They say the older you get the further back into your past you remember. Well, I’ve been recalling my old school dinners.
At this point you’ll probably be expecting a few yuks and horror stories but I remember them with great affection. The truth is I enjoyed my school food immensely. There were tureens full of baked beans, although they were smaller than the haricot beans used by Heinz and co. And heaps of mashed potato.
We also had a lot of semolina as well as tapioca and sago. Some people (my local Indian shopkeeper, for example) will tell you these last two are the same. They aren’t but they do look pretty similar. Sago is the pith of the sago palm while tapioca is the tuber of cassava or manioc.
You’d be hard put to find any of these in your local supermarket these days as they seem to have gone out of fashion, although I hear there was a piece in the Guardian which said that tapioca was back among the sandal-wearing classes. Birds do an instant semolina (just add water) but I guessed it would taste, well, yuk.
There is no difficulty finding these foodstuffs in Asian and Continental food stores, which is where I picked up my packet of semolina, at Pops, in Nether Edge.
My recipe for semolina pudding told me to heat a pint of milk and sprinkle in three ounces of semolina, stirring to dissolve. I added sugar to taste, a knob of butter and grated nutmeg, poured it into a buttered dish and baked for about 30 mins at 160C.
It was a dish I enjoyed alone. Semolina has a pleasant, slightly grainy texture. When my wife discovered what I was doing she went “Ugh, frogspawn!” “No, love, that’s tapioca or sago,” I told her, to no avail.
When I ate the leftover semolina cold the next day I was struck by how nice it still was. Then I recalled a post by fellow blogger Bistruti Mishra for skimmed milk kheer in her foodie blog https://happilyhealthyu.wordpress.com
This is made entirely in a pan on the stove top and takes about ten minutes. Kheer is an Asian dessert made by cooking rice, broken wheat or tapioca with milk, butter and sugar, flavoured with cardamom and decorated with nuts. I have eaten versions in the few Asian restaurants which do homemade desserts. As semolina is made from durum wheat it serves just as well.
I followed Bistruti’s recipe but found I needed more milk. She used skimmed, but then she is a stickler for ultra-health recipes. This is what she says of semolina kheer.
“Semolina is a great source of energy, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, and minerals. It is made from durum wheat, so gets digested slowly and helps you feel full for longer time and prevents from overeating. Semolina is a good source of two vital vitamins i.e B and the E group. Both, are essential for good immunity. It contains potassium that improves your kidney function.”
So in Bistruti’s case her semolina makes you leaner than with other desserts! I used semi-skimmed and reckon full or even cream would make this even more delicious, if fattening. Here’s the original Bistruti version.
½ tbsp unsalted butter
Pinch of salt
2-3 cardamoms, ground
nuts and raisins
Gently heat the butter and add the semolina, constantly stirring. It’s just like making a roux
Add the milk slowly, whisking continually to banish lumps, then the sugar, salt and ground cardamoms (I also added a little vanilla essence, which Bistruti does not). Cook gently for about 10 minutes, stirring all the time, then pour into a bowl to cool. I decorated mine with cashews.
It tasted great with stewed fruit. I whisked up the kheer to give it a silkier texture although it is still good as a somewhat solid slab of dessert. I reckon a good restaurant chef could have some fun with this dish.
Below is a picture of Bistruti’s kheer which looks a lot lighter than my effort. Now where’s that packet of tapioca – and I don’t even read the Guardian!