Welcome to runny honey: number one, the first in a hunger-selective series of food snippets.
Brazilians in London, answer my prayers.
I’m trying to make tapioca pancakes, the amazing white half moons that beautiful bodies breakfast on day in, day out along Brazil’s northern beaches. It’s a very unBritish thing to picture cooking, but tapioca melts and forms a pancake without any liquid or oil. I think, I hope. It’s worth experimenting, even to capture just one Proustian droplet of the warm, squidgy, chewy pancake filled with melted cheese, sweet condensed milk and shaved coconut that I ate on Jericoacoara beach in 2002.
It’s been an eventful and convoluted journey, one that I hadn’t expected to be quite so blind and, frankly, unchartered in these necks of the woods.
Having read The Hungry Cyclist, I got all excited and brought a big, easily accessible bag of tapioca, poured it into a hot pan and waited for the sago seeds to magically bond. Needless to say, nothing happened. At all. Not even a little bit burnt sago seeds happened.
I tried blending them, hoping to powder the stubborn pellets. I tried frying them in butter. I tried soaking them. Nothing worked.
I then ventured all the way to Clapham to visit very ooh-la-la restaurant, Trinity, and ordered the prune tapioca, hoping to learn a bit more. It was delicious, but eating the boarding school variety didn’t aid the quest for knowledge of the pancake variety. Trinity, by the way, is a marvel.
I have researched virtual and far for the elusive farinha tapioca – grainy flour that should, I am told, do the sticking trick. Having scoured websites, Brazilian shopping forums, Harlesden supermercado tips and the Brazilian Embassy in London online, I’ve finally found it, sitting, alone, on a dusty shelf in a tiny Brazilian supermarket all of two minutes from my home. Amazing.
So far, so good? Am I doing it right? I can’t quite believe I don’t need any glue, not even water – or is the joke on me? Here goes…