Cookery and Diet for the Sick Room

Take of sago, tapioca, eringo root, and hartshorn shavings, of each one ounce; and boil the whole in three pints of water until reduced to one pint, stirring all the time; then strain the jelly through a muslin into a basin, and set it aside to become cold. A table-spoonful of this jelly may be given at a time, mixed in broth, milk, chocolate, cocoa, or tea. It is considered to be very strengthening.

This is a medicinal pudding made from the starches of a combination of tropical plants: sago (Metroxylon sagu) and tapioca (also known as cassava or manioc; Manihot esculenta); the root of sea holly (Eryngium campestre) and ammonium carbonate (also known as baker’s ammonia), derived from powdered antler shavings. Sago and tapioca starches are commonly used in thickening desserts, and are particularly utilized as staple food sources. Their starches are interchangeable. Sea holly is a spiny, blue-flowered member of the daisy family, traditionally administered for coughs (including whooping cough). Baker’s ammonia is still used in German baking, though less commonly now than during the 17th and 18th centuries. It allows delicate springerle cookies to maintain their intricate designs when baked.

Ironically, when ammonium carbonate is baked in desserts that contain nuts or whole grains (as in many cookies), it reacts with asparagine and forms acrylamide, which is carcinogenic. Fortunately, the saponins that are naturally found in sea holly may combat the growth of cancer.


Combine 1/4 cup sago pearls, 1/4 cup tapioca pearls (or omit the sago and use 1/2 cup of tapioca pearls) and 4 tablespoons of baking powder and grind in a coffee grinder to a fine powder. Bring 6 cups of water to a boil, and whisk in the starch/baking powder mixture, avoiding lumps. Simmer, whisking constantly, until reduced to 2 cups, then strain through a cheesecloth. Allow to cool. Serve by stirring a tablespoon of the jelly into soups or beverages.