When it comes to tapioca, you've most likely encountered it as a dessert, tapioca pudding perhaps? As for a savory preparation, now this is an entirely new concept for me. Recently enjoyed a savory tapioca at a restaurant in Dublin and instantly thought, wow, this is ingenious. Made a mental note to recreate this at home.
But before I proceed, I have to know, what exactly is tapioca? Any idea? Nope, me neither.
Tapioca is...the starch extracted from the Casava (aka Yuka, Manioc root), which is native to Brazil.
On its own, tapioca doesn't have much flavor, a blank canvas for whatever you pair it with. Texturally, it's quite interesting. When cooked, tapioca absorbs the moisture and becomes pleasantly soft and chewy.
For this preparation, finely grated sheep's milk cheese and mascarpone (along with stock or water) are added to the cooked tapioca, until it takes on the consistency of a creamy, luscious risotto. It's paired with a pea puree and fresh fava (aka broad) beans, green peas, and pea shoots, and finished with a few slices of black garlic (read more about black garlic here).
I adore fresh peas and fava beans. Unfortunately, they have a short growing season, so I always jump on the opportunity to scoop them up while I have the chance.
This dish makes for a lovely starter -- so vibrant and summery on your plate.
The little white tapioca pearls become gelatinous when soaked...
You can use fresh or frozen peas, which get blended along with onion, fresh tarragon, and fresh sage until silky smooth, for the pea puree.
You could play around with other purees in lieu of pea puree, perhaps a spinach or asparagus (although, asparagus season has just passed) puree.
A rather generous amount of cheese -- Pecorino/sheep's milk and mascarpone (or creme fraiche) -- goes into the tapioca...
Pearl Tapioca with Sheep's Cheese, Peas, Fava Beans, and Black Garlic
Adapted from Chapter One and Irish Food Story by Ross Lewis
Pea Puree (recipe below)
Tapioca (recipe below)
Black Garlic, thinly sliced
Assembling the dish: Spoon a couple tablespoons of pea puree on each plate. Add about 1/2 cup of warmed tapioca. Top with a few pea shoots. Garnish with a few slices of black garlic.
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup onions, sliced
1 small garlic clove
1 cup fresh or frozen shelled peas
1 fresh sage sprig
1 fresh tarragon sprig
Melt the butter in a small pan. Sweat the onions and garlic over low heat until softened. Add the peas and herbs to the pan, plus a pinch of salt. Cook until the peas are tender, a few minutes. Transfer to a blender jar. Add just enough water to get the peas moving and blend until it forms a silky smooth puree, adding a little more water if needed. Pass through a fine sieve. Cool quickly (over a bowl of ice water) to retain the green color. Set aside.
Pour the pea puree into a small pot and reheat before serving.
1/2 cup shelled fava beans
1/2 cup shelled fresh peas
4 cups chicken stock
4 cups water
2/3 cup tapioca pears
3/4 cup mascarpone or creme fraiche
heaping 1/3 cup finely shredded Sheep's milk cheese (like Pecorino)
Blanch the fava beans in boiling water until just cooked through and tender, about 2 minutes. Then, refresh the fava beans in a bowl of ice water. Peel the fava beans from their skins. Blanch the peas and refresh in ice water. Drain the fava beans and peas, and set aside.
Bring the chicken stock and water to a boil. Add the tapioca and a pinch of salt. Reduce to a simmer. Cook the tapioca, stirring continuously, for 10-15 minutes until a small white dot remains in the middle of each grain. Drain through a fine mesh sieve and rinse under warm running water until most of the stickiness washes away.
Reheat the tapioca: Add the tapioca back to a pot. Add the mascarpone and shredded cheese, and enough water to help loosen the tapioca, ~3/4 cup. Stir to combine. The texture should be akin to a creamy risotto. Add the shelled fava beans and peas. Heat until warmed through. Season to taste.