To agave, or not to agave, that is the question. What's the deal with this health-crazed fructose syrup?
Fructose is a naturally occurring sugar that is found in fruit and some vegetables, but in small concentrations. It is also delivered alongside the fibre and the other minerals that are contained within that piece of fruit or vegetable.
When fructose is artificially concentrated and isolated from other nutrients, our body treats it quite differently. "Glucose is metabolised by every cell in the body," says endocrinologist Dr Robert Lustig. "But fructose can only be metabolised by the liver." Right, so. Too much fructose, like agave, can overburden our liver. Got it.
Much of the research on high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) exposes the dodgy health effects of quaffing too much of it, especially in the form of liquid. 'Deleterious' is the buzz word. Confectionery and sodas sweetened by HFCS shoot excessive amounts of concentrated fructose to the liver. Dr Lustig ain't so happy when this happens. Neither is your health insurer.
While agave is not as bad as HFCS, it's worth remembering that this sticky nectar is still a concentrated form of fructose. Most cooks find agave too sweet on the palate, but it can be useful in small quantities for diabetics as an occasional treat.
Diabetics have it tough - honey, maple, dried fruit, date syrup - all demand insulin to break them down in the bloodstream. Something that a diabetic struggles to do. The alternative for diabetics is xylitol (not a fan), stevia (never liked it) or artificial sweeteners (no chance). In this light, agave has a functional and positive use in the kitchen, so long as you don't stick a straw in the bottle and neck the lot.
If your blood-sugar levels are well mannered, maybe stick with maple syrup, raw honey and date paste.
I loves me an egg yolk. These little golden treasures contain phospholipids called choline and inositol.
Choline and inositol are major components of cell membranes. They are celebrated for their ninja-star brain-charging abilities. Nice one! This lemon and passionfruit curd should be dynamite fodder for the exam season.
You will need:
5 tablespoons light agave, raw honey or brown rice syrup
5 egg yolks
1 large (or 2 small) unwaxed lemons, juice and rind
5 tablespoons extra-virgin coconut oil
Flesh of 2-4 passion fruits, to decorate
Put a small saucepan on a low setting, and gently heat the light agave, or raw honey or brown rice syrup, whichever you are using, along with the egg yolks, the lemon juice and the lemon rind and the extra-virgin coconut oil. Whisk continuously with a metal balloon beater.
When all the extra-virgin coconut oil has melted, keep a watch for little bubbles forming on the surface telling you the mixture is getting hotter and hotter. By then, you should notice the curd getting thicker. Test it by dipping the back of a spoon into it. If the curd coats the spoon, remove from heat. If it runs off, keep the curd over the heat until it thickens a little more.
As soon as it's ready, pour it into 4-8 espresso cups and chill, before topping with the juicy passion fruit pulp.
Sunday Indo Life Magazine