How Time Passes: Panic and Chai-spiced Tapioca Pudding

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I had this grand plan to write you a lovely story about the passage of time, of how we don’t expect it, how we know that it is always sliding by, but often we forget until it has already left us behind. And then, erm, I realized that was precisely what was happening to me.

Two weeks ago I’d been in France two weeks. I’d fallen in love with the woods, the people, the life here. I’d gotten into the rhythm of my work and study, even submitted a proposal for an installation piece to bring an interactive, artistic component to our big summer event here: the inauguration of a new Tibetan-Occidental library and research institute. I felt like I’d waded swiftly into the waters of life at the center and all was going well. We had a five day retreat with the spiritual head of the center, Lama Jigme Rinpoche, and I spent those days half cooking fun meals for him at the Lama House and half listening to his teachings in the Grand Tent, as it is fondly known.

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I started helping with the planning aspects of the Lama House kitchen; we’re serving between fifty and two-hundred and fifty special guests for the inauguration in June. I doodled around in the kitchen making cakes for ceremonial offerings, just because, and inventing new recipes out of things left from other meals. I even went to the movies. I rewatched Cloud Atlas, which is kind of a reincarnation tale, kind of based on a book by a Buddhist writer, fairly inspiring in its own Hollywood way, and incredibly beautiful so why not.

And then I looked up and realized that two weeks had passed, and that meant nearly one third of the time I had to create this art piece had passed, and I don’t even have the materials yet. And I realized that one thing about communities that I forget when I’m not in them is how much time they take to process information and requests. And I realized that I probably wouldn’t get my materials for another few days, and then I started to freak out. But what can you do? Make entreaties. Play the damsel-in-distress card just a little to garner aid. Take deep breaths and wait. Make pudding.

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Recipe after the jump…

This pudding is rich without being decadent. The spices add warmth and a hint of India, at least to me, without overwhelming the general hominess of pudding. This pudding sets up real thick, so if you prefer a looser pudding, feel free to add another ½ cup (120 mL) of milk. I used tapioca granules that are about the consistency of cornmeal. If you cannot find them, I think tapioca starch would be a good substitute. Tiny tapioca pearls might also work, but I’m not sure if they would absorb enough liquid for a proper pudding consistency. If you try it, let me know!

Chai-spiced Tapioca Pudding

2 tablespoons (60 g) finely ground tapioca

3 egg yolks

2 cups (480 mL) whole milk

½ cup (100g) granulated sugar

½ teaspoon (3g) salt

¼ teaspoon (2 g) ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon (2 g) ground cardamom

¼ teaspoon (2g) ground ginger

2 tablespoons (60 g) unsalted butter

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together egg yolks and tapioca. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, mix milk, sugar, salt, and spices. Bring to a simmer. While whisking, pour the hot milk mixture into the egg mix in a slow stream. Be careful not to pour too quickly or the egg yolks will cook and create chunks, yuck! When the mixture is fully combined, pour it back into the saucepan. On medium low heat, cook the pudding until thick, ten-to-fifteen minutes. Remove from heat; whisk in the butter.

Can be served warm or cold, and is equally delicious, just like chai tea!

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