www.bcabc.org/). You can find information about where and when buses visit various areas on this site, too..
OR call 1-800-765-6955 to order from anywhere in North America or to locate an ABC store near you.
Savoury Spread, a European Nutritional Yeast Extract by Scenario, Int., makers of Organic Gourmet Soup 'N Stock. It contains the entire B complex, 17 amino acids, it's gluten free, and low in sodium. They also make vegan tartar sauce, vegan gravy mixes, and 3 vegan pates: carrot, mushroom, and olive. You can order the yeast extract through Scenario, Int.: 800-400-7772; http://www.organic-gourmet.com
THE MARMITE STORY:
This site has nutritional and historical data:
Quote from accomodata.co.uk:
MARMITE is a concentrated yeast paste, enjoyed at any time of the day, whether on toast for breakfast, in sandwiches at lunchtime or as an added ingredient in stews and casseroles.
MARMITE is 100% vegetarian, but unlike some vegetarian meals, MARMITE provides an excellent source of vitamin B 12. This vitamin helps to prevent anemia. It also contains a good source of Riboflavin and Niacin as well as an excellent source of Folic Acid.
MARMITE is good news for the nation's slimmer's. It contains virtually no fat or sugar. A single 4g serving amounts to only 8 kcal/35 kJ typical values. Spread on toast with butter this comes to 145 kcal (704 kJ), although skipping the butter cuts the calorie count down to 72 kcal (350 kJ).
Although MARMITE has a salty taste, there is more salt in the bread and butter on which the MARMITE is spread than in the MARMITE itself.
From the manufacturer:
This product is suitable for vegetarian and vegan diets.
MARMITE Spread is free from:
Soya and derivatives
Maize and derivatives
Milk and derivatives
Eggs and derivatives
Nuts and derivatives
Peanuts and derivatives