Cooking in Reality: Warm Tapioca Pudding with Orange and Cardamom

Day 1: Get inspired to make tapioca pudding by The Gourmet Cookbook. Remember, idly, that you have some tapioca. Leftover from…hmmm. Well, age is just a number right?

Day 4: Purchase a half-gallon of organic milk because it is the only size available. Use a scant pint of it to start another batch of milk punch.

Day 6: Wonder, fervently, what you are going to do with all that milk since you neither drink it, nor eat cold breakfast cereal. Find and dust off dim recollection of tapioca pudding desire. Find and dust off box of tapioca. Put tapioca pudding on the list of Day 7 projects.

Day 7: Is a Monday. You can count on one hand the number of times your life actually proceeded according to plan on a Monday. Mired down in Indian curry hand pies until hours with very big numbers, you decide to put off tapioca pudding one more day.

Day 8: You thought you might do it in the morning, but that would have meant one less hour of sleep on a day when you have to face your full complement of colleagues for the first time in many long blissful weeks. Therefore:

  1. Before work, cover 1/2 C tapioca (not quick-cooking) in 2 C water to soak in the fridge.
  2. Stop on the way home from work to get whipping cream.
  3. At home, place a large, clean empty glass jar in the freezer.
  4. Ride your bike to a local park because there is an hour of sunshine left and the day is so gorgeous it is criminal not to be outside. Lie in the grass to finish a poem you started. Call a friend instead.
  5. Ride home on streets so empty you can hear the crickets. Notch up another compliment on your bike. This one from two punk-couture lads with tall boys and cigs.
  6. Make and eat dinner. De-fat the chicken stock. Twitter.
  7. For the love of Peter start the [expletive deleted] pudding!
  8. Mise en place:
    • 1/2 C soaked tapioca, drained but not rinsed.
    • 2-1/2 C Milk
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 1/2 C sugar
    • 2 eggs beaten (Into submission. Seriously you want a silky homogenous stream of eggs. No blobs.)
    • 1/2 tsp vanilla
    • 1/2 tsp fresh grated orange rind
    • 1/8 tsp ground cardamom
    • 1 fine grind fresh black pepper
  9. Put the first five ingredients into a 2-quart saucepan.
  10. Stir over medium heat until thickened, 45-60 minutes Tapioca pearls should be clear.
  11. Remove from heat and add vanilla, orange zest and cardamom. Serve warm or wait until completely cooled then chill for several hours. Garnish with whipped cream and/or fruit.

Recipe adapted from the back of the Bascom’s Imported Large Pearl Tapioca box.

Whipped Cream in a Glass Jar

  1. Remove your glass jar from the freezer.
  2. Pour in the desired amount of whipping cream.
  3. Seal the jar securely.
  4. Shake vigorously until the cream is whipped. Don’t go to far or you will get butter.
  5. Use for garnish or eat ad lib

*For sweetened whipped cream add sugar (I’ve seen anything from 1 tsp to 2 Tbsp per cup of cream).

*For more cream use a larger jar. Head space helps with aeration.


There was no formal point at which I learned to cook; my mother just incorporated me into kitchen activities from an early age. However, pudding was one of the first dishes I sought to learn to cook. My 8-year-old self thought it was a huge labor. Forty-five minutes was an eternity at that time and ‘stirring constantly’ when I was too short to reach the stove top comfortably made my arms hurt. Still, pudding seems to touch some innate and treasured sense of home in me. And when I first moved into this apartment I made pudding repeatedly in my first weeks. As an adult I find the stirring soothing and 45 undisturbed minutes a welcome treat. And honestly, even though I know the science, it is still magical, every time, to see and feel the liquid thicken. Welcome home.


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