Cassava Confusion: Cassava Pudding
It’s been a pretty quiet week in the Buddha kitchen. With the Solomon Islands providing little inspiration and therefore a short menu, I found myself reverting to scrambled eggs for dinner more than once this week. At least it’s not ice cream, but it does leave much to be desired as far as creativity. I will say that I book ended the week by making the Chili Taiyo for dinner again tonight, and it was just as tasty as the first time, so success, that.
The second and final dish of the Solomon Islands is cassava pudding (seems like I make a lot of pudding, doesn’t it?) This is a traditional dish that again utilizes the local ingredients: cassava, sweet potato and coconut milk. I saw various recipes using the cassava plant back in Africa, but never ventured to try it then since there were so many other alternative dishes. Not the case here.
The difference between cassava pudding and what we here in the U.S. normally think of as pudding is in the consistency. Rather than blobby, it’s more jiggly- almost like Jello, but denser. Also, it’s not particularly sweet. It’s not savory either. I’m confused by it, to be honest…the result was interesting and actually surprisingly tasty given that the recipe I found has three, rather unremarkable ingredients. There were other recipes out there (I think more Caribbean in origin) that had all kinds of sugar and more traditional baking ingredients in them, but I went the simplest, courtesy of the Global Table Adventure.
Cassava pudding is typically baked in a motu, or an outdoor oven,over hot rocks, for almost four hours. Now, I’m all about authenticity but 1) I do not have a motu, nor the resources to adequately create one in my 1 ½ bedroom apartment with no backyard 2) I have better things to do with my time than sit in my apartment and stare at my oven for 4 hours. Therefore, rather than bake the pudding I decided to steam it in my slow cooker. It seemed to work since my finished product came out looking like all the others I found out there. And that’s a good enough bar for me.
A few notes on ingredients.
1. Unlike the more ambitious at Global Taste Adventure, I bought the cassava already grated at the Asian supermarket. I did still need to drain it, but it did save me a lot of time and elbow grease.
2. I also used frozen banana leaves. Again, thank you Asian supermarket. If you can’t find banana leaves, aluminum foil should work just fine.
3. I could not find a white sweet potato, so I used a regular one. Again, I did not grate it by hand, but rather used my food processor to first grate it, then chop it to create a mixture similar in texture and size to the grated cassava.
Here we go.
1 pound grated cassava
½ pound grated sweet potato
10 ounces lite coconut milk, give or take
Banana leaves, for baking
1. Drain the grated cassava in a strainer with a cheese cloth. Squeeze and let sit about 30 minutes until most of the liquid is out. At the bottom you will find a couple of teaspoons of thick white liquid – this is starch. Add it back to the gratings; it will help thicken the pudding.
2. Add the potato to the cassava, and add enough coconut milk to get a consistency similar to that of mashed potatoes. Don’t make it too liquid-y.
3. Line a baking dish or, in my case, the steamer basket in banana leaves. Fill with the mixture and press flat. Fold the banana leaves over to create a nice package.
4. Steam for 4 hours (or bake at 350F for 3 ½). Once it’s done, let cool, which will allow it to set, at which point you can slice it for eating.
Like I said, this was pretty weird, but surprisingly good. I’m not sure what to do with it- eat it plain? As a side? I think I’ll be eating it with the coconut curry I’m making this week for Papua New Guinea. I actually bet it’d be good pan browned and eaten with runny eggs.
Sigh. No matter how hard I try, its always back to eggs with me.