Rice, sago, semolina and tapioca – arrowroot, ground rice and macaroni

We only ever have desserts – or puddings as we called them at home, if we have family or friends round to eat with us. Growing up we had out main meal at lunch time and always with a pudding to follow, even if it was something like stewed apple and custard or tinned fruit and evaporated milk from a tin. I guess this wasn’t just because that’s what had happened in my parents’ families when they were children but because a pudding was a cheap filler to make a meal go further with meat in particular being expensive.

My mum was a wonderful cook – and my dad was too, but he was at work while mum was still at home before she got a job once we girls went to secondary school and had school dinners. Many of the puddings we had at school were similar to mum’s puds, treacle/jam/chocolate/fruit sponge, the aforementioned tinned fruit or dried fruit reconstituted, fruit crumbles, tarts and pies… One thing I don’t remember having very often at home was milk puddings, with the exception of rice pudding. At school we had sago, semolina and tapioca. Some girls found these puddings inedible, disgusting – not so much the taste which was bland, but the texture and mouth-feel. I was always happy to have an extra helping!

In the Pudding section of the 1944 ‘Cookery To-Day and To-Morrow’ milk puddings feature in the baked puddings section. As well as rice, sago, semolina and tapioca there are recipes for arrowroot, ground rice and macaroni. They are puds I never came across at home or at school;

  • arrowroot is a starch obtained from the rhizomes of several tropical plants
  • ground rice is a coarser version of rice flour. It can also be used to make a smoother version of rice pudding.
  • Macaroni is dry pasta shaped like narrow tubes

I think it might be the texture, smooth, slippery, slimy of arrowroot and ground rice which doesn’t appeal to me, but I so strongly associate pasta with savoury foods that sweet pasta just sounds horrid, and sweet pasta cooked in milk sounds horrider! Once when I stayed with a French family on an exchange visit we had ribbon pasta served with butter and sugar; I ate it to be polite but honestly, I didn’t like it at all!

Unfortunately my children don’t like milk puddings but I did sometimes make a small rice pudding for husband and me, but I would have cooked sago, tapioca or semolina for them!

From ‘Cooking To-Day and To-Morrow’ by Nell Heaton:

Semolina pudding

  • 2 tbsp semolina
  • 1 pint milk
  • 2 egg separated, whites stiffly whipped
  • lemon rind
  • optional currants, jam or fruit
  • optional ginger, cinnamon or other spices
  • optional tinned fruit or whole cooked prunes – in which case use only ½ pint milk and substitute with fruit syrup)
  1. mix the semolina with a little milk, and put the rest of the milk in a pan and bring to the boil
  2. pour the hot milk onto the semolina paste and stir well
  3. return to the pan over a gentle heat until it comes to the boil
  4. add and stir in sugar, lemon zest, egg yolks (add optional currants, jam, fruit, spices, tinned fruit or prunes)
  5. fold in beaten egg whites, pour mixture into greased dish, bake until well-browned (the pie-dish can be spread with the jam)

Baked tapioca pudding

  • 2 tbsp tapioca
  • 1  pt milk
  • 1 egg beaten (extra eggs may be added if desired – separated, yolks beaten, whites whipped)
  • sugar
  • vanilla or lemon essence
  • to serve sweet fruit and or custard sauce
  1. soak tapioca in ½ pint milk for half an hour
  2. add tapioca and the rest of the milk to a pan and simmer gently with the lid on until the tapioca is quite soft, stirring to prevent sticking to the pan
  3. allow the mixture to cool then add vanilla or lemon essence, and the beaten egg
  4. turn into greased pie dish and bake until well-browned/ to steam pour mixture into a well-greased basin, tied round with greased paper and steam for 1¼ – 1½hours
  5. if adding the extra eggs, beaten yolks stirred in when the pan is off the heat, fold in the beaten egg whites so the pudding is like a soufflé

… and unusually, and maybe I will try these:

Semolina dumplings

  • ½ breakfast cup of semolina
  • 1 pint milk
  • optional 2 oz raisins or currants
  • 1 oz margarine (I would prefer butter!)
  • sugar to sprinkle
  1. boil milk and add sugar
  2. add semolina and make to a soft paste, adding dried fruit if desired
  3. allow the mixture to cool and when almost cold, form into small balls
  4. fry in the margarine/butter
  5. serve with a sprinkling of sugar


  1. Rosie Scribblah

    I like the sound of the semolina dumplings. I can remember my mother making macaroni pudding when I was a child, it was lovely. I use arrowroot a lot, for thickening sweet sauces and watery fruit, like rhubarb, for pies and crumbles. I like it better than cornflour for sweet things.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ian Kay

    At school dinner, with milk puds I remember there was an option of a spoonful of red jam – don’t know what fruit, we didn’t think to ask. It was dolloped in the centre of the dish but we lost no time in mixing it in, creating a pink mess which distracted us from the awfulness of the overall texture.

    I love rice puddings; I bake it with tiny amounts of vanilla extract, rose oil essence, ground cardamom seeds and top it off with ground nutmeg. It’s even nice cold.

    Liked by 1 person

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