If we’re honest, we’re looking forward to escaping the region of the Pacific Islands. We’ve certainly discovered some very enjoyable dishes from this region of the world, but the islands are so small (and often linked to another, bigger, country) that many of the traditional dishes are very similar. The other problem with these tiny nations is that it’s often difficult to find information online about their national cuisine, the Solomon Islands being no exception.
We couldn’t dispute the fact, however, that the common theme in the meagre selection of websites we were able to consult was the dish we eventually chose to make: cassava pudding. If you’re planning on making this dish, you first need to banish any preconceptions that ‘pudding’ means ‘after dinner treat.’ You also need to be aware that a cassava has woody fibres in the centre of it that contain traces of cyanide, so one important preparation step is getting rid of those woody fibres!
Our cassava pudding involved a journey to our local ethnic food market to pick up some cassava and white sweet potato. We’d never bought – or probably even eaten – cassava before, so Google Images was consulted to make sure we had the right thing. With a couple of tins of coconut milk in our bags as well, we were ready to go. What we didn’t predict was just how long it would take to prepare the cassava and sweet potato: even with a food processor, the peeling, grating and squeezing took ages. Despite the fact that we’d planned to ignore the warnings that this wasn’t pudding as we know it, we’d planned to enjoy it after our evening meal, but by the time it actually went in the oven, there was no way that was happening, so we had to wait until the next day.
What did we think of it? Keep reading…
Recipe from Global Table Adventure.
3 pounds of cassava
1 large white sweet potato
2 tins coconut milk
1. Peel and cut the cassava into large chunks. Using a knife, cut out the woody fibres in the centre.
2. Grate the cassava.
3. Peel the sweet potato and grate it as well.
4. Using cheesecloth or cotton (we used a tea towel), squeeze the liquid out of the grated cassava and sweet potato. Don’t try to do it all in one go or you won’t get any liquid out. You’ll need to do it in small batches. Reserve the liquid.
5. After 15-30 minutes, pour off the liquid you reserved into another bowl. At the bottom you will find a couple of teaspoons of thick white starch. Add this back to the gratings; it will help thicken the pudding.
6. Pour the coconut milk onto the cassava mixture. The original recipe suggested adding enough to create a mashed potato-like consistency, however it also grated the vegetables much finer. We couldn’t figure out how to get a mash-like consistency with the thicker gratings we had, so just went with gut instinct, which turned out to require two cans.
7. Preheat the oven to 180C.
8. Soften some banana leaves over an open flame to make them more pliable (we didn’t notice much of an effect here, but that might have been something to do with the impatience-driven short amount of time we actually spent on this step).
9. Line a baking dish with the leaves (make a cross out of them) and spoon on the cassava mixture. We used a 10×6″ dish.
10. Smooth the mixture, fold the banana leaves back over it, and cover tightly with a lid or foil. Bake for about 3 1/2 hours (or until browned on the edges).
11. Set aside to cool and harden (we left it overnight).
White sweet potato and cassava.
The fibres you want to get rid of!
Who knew cassava was pink under the skin?!
Squeezing out the liquid.
The starch at the bottom of the liquid.
Out of the oven.
The main purpose of this ‘pudding’ is to serve as a side dish for grilled fish or a tropical curry. We didn’t have any of that on the menu, so, as mentioned above, we had intended to use it as a dessert. We knew it wasn’t a pudding by our definition of the word, but assumed that the sweet-tasting vegetables with coconut would work well enough as a dessert. However, due to the timing, we ended up trying it for breakfast the following morning. It was at that point that Ash announced that he probably wouldn’t like this and therefore probably wouldn’t want to eat any of it. After a nibble on a corner, he proclaimed that this was true, and so Miranda (who possibly should have predicted that her coconut disliking husband wouldn’t like this dish) had a huge slab of cassava pudding to work through.
Fortunately, it did lend itself well enough to breakfast. There was enough starch and carbs to be filling, and although the flavour was a bit monotonous, adding some blueberries and dried pineapple (and sometimes honey) helped mix things up a bit, and it wasn’t all that bad. Having said that, it was a bit of a relief to get back to muesli and yoghurt at the end of it, and it’s not something we’d rush to make again: it probably would go well alongside a curry… but so does rice…