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I have been travelling to Japan now for many years and my love for its food increases with each visit. I am particularly intrigued by Japanese desserts, especially those that include red beans (adzuki). In Japan the beans are either left whole or puréed with sugar into a wonderful, smooth and sweet texture that is often set in jelly desserts or yokan.
They make a perfect end to a meal and, as they are very rich, a few small bitefuls are enough. The setting agent for this dessert is agar-agar, which can be bought from most wholefood stores and is very easy to use. The red bean purée can be bought from any good Japanese food store.
Rose Carrarini is co-owner of Rose Bakery in Paris and author of ‘How to Boil an Egg’ (Phaidon, £19.95)
Red bean jelly with sesame
For about 20 squares
A 23cm x 30cm tin, lined with cling film
2 1/2 tsb agar-agar flakes
500g sweet red bean purée
1/2 cup white toasted sesame seeds
● Put the water in a saucepan and add the agar-agar without stirring. Slowly bring to the boil, then simmer for about four minutes until the agar-agar is dissolved. Take off the heat and stir in the red bean purée till smooth. Let this cool for a few minutes then pour into the prepared tin and set in the fridge overnight. It will set quite quickly but is best chilled overnight.
● Grind the sesame seeds in a coffee grinder. When ready to serve, upturn the jelly on to a plate or tray. Peel off the cling film and turn it back on to a serving dish or tray. With a sharp knife cut into squares or rectangles to the size you want. Sprinkle a little sesame powder in the middle of each square.
Coconut set cream with mango
Serves four to five
220ml coconut milk
1 vanilla pod
5g (about 4 sheets) of gelatine soaked in cold water
1 tbs grated creamed coconut
2 tsp lime or lemon juice
150ml double cream lightly whipped
● In a saucepan, slowly warm the coconut milk, sugar and vanilla pod. When the sugar has dissolved and the milk is warm, remove from the heat. Lift out the gelatine leaves and squeeze out the water. Add them to the warmed milk. Add the lime or lemon juice and the grated coconut cream. Cool for about 10 minutes then gently fold in the whipped cream.
● Pour the coconut cream into the moulds and leave in the fridge to set. When ready to serve, dip the moulds for a few seconds in warm water then turn them out on to the plate. Remove the cling film, then arrange the diced fruit next to the set cream.
● This light set cream, very similar to a panna cotta, is delicious with any fruit, especially strawberries, but because of the lovely coconut flavour, I have to state the obvious and say it goes really well with mango, pineapple, or citrus fruits. But if you think of a Bounty bar, you can see that coconut is also wonderful paired with dark chocolate; you can go in any direction you want with this dessert. To be really special, they can be set in pretty jelly moulds, but any shaped dishes are fine, as long as you line them with cling film.