Cost: under £1, serves 4 generously
This pudding is dreamy – caviar-like pearls of sago are suspended in a light coconut pudding with the gorgeous mouthfeel of custard. It is wholly composed of storecupboard ingredients – vegan and gluten-free, so it’s easy to knock up a batch when there is nothing in the fridge and no inclination to run to the shops. I make it unsweetened and then add a teaspoonful of dark, fudgy brown sugar – it’s not quite the authentic gula melaka that would be used in Singapore, but it does the trick.
I feel like a guilty pleasure food should be something that is easy to make and doesn’t need lots of time/attention – after all, there is too much of an opportunity to make a more responsible choice if you actually go out of the house to buy some double cream, and for this kind of thing, delaying the gratification with hours of stirring at the stove or stacking up lots of washing up for later doesn’t enhance the pleasure – in fact it might start to seem not worth it. This is a one-bowl recipe that takes less than an hour to make – and half of that is just leaving it to soak.
My way of making sago is possibly not very authentic but it is easy, and delicious, and the result of much experimenting. It’s supremely comforting served warm from the pan, but achieves a certain cool sophistication served chilled in pudding glasses, perhaps accompanied by tropical fruit such as lychees or honey mangoes.
Recipe: Easy Coconut Sago Pudding
1 400g tin unsweetened coconut milk (available from mainstream supermarkets, my favourite brand, Pride, is 75% coconut extract)
1 Tbsp cornflour
1/4 US cup sago pearls (about 40g) – this can be bought at Chinese supermarkets
pinch of table salt
to serve: few teaspoons dark brown sugar, and any or all of of honey mango (diced), tinned lychees/longans/grass jelly, palm seeds from a jar
1. Empty the tin of coconut milk into a medium nonstick pan, add the cornflour and stir with a wooden spoon until smooth (the solids will have separated from the watery liquid in the can).
2. Half fill the empty coconut milk tin with tap water and mix this into the liquid in the pan. Then add the sago, stir, and leave to soak for around 30 mins.
3. Add a pinch of salt and cook gently over a medium-low heat on the hob, stirring occasionally, until sago is cooked (about 15-20 minutes). The pearls should be translucent all the way through and when you taste one, it should not be floury. Take off the heat, stirring occasionally, for the pudding to thicken and the pearls to swell further.
4. Either serve immediately warm or pour into pudding dishes to chill. Let everyone add the dark brown sugar to taste and stir into the pudding, along with whichever toppings they like.
Note: I don’t know the difference between sago and tapioca, but I suspect they are functionally identical, at least as far as this recipe goes. The uncooked pearls are about 2mm in diameter.