THE INGREDIENTS PANDAN Vanilla of the east, Pandanus amaryllifolius
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
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.