I can’t remember Mum using arrowroot at home, but I certainly knew of it as an ingredient – so maybe my granny used it? As a child I didn’t even wonder about its name arrow root – I don’t remember thinking that maybe it came from being in the shape of an arrow, or maybe from a tree which arrows were also made, or from a plant called arrowroot? That last idea maybe correct, for it’s name may originally have been aru-aru. In fact, I never even thought about it, but when I opened an old recipe book at random, there in the ‘Sweets’ section was a recipe for Plain Arrowroot Pudding:
Plain Arrowroot Pudding
2 oz arrowroot, 1½ pints milk, 1 oz sugar, nutmeg and butter. Mix the arrowroot very smoothly, with a little cold water, and put the milk on to boil with the sugar and flavouring. Then pour the boiling milk on to the arrowroot, and stir vigorously the whole time it is being mixed. Add a piece of butter abput the size of a walnut, and pour the mixture into a buttered pie-dish and bake for abput an hour in a moderate oven.
It does indeed sound very plain, thickened, sweetened milk. I wonder how many young cooks know how big a walnut is? It’s from the ‘”A1″ Cookery Book’ which apparently contains everything essential for those who wish to have plain food daintily prepared and written in the simplest possible manner to help the inexperienced, by H.N.L. – Helen N. Lawson.
Having found this recipe I began to wonder what arrowroot actually is – as I never had when I was a child. So to Wikipedia – arrowroot is a starch obtained from the rhizomes of several tropical plants, traditionally maranta arundinacea. Apparently it’s been cultivated for over seven thousand years in the islands of the Caribbean and became particularly popular in Victorian times – hence Helen Lawson writing about it in the 1890’s. More from Wikipedia: Arrowroot makes clear, shimmering fruit gels and prevents ice crystals from forming in homemade ice cream. It can also be used as a thickener for acidic foods, such as East Asian sweet and sour sauce. It is used in cooking to produce a clear, thickened sauce, such as a fruit sauce. It will not make the sauce go cloudy, like cornstarch, flour, or other starchy thickening agents would.
Arrowroot does not contain gluten, so is very helpful for those who need or want to avoid it!