Friday, October 26, 2012

One vital ingredient

I'm not sure what caused me to suddenly veer off into the mall on my way home from work today, and head into Pak N Save for sago to make sago pudding (p213). It's not like I was in need of any other groceries - though since it happened to be 'Frugal Friday', I found myself heading home with several unplanned and frankly unnecessary items as well as the sago.

What is sago? I've actually got no idea, but it looks pretty much like 'hundreds and thousands' would if they were all white instead of different colours.

Since the sago pudding - a variation achieved by substituting sago for rice in the standard rice pudding recipe - needed two hours to cook, I got it into the oven shortly after I got home. It was simple, really: put sago in the bottom of an oven dish, add milk and vanilla, a knob of butter and a sprinkle of sprinkle of nutmeg, then into the oven.

I took the pudding out and stirred it three times within the first hour. It looked to be thickening up well - the little beads of sago were expanding and softening as they absorbed the milk. For the second hour I left the pudding to cook undisturbed.

When the timer went off, I found the pudding had acquired a crisp golden skin over the top. I recall a similar thing happening when I attempted the rice pudding - at the time I thought something had gone wrong, but maybe not.

I broke through the skin and spooned out a serving of the creamy pudding, full of translucent pearly beads of the now cooked sago. I'd expected it to taste quite good, so I was definitely disappointed when I got my first taste of the bland, gluey mush.

I forced down several mouthfuls, dwelling on the blandness and unpleasant consistency, mentally preparing my opinions for this blog entry, and feeling confused at a flavour that was neither sweet nor savoury, and needed either salt or sugar to swing it one way or the other.

Then it hit me: sugar. I was certain that there was sugar in that recipe, and equally sure that I had not put any in the pudding. I raced to the kitchen, where one glance at the recipe confirmed my suspicions. I then added a small lump of brown sugar (which would melt more easily than white) to the pudding that remained in my bowl, and tasted again.

What a difference! The pudding was now pleasant to eat - even the odd jellyish texture was not unpleasant now that there was some actual flavour to take my attention away from it. Of course, stirring brown sugar in after the fact does not approximate the flavour it would have had if I'd put white sugar in with the sago at the very beginning - but I can assure you that sugar in this recipe makes the difference between a fairly pleasant dish and a totally inedible one.

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