Sago custard


  • 2 heaped tablespoons sago or tapioca 'pearls'
  • pinch salt
  • 2 heaped tablespoons sugar
  • 2 cups evaporated milk eg Carnation or one can, 375ml and 125 ml cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons butter, plus extra for greasing
  • poached rhubarb, to serve


This dish is based on an heirloom recipe from long-term resident of the rural village of Nundle, New South Wales, Nancye Swain. Nancye always served it with poached rhubarb, its tartness being a wonderful foil for the eggy custard and gelatinous layer of sago beneath.


Boil sago with salt in 1.5 cups of salted water, stirring until sago is transparent (about 10 minutes - don't worry if there are tiny specks of white in the centre). Remove from heat, add sugar and stir until dissolved, add milk and stir gently until completely mixed through.
Meanwhile preheat oven to C180 degrees and butter a 4 cups / 1 litre ovenproof dish . Beat eggs lightly, add vanilla, and stir into the sago mixture. Pour mixture into the dish, sprinkle surface lightly with nutmeg and place a few dots of butter on top. Stand dish in a baking dish half-filled with water. Place in oven, reduce heat to C150 degrees and bake for 45 minutes - 1 hour or until custard had set in the centre (the time will vary depending on the depth of your dish). Remove from the water bath and allow to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature with poached fruit or a drizzle of golden syrup. The custard will keep in the fridge, covered, for a few days.
Cook's tip: for a richer custard, use egg yolks rather than whole eggs.

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