Coconut and Tapioca Pudding with Caramelised Bananas

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I’m currently staying with family friends in their beautiful house, nestled amongst the imposing indigo mountains of the Tasmanian wilderness. The dark, dense forests filter the long awaited sunshine of this warm summer, giving our little world a wonderfully romantic sense of mystery and anticipation. I’m whiling away the days with a good book, lots of cooking, and runs along dirt tracks that wind through the infinite woods calling from our doorstep. I was given the task of cooking a dessert that would compliment last night’s dinner of Thai green chicken curry with lots of steamed green veggies. I had this deliciously creamy pudding cooked for me at the end of a recent Vietnamese Banquet cooking class; us pupils were a bit slow for the chef, so she took matters into her own hands and finished off the dessert while the rest of us ate a spread of tantalising main courses. Without the recipe from home, I did a bit of research and experimenting and came up with this version. It was a winner with the entire 9-53 year old dinner crowd!

I must admit, I was initially sceptical about how the clear, pearly tapioca seeds would taste once transformed into a ‘pudding’, but now I’m completely sold to this magical little food. Once boiled in water, tapioca thickens wonderfully and in this recipe, it is flavoured with coconut cream, vanilla and a touch of maple syrup. The result is a comfortingly creamy, slightly sweet and just plain yummy dessert, not too dissimilar in taste and texture to rice pudding. The addition of caramelised bananas provides the satisfaction of something sweeter, but could easily be replaced with fresh stone fruits or berries. I had leftover cold pudding with plums this morning, and it was delicious. Finished off with crunchy toasted coconut chips, this dish is just rich enough, just sweet enough, and just filling enough to be absolutely satisfying. I bought coconut chips that had already been toasted, but you could easily do this yourself by coating the chips in a fine sprinkle of caster sugar, then toasting them in the oven at 180°C/350°F for 5-10 minutes until slightly browned.

Despite taking a bit of time and patience, the whole dessert is very simple to make, and can be served warm, or refrigerated and eaten cold. It sets to a firm, jelly-like consistency when refrigerated, which is different to the warmed version but just as tasty.

Also, the recipe is naturally gluten free and vegan, a bonus for those of you who have these dietary restrictions.

I hope you enjoy it!

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Coconut and Tapioca Pudding with Caramelised Bananas

Total Time: 1-1 1/2 hours

INGREDIENTS

Coconut and Tapioca Pudding

  • 200 g seed tapioca (use sago if tapioca is unavailable)
  • 400 mL can light coconut cream
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste, or 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 cups water
  • 50 g toasted coconut chips, to serve

Caramelised Bananas

  • 4 large bananas, or 5 medium ones
  • 100 g dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • Shaved coconut, to serve

METHOD

Coconut and Tapioca Pudding

  1. Place the tapioca in a medium saucepan, and cover with cold water, enough so that there are a few centimetres of water above the surface of the tapioca. Leave to soak for 15-20 minutes, then drain using a fine sieve.
  2. While the tapioca is soaking, in a small saucepan combine the coconut cream, maple syrup and vanilla, and stir over low heat for 5 minutes. Leave the cream to cool on the stove.
  3. Boil the 4 cups of water in the medium saucepan over high heat. Add the strained tapioca and stir constantly with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes to prevent sticking. Turn the heat down to medium-low, and simmer for 15-30 minutes, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and the tapioca is almost translucent. If the mixture thickens and starts bubbling and spitting before the tapioca is nearly translucent, add a little more water and continue stirring. However, once the tapioca is done, there should not be much excess liquid left. The mixture will be jelly-like and very thick. The tapioca seeds should be soft to taste, with a similar consistency to cooked pasta.
  4. Turn the heat off, and place a tightly fitted lid on the saucepan. Allow the tapioca to cool on the stove for 10 minutes. During this time, it will finish cooking.
  5. Turn the heat back onto low. Pour the coconut cream mixture into the tapioca, and stir gently for 10 minutes to combine and re-thicken the pudding.

Caramelised Bananas

  1. Peel and slice the bananas on an angle into 1 cm thick slices. In a medium bowl, combine the bananas with the brown sugar and maple syrup, stirring gently to just coat all banana slices. Cover with glad wrap and refrigerate until needed.
  2. Place a large fry pan over medium-high heat and leave it to heat up for a few minutes. Once hot, add the banana slices and cook on one side for 3-4 minutes until the syrup starts to caramelise. Flip the slices and cook on the other side for another 2-3 minutes.
  3. Once the bananas are slightly browned and the caramel is thick and gooey, remove the pan from the heat immediately. If the caramel appears to be burning or hardening at all during this process, turn the heat down a little.

To Assemble

  1. Spoon the warm pudding into small serving bowls, and garnish with a spoonful of caramelised bananas and a generous sprinkle of shaved coconut.

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