It is not hard to see why tapioca or sago pudding was a common dish served during the war and post war periods. A little bit goes a very long way – one third of a cup can make enough pudding for a family of four – so to describe it as economical is almost an understatement. Equally so, it’s not hard to understand why children call it tadpole or fish eye pudding because the tiny transparent tapioca beads keep their spherical shape, giving the dessert an interesting texture and appearance.
Many would describe this dessert as retro. While they are not wrong, it doesn’t deserve to be relegated to the annuls of culinary history. There is every reason to confidently serve this dish. It is simple comfort food at it’s best.
While this version is vanilla, I have made a lime and coconut version by adding lime leaves to the milk at the beginning and swapping the milk for good quality coconut cream. I have also made an apple pie version where I added stewed apple and cinnamon to following recipe and omitted the passion fruit cream.
Vanilla Custard Tapioca Pudding
65g tapioca / sago seeds
2 egg yolks
1 vanilla pod, halved
50g castor sugar
Add the tapioca seeds, 250ml (half) milk and water to a heavy based and preferably non-stick saucepan. It is really important to prevent the tapioca from sticking or burning. Once this occurs, the pudding is ruined; hence the heavy based non stick preference.
Scrape the seeds from the vanilla pods using the back of a knife and add the pods and seeds to the tapioca. Bring the tapioca to a very slow simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring regularly. The tapioca seeds should appear like little glass balls.
Whisk together the castor sugar and egg yolks until the sugar is dissolved. Add the remaining 250ml of milk and pour it into the simmering saucepan. Continue to simmer for another 20-30 minutes, stir ing regularly, until the syrup has a custard-like consistency and the tapioca seeds are soft, swollen and glassy.
Transfer spoonfuls into serving pots or ramekins of your choice. You should get about 2-4 serves depending on the size of the serving pots. Set the pots aside to cool or place them in the fridge to cool completely. You can serve this dish warm or completely chilled.
Passion Fruit Cream
150ml fresh whipping cream
75g passion fruit pulp
Whip the cream into soft peaks and fold the passion fruit pulp through.
Top each pudding with a spoonful of passionfruit cream and serve immediately.