If someone were to tell you that one day you could sample dairy-free gelato made from fermented beans — and actually enjoy it — you might think that was impossible.
Well, when you’re at Mission ImPULSEible, nothing is impossible.
“I never cease to be amazed at the unique ways that pulses can be processed into yummy food,” said Allison Ammeter, chair of Alberta Pulse Growers, which co-ordinates the provincial edition of the annual pulse-based food development competition.
“If you had given me that gelato in a blind taste test, I would have said, ‘It’s a milk product.’ That gelato was incredible.”
Three teams from culinary programs across the province went head to head to compete for this year’s Mission ImPULSEible title, which comes with an all-expenses-paid trip to the national competition in Vancouver next year.
NAIT’s Stephanie Stolk offered up Cinnamon Delights — gluten-free, vegetarian mini-donuts made with chickpea flour — while Portage College culinary students Clarissa Cardinal, Tara Collins, and Kali Brodbin created the Freak Santé energy bar, a nod to traditional Aboriginal pemmican made from roasted chickpeas, lentil purée, and pea protein.
But top honours went to BiotaGelata, developed by University of Alberta students Austen Neil, Sujata Patel, Chandre Van de Merwe, and Nicolle Mah.
“This was just an incredible opportunity to learn more about pulses and what we can do with our creativity,” said Mah. “We could use our creativity in ways that we never imagined.”
“It was so much fun,” added Neil. “We caught ourselves doing this instead of our actual classwork because it was so much more enjoyable.”
The team was inspired to create a dairy-free gelato after a stint working for a gelato company over the summer.
“I’m a big fan of Fiasco Gelato. It’s a local company, and they’re so great,” said Neil. “They inspired me to make something that’s dairy free but still gelato-like — not a sorbet.”
The team used locally produced white beans, which were fermented for several days and then mixed in a gelato machine with other ingredients to create the creamy confection (which didn’t taste a thing like white beans, thanks to the salty-sweet maple walnut flavour of the gelato.)
“We thought, ‘Why don’t we do our first product as a traditional Canadian flavour?’” said Van de Merwe. “We wanted to represent where we’re from, and we thought maple walnut is a traditional Canadian flavour that you would usually find.”
The team wants to play with some other flavours next, with plans to increase their offerings and eventually commercialize the product.
That’s the ultimate goal of the competition, said Ammeter.
“We work to encourage them to see all of their hard work taken through to a commercial product,” she said.
The winning team gets a chance to work with the food scientists at the Leduc Food Processing Centre — “an absolute gem in Alberta,” said Ammeter.
But with International Year of the Pulses right around the corner, Mission ImPULSEible serves another purpose as well, she said.
“One of our stated goals in International Year of the Pulses is to have pulses available in more consumer products worldwide,” said Ammeter. “The way that happens is by encouraging innovation. That’s really what’s behind all of the new food products.”
The students certainly delivered on that, said Ammeter, who farms near Sylvan Lake with husband Mike.
“It is very, very rewarding to know that not only do we grow food, but that the food we grow can be used in so many creative ways,” she said.
That’s what initially drew the BiotaGelata team to the competition.
“I think that Alberta’s agriculture is much more diverse than people realize,” said Van de Merwe. “It’s interesting to see how much more there is out there that Alberta farmers do.”