Food & Drink

Sagu adds sparkling red to the table without the alcohol

Sagu is a unique Brazilian dessert that features tapioca, an ingredient that is regularly found in Brazilian cuisine. (A
Sagu is a unique Brazilian dessert that features tapioca, an ingredient that is regularly found in Brazilian cuisine. (Alexandra Olsen)
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Typically during the holidays I enjoy drinking red wine with our festive family meals. However, this year is different for many reasons. No family gathering around the table and no wine for this future mom-to-be.

That’s right, in just over four months I’ll be welcoming a little one into this world, and I’ll be sharing these family recipes with her as she grows.

When it comes to being pregnant, there are a lot of guidelines on what you should and shouldn’t eat. I haven’t missed much during my first five months of slightly restricted eating, but I do miss red wine — especially as our Iowa winter begins.

Luckily, I know of a recipe that is made for those red wine loving moms like myself. One that features all the flavor and none of the alcohol: sagu.

Sagu is a unique Brazilian dessert that features tapioca, an ingredient that is regularly found in Brazilian cuisine. This time in “pearl” form.

These pearls can be hard to find at a regular American grocery store, but are easily found at Asian markets and online. For this recipe, you’ll need the small, dry and white variety.

Derived from the cassava root, tapioca is found in a variety of Brazilian recipes that illustrate the influence of both the Indigenous and European populations of Brazil.

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This is a dessert I have been eating since I was a little girl growing up in Brazil. At family gatherings, no dessert table was complete without pudim and sagu served with a delicious vanilla cream. With the color of wine and the shape of caviar, this striking dessert is sure to spice up your dessert table this holiday season, even if you’re the only one who’s around to see it.

Follow Alexandra on Instagram, @FeedMeIowa, for more recipes and restaurant recommendations.

Sagu

For cream

1 cup of milk

1/2 cup of sugar

2 egg yolks

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

For sagu

2 1/2 cups of red wine (a red blend is good)

3 cups of water

1 cup of sugar

1/2 cup of small tapioca pearls

6 whole cloves

For the cream: Make this cream the night before so that you can chill it overnight.

Add all ingredients to a small saucepan, putting the egg yolks through a sieve to remove the yolk skin.

Whisk together thoroughly and then turn on the heat at a low temperature. Continuously stir the mixture over low heat with a spatula until the mixture lightly coats the spatula when lifted out of the pan. This will take some time, around 15 to 20 minutes. Do not let this boil.

Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature before covering and chilling overnight.

For the sagu: Begin by soaking tapioca pearls in water for 15 minutes.

Add wine, water and sugar to a large saucepan. Let this boil for about 5 minutes. This allows the alcohol to cook out.

Drain and rinse tapioca with cold water before adding it to the boiling mixture along with the cloves. Boil for about 10 minutes; you should still see some specs of white.

Transfer the sagu to a cool bowl and allow to cool to room temperature before serving.

Serve topped with your chilled cream.

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