Friday, 2 May 2014

Sago Pudding with Strawberries and Coconut Cream...and the time I made dessert on the fly.


Revision week is upon us, and as usual all I can do is watch Anthony Bourdain wax lyrical about the food I have left behind. I really need to force myself to start thinking about Comp Phys and Psychology instead of Nirwana Maju banana leaf...but I'll just watch one more curry laksa video...just ONE more..

Anyways, before the sadness of revision week set in I had two lovely people come over for dinner. Ben and Jen helped me so much during Flavours of Malaysia and were such an integral part of the night. Problem is Flavours turned out to be a bigger success than we expected it to be, and because Ben and Jen were helping two of our volunteers by the time they got to the hall all the food was gone. That dinner was my way of saying thank you for being there every step of the way, especially when it came to bargaining for ingredients in Dundee.

I'd already decided on a chicken rendang and briyani for the main meal, but dessert was proving to be a challenge. Sago Gula Melaka would've been the perfect end to such a heavy meal, but I was a little low on the sago front. Making a cake would've been too involved, and also very heavy. It got to the point where I was almost resigned to sending them home without dessert when one of those beautiful flashes of inspiration hit me in the face. I had strawberries.

So, this Strawberry Sago dessert was born and by God did it go down well. Not too sweet and very refreshing it was almost a... Malaysian take of strawberries and cream if you will. To keep it nice and chilled we use frozen berries instead of ice cubes so the whole thing doesn't get watered down. It also adds a very nice texture, and if you use clear bowls you'll get to see the ruby red crumble peaking out between layers of smooth smooth coconut cream and sago. I have to say though, you could probably do this with any berries. The key to making this dessert lies in using pandan leaves. Without them the sago loses some sparkle and the coconut cream is not half as fragrant. Any Asian supermarket should carry them, or if you plan ahead, I'm fairly sure you can get them from Amazon.

Ben was nice enough to come by a little early to take all these beautiful photographs you see today. He and Jen came bearing a veggie and pork stir fry and some dim sum. And believe you me, we FEASTED.

Strawberry Sago
Serves 4

+ 1 punnet strawberries
+ 1/4 cup sago pearls (the small ones)
+ 1/2 can thick coconut milk (about 200ml)
+ 3 pandan leaves
+ 1/4 cup sugar
+ 1/4 cup water
+ The juice of 1/2 a lime
+ salt

~ Wash the strawberries and hull them. Choose 4 of the prettiest ones and set aside for garnishing. Cut the rest up into smaller pieces, wrap in foil and freeze for at least 2 hours. 

~ Wash the sago pearls and soak them for 30 minutes. Place in a saucepan with a pinch of salt, 2 knotted pandan leaves, and plenty of water, then boil till translucent. Strain, then pour into a lightly oiled container and place in the fridge to set and chill.

~ Don't forget to stir the can of coconut milk before pouring out! The really thick cream would have floated to the top and set. Pour the coconut milk into a saucepan with the remaining pandan leaf knotted up and a pinch of salt. Set on a low heat. Be careful here guys... coconut milk is very prone to separating on high heat. You want that in a rendang, but not a dessert. Heat the milk till steam starts to rise off the top, then immediately take off the heat and allow the pandan to really infuse it's scent and flavour. Pour into a jug, keep the pandan leaf in there and set in the fridge to really chill.

~ Melt the water and sugar together to make a simple syrup. When all the sugar has dissolved, take off the heat and squeeze in the fresh lime juice. You shouldn't add it at the beginning because lime juice can get bitter when it's been heated too high. Once again, when cool to touch place in the fridge to completely chill.

~ Now, when you're ready to serve take the strawberries out of the freezer and mince em' up in a food processor with a little bit of the lime syrup. Remove the pandan leaf from the coconut milk, and mix in your chilled sago. Layer the dessert up, starting with the frozen strawberry mixture, then the coconut-sago mix. You should have 4 layers, ending with a coconut-sago layer. Garnish with the strawberries you set aside earlier and a drizzle of the lime syrup. Serve up more on the side for those guests with a sweet tooth (I'm looking at you, Ben :p)

And that's that! Good luck for finals week everyone. Don't forget to treat yourself and be kind to your body. It'll be summer soon!!

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