This recipe for tapioca pudding with pineapple and coconut started as a bit of a food shock.
About a month ago I heard myself saying words I never ever thought I’d utter. “I’m going gluten free.” It was a shock I can tell you. As somebody who has eaten everything and anything all my life, this would be a huge change for me, or so I thought. The reason for my decision was that I had been having some niggling symptoms, nothing serious, more annoying than anything. After taking some medical advice, this seemed like the right way to go. Before I go any further I think it is important to tell you that I am not allergic, luckily, I seem to be able to take gluten, but this was more of a personal experiment to see if it would help me.
So, I decided to give it a try, see how it went, I had nothing to lose after all – except bread. Oh no, bread! What would I do without it? I came out to some friends and family with the news and set about my task. My first strategy was to scour the organic supermarkets for gluten free products. I came home, laden with quinoa, gluten free bread, crackers and pasta. Over the course of the first week I gave them a try. I replaced cous cous and bulgar wheat with quinoa, and used the bread and pasta. I have a confession, I hate quinoa. As much as I want to like it, I just don’t. Then the pasta and crackers, well, they were ok. The very worst was the bread, yuck! Gluten free bread is nothing short of awful. The texture is weird, dry and cardboard like, it’s dusty, as if somebody has wiped each slice over the sawmill floor before packaging. I needed new plan. Then I realised. What am I doing? I’m a cook for goodness sake. I shouldn’t be using these inferior overpriced replacements, I should use what I already have. What I already know. Since then I haven’t looked back. I’ve got back into using lots of grains and pulses instead of cous cous and the like, I buy spelt bread, and I use more rice now. That’s how this recipe came about. As a child I loved tapioca pudding. I haven’t made it for years – I forgot about tapioca. One day browsing through a list of gluten free food, I saw it, and I thought what a great excuse to re-create a childhood favourite. I have to say, I had to make the tapioca pudding twice, I ate the first batch, every time I passed the fridge, I couldn’t stop myself taking just one more spoonful.
So, what have I learnt? Well my personal taste lends itself to these foods anyway, so I reckon my body knew all along what it needed. And, best of all, if you can cook you are not forced to spend hours reading food labels in the supermarket, because you already know what you put in your food. Once you have a basic grasp of real foods that contain gluten, the only thing holding you back is your imagination.
Now, more than a month on, the niggling symptoms have all but gone. I haven’t missed gluten and I intend to carry on with a relatively low gluten diet.
Preparation Time: 40 minutes
Chilling Time: 3 hours
Serves 4 to 6
For the Tapioca
65gr / 2.3 oz. of pearl tapioca (the smaller pearls)
250ml / 8.5 fl oz. full milk
1 x vanilla pod
200ml / 6.8 fl oz. coconut milk
A pinch of salt
2 x large egg yolks
1 x heaped tbsp sugar
For the Pineapple
250gr / 8.8 oz. of diced pineapple
2 x tsp honey (or to taste)
Juice and zest of one lime
- The place to start is with the tapioca, the pudding is a custard. So, in a heavy bottomed saucepan add the full milk, salt, tapioca the seeds from the vanilla pod and the empty vanilla pod. Bring this mix to a gentle simmer and stir occasionally. Do this until the tapioca is translucent and tender, this takes about 20 minutes. When cooked, stir in the coconut milk.
- While the tapioca mix is cooking you can whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a bowl – quite big as it has to hold half of your tapioca mix too. Mix the egg and sugar together until the colour lightens.
- Taking your cooked tapioca mix from the heat, pour half of it into the bowl with the eggs and sugar, whisk together using a metal hand whisk. Then pour this back into the pan and place on a medium heat.
- On a medium heat keep whisking until the mix thickens, this takes about 5 minutes or so. It is important not to use too high a heat as the eggs will scramble. The mix will not become really thick, the chilling process with thicken it further. I like to check the sweetness level at this stage, you can add a little more sugar if you wish, but if you do, stir it through until it dissolves. Put your tapioca pudding in a clean, cool bowl, remove the vanilla bean and set aside to cool. When it has cooled, cover with cling film and put in the fridge.
- Now for the pineapple. Combine the fruit with the honey, lime juice and most of the zest. Keep back a little lime zest to dress.
- Place half of the mix in a food processor and whizz up until smooth. Transfer this back into the bowl with the rest of the pineapple and stir together – check the flavour and add more honey or lime if you wish.
- Once your tapioca has chilled, place some of the pineapple mix in the bottom of your serving dishes, then add the tapioca and top with a little pineapple and some lime zest to finish.
Tips and Variations
- Try with other exotic fruit like mango. I really like a mix of mango and passion fruit. In this version I don’t purée the passion fruit.
- I like to make the component parts in advance and then construct the dessert when it is time to serve, but you can construct it a few hours before hand if you prefer.
- There have been times when I need to make the custard a couple of days in advance, in this case I use pasteurized egg yolks and not fresh.
- This is a great dessert if you are looking for a gluten free pudding.
- I like to use goat’s milk instead of cow’s, I think it gives a fuller flavour, but that’s just a personal preference as I really love goat’s milk.