THE IN­GRE­DI­ENTS PAN­DAN Vanilla of the east, Pan­danus amaryl­li­folius

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Plants With A Purpose -

into the cus­tard to give it a unique, lightly salted flavour. When served on a square of ba­nana leaf, it would look quite at home in an up­mar­ket restau­rant.

Tra­di­tion­ally the cus­tard layer is green, coloured by ex­tracts of pan­dan leaf or daun pan­dan serani ( Dra­caena fra­grans) and daun pan­dan suji ( D. an­gus­ti­fo­lia).

Luck­ily for us, our cook friend Lil­ian Loh de­cided this might be a bit much and opted for the nat­u­ral creamy yel­low colour in­stead.

This is a dessert like noth­ing we have ever tasted. The com­bi­na­tion of tex­tures and flavours is unique. We liked it so much we got Lil­ian to make a sec­ond batch made and we are still eat­ing it as I write.

It is de­li­cious, sat­is­fy­ing, low fat, rel­a­tively healthy and gluten-free, all of great help if you are prone to pangs of con­science over deca­dent, rich desserts. I am on my third day of eat­ing kueh salat for break­fast, lunch and tea, with­out the slight­est pang of con­science. Pan­dan leaves are said to be as im­por­tant to Asians as vanilla is to western­ers. The leaves are used widely in south-east Asian cook­ing for the sub­tle flavour they im­part to both sweet and savoury food, es­pe­cially rice dishes and cakes. The flavour has been var­i­ously de­scribed as nutty, botan­i­cal, and rem­i­nis­cent of fresh hay. I like Lil­ian’s de­scrip­tion best. “Quite grassy with light hints of co­conut and vanilla.”

Typ­i­cally the long, nar­row, blade-like leaves are torn into strips, tied in a knot for use in cook­ing, and fished out and dis­carded af­ter­wards.

Pan­dan is grown in south­ern In­dia, Sri Lanka, penin­su­lar south-east Asia, In­done­sia and western New Guinea. It’s no longer found in the wild and is the only pan­danus species with fra­grant leaves, which sug­gests a long his­tory of cul­ti­va­tion.

Trop­i­cal pan­danus does well at tem­per­a­tures in the range of 24-30°C and stops grow­ing un­der 14°C, lik­ing fil­tered light and high hu­mid­ity. It would be mar­ginal even in North­land. I haven’t come across it here and would be in­ter­ested to hear from any­one who has.

The plant has two dis­tinct growth forms. Undis­turbed, it usu­ally de­vel­ops into a small, un­branched, up­right tree with a palm-like stem and large leaves (up to 2m) grow­ing 2-2.5m tall. How­ever if leaves are con­tin­u­ously har­vested, it will grow into a lower, more shrubby form with mul­ti­ple stems, smaller leaves (up to 75cm), and no vis­i­ble trunk. It has woody, aerial roots.

Male flow­ers are ex­tremely rare, and there is no sci­en­tific de­scrip­tion of a fe­male flower for this species.

It is not known what pro­duces the flavour in pan­danus, al­though a num­ber of sub­stances have been ex­tracted. The most likely cul­prit is 2-acetyl-1-pyrro­line, found in pan­danus leaves at lev­els of about 1ppm, and also found in jas­mine and bas­mati rice cul­ti­vars.

Pan­danus has lo­cal medic­i­nal uses in re­duc­ing fever, in­di­ges­tion, flat­u­lence, and as a car­dio-tonic. The oil of the leaf is de­scribed as hav­ing stim­u­lant and an­ti­spas­modic prop­er­ties, and is be­lieved to be ef­fec­tive against headaches, rheuma­tism, epilepsy and for sore throats.

We can get it here for cook­ing, avail­able frozen in Asian su­per­mar­kets in packs of 10 leaves.

Sago gula me­laka with co­conut cream and palm sugar syrup.

1 Cut­ting the ba­nana leaf squares. 2 Mix­ing pan­dan leaves into the rice. 3 Pok­ing holes in the rice base so cus­tard ad­heres. 4 Pour­ing cus­tard over the rice layer. about 30 min­utes over a medium heat. Test by in­sert­ing a tooth­pick right down the cus­tard layer. If it comes out clean it is done – the cen­tre of the cake should wob­ble a bit. Al­low to cool com­pletely be­fore de-pan­ning. Cut us­ing a well-oiled knife into 3x5cm rec­tan­gles. Wrap with plas­tic wrap be­fore re­frig­er­a­tion or the rice will be­come hard and dry. You can keep this in the fridge for up to three days.

All gorse, tree trim­mings and waste are mulched into large piles nearby. Loads of fire­wood are stacked and split from the forestry trees, right down to small wood at 100mm di­am­e­ter. This in­cludes some larger gorse branches which make good

STEP 2: The macro­carpa is sawn up for logs

and tim­ber.

In mid-july the geese are run­ning through the block, graz­ing and ma­nur­ing. They play a vi­tal role in gen­eral or­chard main­te­nance and soil fer­til­ity.


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