Saturday, June 23, 2012

Now THAT'S a strange thing...


I got this terribly poorly edited Indian cookbook, which had a picture of this gorgeous looking dessert in it. Probably the picture had something to do with my buying the damn book, I've had mixed experiences with it so far. I finally made this recipe, and it is even more bizarre than I had hoped.

There's a fairly normal layer of whipped cream on top, but the red stuff underneath is mighty strange. It's made with basil seeds. They aren't naturaly that color, that's just food coloring, which looks better than their natural cloudy brownish gray.

Put 1 cup of water and 2 tablespoons of sugar in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and add 1 teaspoon of basil seeds, a drop of food coloring, and 1/2 teaspoon of orange extract. Remove from heat and admire the swelling of the seeds. Chill, and top with a bit of whipped cream.

Basil seed are really neat, because they have a large amount of water soluble fiber in their husks. That's the stuff that food nutrition labels call 'dietary fiber', I think. In any case, when you put them in water, they instantly start to expand by an order of magnitude. You can actually see them swelling up. The seeds start out black and shiny, and as soon as they hit the water they develop a pearly gray coating that expands and becomes more gelatinous and transparent over the next half hour or so. If you've ever seen chia seeds in the natural foods section of the grocery store, those will do exactly the same thing. You can buy Kombucha with chia floating around in it, it looks polkadotted. Or like a bottle of tiny frog eggs.

But what on earth do they taste like?!?

Not much, to tell the truth. If you chew the seeds, they have a very faintly grassy flavor. It's more about texture. If you like those tapioca things in bubble tea you might enjoy this, but you might not. If you bite tapioca, it's all jelly. These seeds have a little crunchy middle. It's quite distinctive. You notice this is a very small recipe- I don't think anybody will want to eat more than a few spoonfuls of it. It would make some really badass Halloween shots with a kick of tequila, but that's about the only reason I can think of to do it again.

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