Monday, 16 February 2009

Carrageen pudding

Carrageen is a red seaweed, chondrus crispus, and has been used for hundreds of years as a thickener and setting agent. It is usually associated with Ireland, and in the village of Carraghen on the south coast of the island, flans were made using the seaweed to thicken the milk filling. This gave rise to the name carrageen or Irish moss.

I've never cooked with it before, but have a bag of dried carrageen in the cupboard. I want to try the Irish moss pudding, similar to a blancmange and made with milk, the carageen being used as the setting agent; I'll be making the plain version, which I suspect is pretty close to the original.

This recipe from "A Taste of Ireland in Food & Pictures" by Theodora Fitzgibbon (1968); in the book it has the rather romantic name of Ocean Swell Jelly, but turns out this is just a brand name of a prepared carrageen - bit disappointing!

This is what Ms Fitzgibbon has to say:

"Chondrus crispus is a branching mucilaginous seaweed, which grows on many coasts in Europe and North America. It is dark pruple or green when growing, but when dried it is bleached and called Irish Moss, or Sea-Moss. Owing to its gelatinous qualities, it is used as a vegetable gelatine and makes excellent jellies, aspics, beverages and even breads and pastries. Teh rich vitamin content makes it an ideal food substance and the prepared form is obtainable in most health food shops"

1/2 cup (packed tightly) carrageen

1 egg white

1/4 pt cream

2 oz sugar

1 pint water

peel of 1 lemon, or vanilla flavouring if preferred

Steep the carrageen in water to cover for 10 minutes, and then drain. Simmer for 25 - 30 minutes in 1 pt water with the sugar and lemon peel. Strain and let it cool slightly. Meanwhile, whip the egg white stiffly and combine witht eh cream, also whipped. Mix with the carrageen liquid and gently heat up to just under boiling point. Pour into a wetted mould and chill. Turn out mould to serve, and decorate with fresh fruit slices.

For blancmange, use milk insteadof water and moit the egg white. The soakde carrageen liquid is used for mixing pastry or dough.

Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall has a mothod for drying it in his "Cook on the Wild Side", and suggests adding it to thicken a vegetable soup. For puddings, he says that 1/2oz will set about 2 pints of milk, so a little goes a long way. It won't dissolve, so must be simmered in the liquid. The recipes I've seen in the past involve simmering the carrageen straight in the milk, so need to have another look at this.

Carrageen Moss Pudding from Belleville

7 g cleaned, well dried Carrageen925 ml Milk2 tablespoons Sugar1 Egg1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Essence or Vanilla Pod

Method of cooking:Soak the carrageen in tepid water for 10 minutes. Put in a saucepan with milk and a vanilla pod if used. Bring to the boil and simmer very gently for 20 minutes. Pour through a strainer into a mixing bowl. The carrageen will now be swollen and exuding jelly. Rub all this jelly through the strainer and beat it into the milk with the sugar, egg yolk and vanilla essence if used. Test for a "set" as one would gelatine. Whisk the egg white stiffly and fold it in gently. It will rise to make a fluffy top. Serve chilled with a fruit compote, caramel or Irish coffee sauce.

I can't help thinking the very old recipes would hve been simpler, with less ingredients, but I may be wrong - just water and/or milk, thickened with the simmered seaweed. Will have a look for some older recipes and give them a go. Will report back later.
Another interesting link:
This sounds more like what I'm after:

Recipes from The Inglenook Cookbook by The Sisters of the Brethren Church (1906)


IRISH MOSS Buy 10 cents worth of Irish sea moss in the drug store, then take a piece the size of a dollar and wash it in cold water, and put it in 1/2 pint of sweet milk and boil it till it thickens like cream. Stir all the time. Then strain, and season with a little sugar. Serve while warm. As soon as it cools it gets stiff, but it can also be eaten cold with cream and sugar.Sister Fannie E. Light, Manheim, Pa.

Also turned up the information that it is/was used to clear beer in brewing, so more research on that required too.


  1. My Dad used to send over to Ireland for carageen moss to make a milky pudding. As children we were less than impressed lol! I have had it since - made by my Dad's sister - and enjoyed it. Did you make yours yet?

    My Mum used to smack her lips at the thought of dulse, another sea vegetable. We didn't ever try that.

    Hannah x

  2. i bought Irish moss from health store in UK and I prepared a milk pudding with soy milk and it was really disappointing- my puddling has a wonderful texture and some very unpleasant "fishy" taste.
    What i made wrong?

  3. My mother made blancmange years ago. She washed and picked over a handful of the fresh irish moss, then heated a quart or so of whole cow's milk, but not to the boil. (She was very firm about that, just simmering.) She put in the clump of moss and let it simmer slowly for about 15-20 minutes. Then she pulled out the seaweed, stirred in some maple syrup and let it cool. It was a sort of pudding, as I recall. I don't remember any fishy or oceanic taste, just the maple flavor. She washed the milk out of the seaweed and dried it to use again.