Thursday, 11 October 2007

A little secret



Like many food lovers I have followed the rise of ethnically inspired ingredients such as Iranian fairy floss and pomegranate molasses. There is one seemingly undiscovered ingredient for which I have a particular fondness and it originates from the humble date; jaggery. With its treacle like consistency and toffee coloured appearance it is heavenly as an alternative to maple syrup drizzled over pancakes. It also makes the perfect adult’s sundae when poured generously over scoops of vanilla bean ice cream. Deliciously sticky jaggery has a complexity of flavour to which its syrupy cousins can only aspire. It lacks the cloying sweetness of other sugars and is instead seemingly infused with an aroma of dates. This delightful syrup will always have your reaching for seconds.

Although jaggery can be derived from both sugarcane and the sap of the date palm tree, it is the latter that is a delicacy across India, particularly during the winter months when it is widely used. Also known as gur, it comes in the form of a semi-spherical block that must be melted down to a caramel consistency. Once in this form it is traditionally used in rice puddings and milk based confections. In Australia and other countries it's imported and available at many Indian and Sri Lankan grocers.

While most commonly found in recipes derived from the subcontinent, this syrup is also ideal to add a depth of flavour anywhere you would use maple or golden syrup or caramel. I’ve chosen to pair it with some particularly plump dates to echo the flavours in the jaggery. The dates are baked in individual moist almond cakes that are later drenched with the jaggery and smothered with crushed pistachios. The cake has a deliciously crunchy crust and the lightest golden crumb within, perfect for soaking up syrup. With a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a rose water infused cream, it’s luxurious enough for a dinner party but easy enough for a sinful solitary indulgence.

For those feeling inspired to discover new herbs and vegetables head over to Kalyn's Kitchen for the Two Year Celebration of Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by the creator, Kalyn.


Pistachio and Almond Cakes with Date Syrup

The recipe below makes enough for two individual ramekins but is easily doubled.

1/3 cup softened butter
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp orange zest
1 egg
2/3 cup almond meal/ground almonds
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup chopped dates
pinch of baking powder
pinch of salt

1/4 cup chopped unsalted shelled pistachios
1/2 cup liquid jaggery

Note: If you buy your jaggery in the solid form, the melting process is simple. There are many ways to do it but I find the easiest is to place the jaggery in a pot with a few spoons of water over a low heat. It will melt down quickly and it's then up to you what stage of thickness you desire. For this recipe I've stopped at a syrupy consistency.

Preheat your oven to 180C and lightly butter two individual ramekins. In a large mixing bowl cream the butter, orange zest and sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually incorporate the egg and combine well. Stir through the almond meal, flour, salt and baking powder. Slowly pour in the milk until your reach a smooth consistency. You may find you don’t require the full amount.

Pour the batter into the greased ramekins and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Invert the cakes onto a rack and allow to cool slightly. When cool enough to handle slice off the tops to form a level base suitable for plating. Place the individual cakes upside down on serving plates. Re-heat your liquid jaggery until you have a hot syrup. Spoon the jaggery over the cakes while still warm and sprinkle with crushed pistachios. Serve with ice cream or rose water scented cream.

56 comments:

Anh said...

Truffle, what a lovely post! I have yet tried jaggery. I really should get some to try!

Your little cake is wonderful! I just fall in love with the presentation. The white rose on top is just so elegant!

vida said...

Hi Truffle, I bought this stuff by accident thinking it had dates in syrup (not date syrup) which I had planned to use in my sticky date. I still used the syrup in the sticky date but had to add the dates myself. I LOVE your recipe and the presentation is superb!! Vida x

Cindy said...

Thanks for the lowdown on jaggery, Truffle! I have seen it listed in a couple of recipes but not figured it out.

I am a huge fan of Indian-style desserts involving pistachios, rosewater and the like, so this pretty thing is right up my alley...

Truffle said...

Anh- thank you! As far as I know the date variety of jaggery is imported but available at many Indian and Sri Lankan food stores.

I actually think it's best heated up and drizzled over ice cream. Simple but delicious.

Vida- Thanks! You must have stumbled across the liquid variety. In it's solidified form it has a rather bizarre appearance. Glad you found a use for it!

Cindy- I'm glad it appeals. I'm afraid with the addition of the almond cake it's far from traditionally Indian but I think it's a lovely way to use Indian ingredients.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

The cake alone seems smashingly good. The jaggery sounds exceptional and I will be seeking it out.

vida said...

Truffle, I bought it at the fruit shop in Glen Eira Road, it was on the shelf above the counter so I could not read the label on the jar properly. Yours must seem really weird and I have not seen it in solid form. Vida x

Dana said...

I'm embarrassed to say I never heard of jaggery until I read this post! The recipe looks wonderful, though, so I will have to scout some out! I wonder if it's available in the States....

SteamyKitchen said...

Where have I been? I have never tried Fairy Floss nor Jaggery.

Now i have a new obsession ... to find those ingredients and try!

Kalyn said...

Just gorgeous! I remember when I started hearing about jaggery and finally figured out what it was. This sounds just fantastic.

Kalyn said...

Forgot to say, thanks for helping celebrate the two year anniversary of WHB!

Truffle said...

MyKitchenInHalfCups - thanks so much! It is quite seasonal but should be available in Indian and Sri Lankan grocers.

Vida- in the hard form it's a bit like a caramel coloured solid. You'd have no idea it would melt down to toffee consistency. So glad you put it to good use!

Dana - I'd heard of but never cooked with it myself until this year! It is seasonal and more readily available in the Northern Hemisphere winter. I'm sure they'd be importing it to the States if they are to Australia. Try a few Indian grocers and good luck!

SteamyKitchen - Iranian fairy floss makes a gorgeous garnish but if I had to pick one new ingredient it would be the jaggery because it has so many uses!

Kalyn - thanks so much for hosting and creating such a wonderful event!

katiez said...

Oh my, that sounds positively fantastic! I've never heard of it but I want some - on that cake. NOW, please!
I love dates and if the syrup is at all similar...yum!

Wendy said...

Wonderful post! Beautifully written and a recipe I have to try.
Fairy floss?? I'm intrigued.

Deborah said...

I have never tried jaggery before, and haven't even seen it anywhere here. I will have to start looking - it sounds so delicious and versatile!

Belinda said...

Oh, wow! What a delightful little cake! And the jaggery sounds so delicious, and right up my alley. The perils of living in a small town include not being able to find such wonderful treats, unfortunately. Anything remotely "exotic" requires jumping through hoops and numerous treasure hunts to track down! :-)

sher said...

Alright! Now I will be on the look-out for jaggery. It sounds like something I would love. And that little cake is just exquisite looking.

maninas: food matters said...

mmmmmm the photo made me stop and go: wow!

Figs Olives Wine said...

What a fantastic post. I've never heard of jaggery, but I want to find some immediately! How heavenly. Beautiful photography and writing as usual, Truffle!

Truffle said...

Wendy - Thank you! Persian or Iranian fairy floss, also known as pashmak, is a trendy dessert garnish in restaurants here right now due to the Middle Eastern influence here that's so big these days.

Here's a photo an example of Iranian fairy floss.

Deborah - I'm so glad you like the sound of it. I think it makes a lovely alternative to the better known syrups.

Belinda - I hope you manage to track some down one day. I'm always stunned by your amazing creations so you must also come across some great produce in your part of the world.

sher - Thanks so much! I really hope you like it!

maninas- Thank you! That's a lovely thing to say!

Figs Olives Wine - Thanks very much. I really appreciate all the lovely comments.

Kelly Mahoney said...

Looks beautiful, nice garnish.

Anonymous said...

What an amazing post! I had never heard of this. Your photos just get better and better Truffle! These look absolutely beautiful!

Truffle said...

Kelly Mahoney - thank you!

Anonymous - Thanks very much for the kind words! I have been thinking of late that I should invest in a better camera but I just love having something slim enough to fit into any handbag so I'm glad you like the photos!

Patricia Scarpin said...

These look beautiful and delicious, Truffle - I have to agree with Anh, the presentation is breathtaking!

Valli said...

One of the fun things about blogging is making a new discovery!!! I have never heard of jaggery, but in true blogger fashion I will probably hear a lot about it in the following months. I haven't seen it here in Canada but that doesn't mean I won't. Just not yet!!

Sylvia said...

Lovely presentation and a wonderful post, I agree in the most things that you wrote in the post.

Truffle said...

Patricia - thanks so much! I'm glad you like them.

Valli - I couldn't agree more. It's great stumbling across new ingredients through other blogs.

Sylvia - thanks very much and thank you for reading!

Agnes said...

It looks so beautiful! I haven't tried jaggery before but now I know what to do with it if I come across it :)

Paz said...

Ohhh! So delicious looking. I love the pistachios on top!

Paz

Truffle said...

Agnes - Thanks very much!

Paz - Thanks! The pistachios give a lovely crunch too.

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

What a beautiful post (words and pics) and I learned something new too!

mutemonkey said...

Allow me to chime in the chorus and also thank you for the info on jaggery! :)

stickyfingers said...

Yum - Oh Truffle I just want to dive in!

My first taste of jaggery came at breakfast in Sri Lanka 12 years ago, with a heavenly bowl of fresh buffalo curds drizzled with the syrup. I love cooking with it and putting it in Sri Lankan dishes like Love Cake. My Godson is half Sri Lankan and I always look forward to the family get-togethers where his grandmother makes Sri Lankan desserts..mmm!

On fairy floss I discovered three things. Don't dress a cake with it too early as it will disintegrate by the time you serve it. Don't dress a hot dessert with it, as it will disappear. And use it within a few days of opening the bag as even in an air tight container it can go rock hard.

Thanks for sharing 'the love'.

Truffle said...

Amanda - thanks for all your lovely comments. They're greatly appreciated :)

mutemonkey - you're very welcome!

Linda said...

Great photo Truffle! The cake looks absoultely delish and I now know more about jaggery, thanks to you! :)

Truffle said...

stickyfingers - thanks! Great to hear from someone who loves it too.

Thanks for the tips on fairy floss!

Linda - Thanks for reading. I'm so glad you liked it!

Christine said...

This looks amazing! I've never heard of jaggery but now I'm really intrigued. I'll have to see if I can find it here in the states.

Kelly-Jane said...

This is a bit like the Uk's Sticky Toffee Pudding. Looks gorgeous, I'd love that :)

Wendy said...

Thanks for the link! It's so pretty...

Truffle said...

Christine - Thanks so much! I've read other bloggers in the States mention it so I think there is a good chance!

Kelly-Jane - It is actually! I love sticky toffee pud!

Wendy - you're welcome! I think it's a lovely way to make a dessert look a little extra special.

Big Boys Oven said...

so lovely presented, makes me to crave for one!

Peter M said...

A beautiful dessert and surely delicious...dates are up there with figs!

Anonymous said...

Your cake looks wonderful. I am a big fan of Pistachios but they are always so expensive. Thanks!

http://birdfood-sharona.blogspot.com
Sharona May

Christine said...

Truffle, I've just discovered your blog through Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging. Your recipe and photo here are fabulous, and even though I try to avoid sugar, I'm going to have to make this beautiful little cake.
For those who are looking for jaggery in the US, Kalustyan's has two kinds listed here: Kalustyan's
Hope this helps.

Truffle said...

Big Boys Oven - thank you! Wish I could send one over!

Peter - so lovely to find another fig and date lover. I'm addicted to both.

Sharona- they are expensive but I just love those colours. I think they're the most beautiful nuts!

Christine- thanks so much for popping by! I'm glad you like the look of it and thanks for the link! The type they are selling is the other kind, the one derived from cane sugar. It is more like a traditional sugar syrup and although the taste is different, it will certainly do the trick!

Gloria said...

Truffle I really like this post and the pictures, so nice, I love this recipe. Gloria

vida said...

Truffle I have put in a post just for you on my blog... Vida x

Truffle said...

Gloria - thanks so much! So pleased you like it.

vida - that's so lovely! fabulous post!

neil said...

That was a fascinating post, I had never heard of it before, thanks for the enlightenment. The cake looks really lovely, top effort.

Chris said...

jaggery - a first for me...

This is a great looking for recipe. The picture is so inviting. :)

ilingc said...

Hi Truffle,

This sounds very sinful! Especially the jaggery date sauce. I actually thought the rose was a dollop of ice cream! How silly of me. Took a second look before I realised it was a white rose. Love the presentation with the pistachios and the rose though. :)

Truffle said...

neil - Thanks very much and thanks for reading.

Chris - it's not widely used but I think it should be. Thanks!

ilingc - it does make for a rather naughty dessert although apparently jaggery is a lot better for you than most sugars. Thanks for your lovely comments.

Cynthia said...

I bought myself two packages of jaggery and plan to use it like the precious commodity it is. Have you ever tried the Thai Palm Sugar? If you haven't do try and get your hands on some. It is every bit as exotic and tasty as the jaggery.

Love you P & A cake! Beautiful photograph.

Susan said...

I have been on a serious Medjool date kick lately, so this dessert is making me giddy with anticipation. Your description is simply mouth-watering as well. Thanks, Truffle!

Truffle said...

Cynthia - palm sugar is lovely, isn't it? Enjoy the jaggery :)

Susan - Thanks! I love medjool dates, they're absolutely addictive!

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

I have never heard of Jaggery, Truffle. But I adore dates and almonds and all the like. Your cakes are beautiful!

Naomi Devlin said...

That cake looks gorgeous - might have to try a gluten free version. We have date syrup in the uk, which is liquid version of jaggery I guess - no cane sugar in it anyway. My son often wonders what he will have on his porridge in the morning, date syrup, or maple syrup?