Go Green: Creating Basil Cream with Xanthan Gum

Sometimes I find that just adding Basil to a dish is boring.
We can do better than that, so I decided to make some Basil Cream.
I didn’t want to heat the Basil as I needed it to keep its full flavour.
That’s why I used Xanthan (E415) to do the job.
First of all, take a lot of Basil. You can’t use too much. The more you take the more aroma you will get.
Then add some Olive Oil (I use 3 tablespoons for 100g of Basil) and some water (rule of thumb: 2/3 of the weight of the Basil, in this example: 66ml).

Now use a hand blender to blend thoroughly.
This will take some time. Basil will stick to the blades and you’ll need to remove them manually.
Whatever you do, don’t put your fingers between the blades! Always use a small spoon. If for some reason these blades start turning there won’t be enough left of your fingers to sew back on!

Once its’ well blended, strain the liquid through a sieve.
Use a spoon to press the liquid through the sieve. You want to get as much out as possible.
Once a dry, dark green crust remains in the sieve you can stop straining.

Now add 1% Xanthan Gum.
As the remaining liquid weighed 174g, I added 1,74g of Xanthan.
You need to be very precise here. Adding too much will make the cream too thick.

Use the hand blender to blend the liquid with the Xanthan Gum. Remember to clean the blender first as you don’t want any of the Basil Crumbs in your cream.


You can stop blending once the cream has reached a nice viscosity.
Now pour into a squeeze bottle.

This cream goes very well with tomatoes.
You can use it to create something like “Caprese Moleculare”.
I do this by placing Mozzarella di Bufala at the bottom, followed by Mozzarella Cream and diced tomatoes.
On top comes the Basil Cream. This adds a great aroma and perfect colour.

Xanthan Gum: Magic for Sauces and Pastes

For some sauces and liquids, Xanthan Gum is the way to go.
Stirring it into a cold liquid will significantly increase the viscosity of this liquid, turning it into a cream or paste.
You will probably consume more Xanthan in everyday life than you’re even aware of. Just check the packaging of your toothpaste, cosmetics, ice cream,salad dressings, sauces.
Gluten free foods are also highly likely to contain Xanthan Gum as it gives them the stickiness that normally comes from Gluten.
If it says “E415” on the package, it contains Xanthan Gum.

The great advantage is that Xanthan Gum doesn’t change the flavor or the colour of the foods that are treated with it.
I personally use it a lot in my cooking.

One great example is soy sauce. Soy Sauce has a very low viscosity. Iyou pour it over food it will just run down and collect at the bottom of the plate. Not what you want if your dish is artfully stacked or it simply needs to stick to your food to get the full flavour.
Of course you could simmer down the soy sauce until it has the required viscosity. This will take a long time though and, what’s worse, the result will taste extremely salty. Trust me, I’ve been there.

Instead, all you do is add a little bit of Xanthan Gum, stir hard using a hand blender or, in case of small quantities, a milk frother. You’ll find that while you stir, it gains viscosity and starts turning into a perfect soy cream.

Start with 0,5% and work yourself up in steps of 0,1% until your cream has reached the desired viscosity.
So, if you have 100g of Soy Sauce, add 0,5g of Xanthan. Stir for a while and check the viscosity.
If you aren’t satisfied with the result, add 0,1g and continue stirring. And so on. Don’t go too high though. Be patient when you stir. It takes a bit of time for the effect to kick in.
For a perfect viscosity I find that 1% is sufficient for most pastes.

The absolute limit should be 2%, i.e. a max. of 2g Xanthan Gum on 100g of Liquid.
This is still far below the limit where it would act as a laxative.

Please make sure to use an extremely fine scale. Just remember that you apply Xanthan Gum in steps of 0,1g. If you are just 0,05g off, that would be 50%!
Your scale should therefore be precise to a hundredth of a gram.

When you’re done you can fill the cream into a squeeze bottle. This can be used for storing your cream in the fridge for a few days and makes it really easy to apply it to your meal.

Another good example is Balsamico Vinegar.
I’m sure you know these “Balsamico Creams” you can buy in the shops. Guess what…if you’re lucky, they’re only 40% sugar, often more.
Check out this example of a Balsamico Cream I found in Italy. Granted, it’s cheap. But 41% sugar and 277 calories per 100g, really?

I covered the name of the manufacturer as it doesn’t really matter. Basically they are all the same.

Do yourself a favour. Buy a proper Balsamico di Modena, add a little Xanthan Gum (0,5%…, raise percentage as described above) instead of this convenience-stuff.

Look at the picture below.
This real Balsamico has only 84 calories/100g and 15% sugar, i.e. a third of the ready made cream.


So, here is how it’s done.

What we need:
– Balsamico
– Xanthan Gum
– Fine Scale (1/100th gram)
– Milk Frother
– Squeeze Bottle

First of all, weigh the Balsamico you’re going to use. In my example this is 50g.

Now add 0,2g of Xanthan Gum by sprinkling it delicately over the Balsamico.
Xanthan Gum tends to form lumps. The looser you sprinkle it the less lumps you will have.

Add Xanthan Gum in steps of 0,1g and use a milk frother to stir it into the Balsamico until the viscosity is right.

After some time you will notice that the viscosity of the Balsamico increases.

When you’re done and the creaminess is right, fill it into a squeeze bottle. Also, try it.
Yes, it’s much less sweet than one of those ready made Balsamico Creams. But hey, it’s vinegar.
It’s supposed to taste like vinegar.
This is the real thing.
On the picture you can actually see the viscosity of this Balsamico.

Now use the Squeeze bottle to apply it to your dish. Because of the viscosity you can achieve great effects here.

Unboxing my new Cast Iron Pan

(Unpaid Advertising)
Today my new cast iron pan was delivered.
I had ordered it from www.diepfanne.com just two days ago, so that was really quick.
What’s special about it is that it’s really heavey and that the handle is easily removable. As I usually cook on a gas-stove, that’s really important for me.
Normal pans don’t have removable handles which means that they always get extremely hot and you can’t touch them without suffering severe burns.
Another special feature is that the handle is actually made of charcoal.
This is treated with an epoxy resin to make it durable.
Looks great, doesn’t it?

It came packed in a sturdy cardboard-box.
Inside there were some other items I had ordered (wooden spoons, some whisks), all packed in paper.
They also added the latest edition of “Slow Food Magazin” free of charge.

The pan itself is packed into a nice, sturdy fabric-bag which I’ll probably use for storing stuff.

Inside the fabric-bag the pan is wrapped in oil-paper to prevent rust.
Some instructions on how to treat the pan before its first use are also included.

The sealed charcoal-handle looks beautiful.
It’s hand-crafted Germany,
Fitting it to the pan is very easy and can be done without actually having to hold the pan itself.
This is definitely a bonus when having to fit it to a hot pan.

If you’re looking into purchasing one of these, check out https://www.diepfanne.com
Besides pots and pans they also have other useful kitchen-accessories in their shop.


Herbs

Whenever I go shopping for food, I see people buying fresh herbs.
Using fresh herbs is good idea per se, but why buy them?
First of all, most of these herbs are packed in plastic bags. Even more waste to pollute our oceans.
Next question:
Are they really organic?
Or just some stuff grown in huge plantations, highly fertilised and not really tasty?
I always wonder why people don’t grow their own herbs.
For hundreds of years, herb-gardens were everywhere. People grew their regional herbs or collected them out in the fields.
So why don’t we do that?
Herb-seeds are available in any gardening-store.
You can plant them in pots, see your herbs grow and harvest them whenever you need them. Plus they don’t come any fresher than this.
Also, you can grow seeds that aren’t readily available in your area. For example, you won’t find cilantro everywhere in Europe.
If you grow your own, you’ll always have all the herbs you need.

Which are the basic herbs?

A handful of different herbs will satisfy most of your needs.
If you have limited space, e.g. a balcony or only a windowsill, I would propose to go with the following:
Basil
Chives
Parsley
Thyme
Cilantro

If you have more space, e.g. a garden or some large pots, I would additionally grow the following:
Mint
Rosemary
Marjoram
Oregano

Some of these don’t take frost very well, so you’d want to plant them in pots to take them inside in winter.

Seeds or Seedlings?

Many stores sell herbs as plants which you just need to put into a bigger pot.
So why bother with buying seeds and growing them yourself?
I personally would always go with seeds. This enables me to control every phase of their development.
I can make sure they have the right soil. I don’t use chemical fertilizers. I don’t use pesticides. None of this is possible if I buy seedlings.