I’d never eaten tapioca before, but the price swayed me and I was sure that a good recipe would be out there.
The box cost just 6p and, I calculated, would make 32 portions of pudding. A money-saving marvel!
In the event I made two portions of tapioca pudding, and I suppose that still works out super-cheap, at 3p per portion. But it tasted so vile and horrible that I haven’t touched the stuff since.
I hate food waste, but space in my kitchen is at a premium and seriously, that box of tapioca had been kicking around for years. I’m not even sure the contents were still edible. What was it doing there? I suppose that I was keeping it on standby in case a tasty tapioca recipe came along: I’m nothing if not optimistic. (I’m also stubborn.) But… no tasty tapioca recipe ever presented itself. And so the horrible stuff finally went out into the composter.
In surveys to find the worst school dinners of all time, tapioca pudding tops the list of shame. But in other countries this starchy ingredient, made from the roots of the cassava plant, is loved. In Brazil there are even tapiocaria restaurants, which specialise in tapioca-based dishes. So surely it can’t be all bad?
When I tried to cook tapioca pudding, what happened was this: I decided to go old school (no pun intended) and followed a version of Mrs Beeton’s recipe, reasoning that you can’t go wrong with Mrs B. I heated the tapioca with milk in a saucepan, stirring continuously. After the mixture had simmered for a quarter of an hour, I stirred in sugar, vanilla, butter and an egg, then baked the pudding in the oven for half an hour.
It smelled like rice pudding, but had the texture and taste of wallpaper paste.
We added jam.
We added more jam.
We added more jam.
It still tasted like wallpaper paste. Wallpaper paste with jam stirred in.
We gave up.
Courtesy of MySupermarket.co.uk, I’m interested to note that tapioca has since soared in price. That same box is now 98p. And I don’t suppose it tastes any nicer. If you were at school when this stuff was being doled out, I feel sorry for you. But it still adds up to a cheap dessert, and heavens: if ASDA is still stocking tapioca, someone must be buying it.
So if you are one of those someones, I would dearly love to know: what is your tapioca recipe secret? Is there one? There must be!
Image credit: The National Library of Wales.