When I was a kid, about 5 years old, my big sister and I spent a couple of hot summer weeks at Cottage by the Sea – a big old house by the beach – with a bunch of other kids we didn’t know.
One evening, for dessert, we were given a bowl of some white stuff we’d never seen before. We’d been brought up in a German family, and it didn’t look like anything that was part of our mother’s cooking repertoire (admittedly, not a lot was).
The other kids told us it was cooked frogs’ eyes. It seemed possible. We both refused to eat it.
The rules at the Cottage were simple – you had to stay at the table until you’d eaten everything you were given. So we sat. Right through the summer evening. The other kids were playing outside at the beach as the sun set and we just sat. I remember the room darkening in the twilight.
Eventually we were allowed to leave the table and go to bed, but I know neither of us ate it.
Eventually, probably decades later, I realised what it was. And it’s delicious.
This is the first time I’ve actually cooked it at home. The following is a kind of average of the recipes I saw, with a touch of what I know about making a good rice pudding.
Soak the pearl tapioca first in plain water for at least an hour, and up to 24. Add five times the original quantity in milk (1/2 cup tapioca to 2 1/2 cups milk), and about half the original quantity in sugar (1/4 cup) to a heavy based saucepan. I don’t like it too sweet, but you can always add more later if it’s not sweet enough.
Then add your flavours – mine was 3 vanilla beans (for 1 cup tapioca) scraped and the pods thrown in too, a teaspoon of cinnamon, some ground cardamon, and a touch of salt.
Cook it very gently, stirring often, for an hour if you can keep it from catching. Then whisk one egg yolk for each original quarter cup of tapioca. Mix that with a little of the hot tapioca mix in a separate bowl, and then mix it in to the main pot. The final 1/6th quantity of liquid was heavy cream. Whip it and mix it through. Then let it all sit and cool. If you don’t want to whip the cream, you can add it in at the early stages unwhipped along with the milk.
Absolutely delicious. Though I think rice pudding is still better.