There are cultures who love their sweets and desserts more than others. The Portuguese are no different when it comes to their sobremesa or desserts. Most Portuguese sweets and desserts feature eggs (mostly yolks) in some form or the other. Goa was a Portuguese colony in an otherwise mostly British colonized India. This resulted in Goan cuisine (especially those of the Catholics) having heavy Portuguese influences. One can see this in the dishes themselves, and also in their names. The Goan Serradura or Sawdust Pudding is a perfect example.
It is believed that Serradura is originally from Macau, an island off the coast of mainland China. Macau was also a Portuguese colony. I don’t know if this dessert came to Goa from Macau or it was the other way around. It is a dessert you will find in Portuguese and Spanish speaking parts of the world.
Serradura is a Portuguese word for “sawdust”. It doesn’t need a stretch of imagination to see that the sawdust refers to the biscuit crumbs in this pudding. I don’t know anyone who would be happy with sawdust in their mouth. Let me assure you that this “Sawdust” pudding is nothing close to sawdust. Serradura will have your family/ guests digging into it. Don’t be surprised if a couple of them asking you for second servings.
The authentic way to make this dessert, apparently, is by using only Marie tea biscuits. Biscuits in Britain and its former colonies call are what the North Americans call cookies. They’re crisp and thin, and these are not the floury scones. Marie biscuits are really not my favourite biscuits as I find them rather bland. Yet it’s surprising how some vanilla flavoured cream and condensed milk can change them into this lovely dessert.
This is a much loved dessert in Goa as it is in Portugal. I’ve seen many Goan recipes for Serradura or Sawdust Pudding that ask for the addition of butterscotch extract/ essence and even almonds or cashewnuts. Funnily enough, I’ve never seen butterscotch extract in any of the local stores here! Some Portuguese recipes for Serradura use caramelized sweetened condensed milk as a flavour variation.
Many recipes for Serradura also call for the use of a little gelatine to stabilize the cream and if you’re looking for a vegetarian alternative, you could add a little corn-starch or maybe agar. I personally don’t feel the cream here needs to stabilized. I’ve seen Serradura garnished with chocolate shavings or dusted with cocoa powder, sometimes served with butterscotch sauce, all of which I’m sure is delicious each in its own way.
However, I find that the really traditional recipes here call only for 4 ingredients – finely crushed Marie biscuits, sweetened condensed milk, cream and vanilla extract. I find vanilla flavoured cream a little bland so I added a little lime juice to my cream, j fora hint of citrusy tang. The lime juice also helps in stabilizing the cream somewhat since I used 25% cream.
The great thing about the Serradura is that it needs very few ingredients. It also easy to make, takes very little time and is a make-ahead dessert. Serve it in smaller glasses or bowls as it is deceptively rich and best had in smaller portions. Serradura or Sawdust Pudding is an egg-free dessert, rather surprising considering its Portuguese connection.