Sago: a pearler in puddings
I made my first sago pudding a few years ago and tentatively put it on the table for all five children and their partners at a Sunday night dinner. "Looks weird," someone said. "Sage what?" said someone else. And then it was all gone. It may be very old-fashioned but I have yet to meet anyone who doesn't like it. The white pearls swell and become translucent when cooked like little balls of jelly. Some kids used to poke the little balls and refer to them as fish eggs, but best you don't pass that observation on to your children. Sago is a bit like couscous as it is technically a starch, not a grain as some people think. It's extracted from the pith of palm stems and made into pearls. I have recipes for its use dating back to the mid 1800's when it was a cheap source of carbohydrates and thought to be very restorative particularly in a soup. However it is in this pudding that sago really shines and in my nana's day it was a great way to use up the day's leftover milk. When fresh milk was delivered daily, milk puddings were a great way to use up milk at the end of the day, preventing waste while filling hungry tummies when people ate less for dinner. Lemon and caramel seemed to be the most popular flavourings for sago pudding, which was often served with stewed fruit such as peaches or pears. Today you can find great recipes for sago cooked in coconut milk in many of the Asian cuisines, but I like these two old recipes. The first is delicious and I found it in an old Marton Free Kindergarten Cook Book. You can make this in about half an hour but do stir it often and be careful that it doesn't stick on the bottom of the saucepan.
- Place 6 tablespoons of the brown sugar and butter in a pot and melt. Boil for one minute.
- Stir in milk and sago. Cook until the sago sets (about half an hour).
- Beat egg yolks and salt and add to mixture. Cook for a minute.
- Whisk whites and add 2 tablespoons brown sugar. Fold in.
- Sprinkle chopped walnuts on top.
- One cup of sago soaked in 1¼ cups of milk overnight.
- Add 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of breadcrumbs and 1 cup of raisins, a piece of butter the size of an egg and ½ teaspoon of baking soda.
- Mix together and steam for 3 hours.
Steaming Instructions: To steam, you will need to put it in a pudding bowl and cover the top with greaseproof paper, leaving a lip which you can tie down around the top with string.Put in a pot of boiling water which comes halfway up the bowl, put on the lid and simmer for three hours.