When I was very young I used to often spend my holidays visiting my grand parents in what in those days was a small rural town, Harrismith in the Free State Province in South Africa. It is situated on the banks of the Wilge River (Willow River) and in the winter time it gets bitterly cold there. I fondly recall the old coal stove that was forever heating up the house and the water as well my grand mother whipping up some Sago pudding to warm the innards as well.
It took me some time to actually eat it as we were told that it is made of frogs eyes that were collected in the Wilge River! But finally that aroma wafting out of the kitchen was just too much to resist.
Sago pudding is a sweet pudding, made by boiling sago with either water or milk and adding sugar and sometime additional flavourings. It is made in many cultures with varying styles, and may be produced in a variety of ways.
In Malaysia, sago gula melaka is a sago pudding made by boiling pearl sago in water and serving it with syrup of palm sugar (gula melaka) and coconut milk.
In the UK, ‘sago pudding’ is generally made by boiling pearl sago and sugar in milk until the sago pearls become clear, and thickening it with eggs or cornflour. Depending on the proportions used it can range from a runny consistency to fairly thick, and can be similar to tapioca or rice pudding. I prefer it to be on the thicker side but you can experiment to find which you prefer.
1 litre milk
1 cinnamon quill
cardamom pod (optional)
90g (1/2 cup) sago
70g (1/4 cup) sugar
1/4 tsp (1ml) salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp (1ml) grated nutmeg
1. Bring the milk and cinnamon quill (and cardamom pod if you are using one) to boiling point in a 2 litre container
2. Add sago and cover the dish – leave to soak for at least 90 minutes (or overnight)
4. Pre-heat oven to 160°C
5. Bring the milk mixture to the boil and thoroughly whisk the mixture again for at least 2 minutes – ensure that the sago is completely translucent (this is where the frogs eyes come from 🙂 )
6. Remove the cinnamon quill and cardamom pod and beat the sugar and butter into the warm mixture
7. Allow to cool slightly – whisk eggs, vanilla and grated nutmeg together and whisk it quickly into the cooled-down mixture
For a lighter, fluffy texture, separate the egg whites and yolks. Whisk the egg yolks, vanilla and grated nutmeg together and then into the cool-down milk mixture. Beat the egg whites separately and lightly fold into the mixture
8. Pour into a buttered 2 litre dish
9. Half-fill a larger shallow dish with water, and place your sago dish in it to create a bain marie
10. Bake for 90 minutes until firm and golden brown
11. After baking, spread approximately 1/4 cup apricot jam gently over the pudding. You can heat the jam somewhat to make it easier to spread, or simply dot the jam over the top. It must be smooth apricot jam.
This can also be baked in individual ramekins. As a variation, you can place a teaspoon of apricot jam in the bottom of each ramekin before pouring the sago mixture on top.