The essence of rice pudding starts, for me, with the mind-set. A gloriously attractive proposition of sweet, milk, and rice. To some it’s the return of a phobic childhood nemesis, the demonic nursery food. For we connoisseurs of rice pudding, however, it’s quintessential, the core of an Enid Blyton childhood. Now in resurgence, updated and modern this is a bear hug of a dish as well as a visual cliché – ambrosial?
No surprise to know that rice is the most widely consumed staple food for a large part of the world and I confirm that it is thrown at weddings as encouragement of fertility not to stap a philandering groom in the eye.
I craved a night in, spent on a cozy couch, with the tea boy snoring on another. No driving, so a glass of decent claret or maybe a fruity Shiraz, not essential but enjoyable as was the mind smoothing ‘fridge raid’ risotto, which has to be one of our ultimate comfort foods, it rids the soul and the fridge of any sadness.
Last Friday night was such a night in deepest darkest Devon, where it was damp, dank, cold and flood warnings were in abundance. A time to pull on the heavenly swathe of my late Mums comfy old cashmere woolies (as near as a hug as I can get nowadays), pour a glass of something lush and create a smooth glorious gloup of slightly al-dente carnaoli grains for a lap supper a deux – the trick was harvesting the remote control before the tea boy was comatose. A more perfect end, to the end, of the end of the festivities could not have been envisaged at that point in time.
Stirring the Noilly Prat into the raw but washed rice and buttery sautéed veg, the vapour hit of boozy onion notes, floating upward as the warm tomato stock was gently ladled into the risotto (which ironically is always cooked in ye olde multicultural wok) was the required punctuation.
Stirring risotto adds to my joy of respectable, humble, home-cooked food. Simply one of lifes pleasures, proffering nourishment for the afore-mentioned soul and mind. Some of us do our “best thinking” whilst doing small yet essential, menial, meaningful mise-en-place. Chopping and stirring can be so cathartic away from the hiatus of the sedentary and pedantry, the second glass of Claret a comparable effect.
A good nights sleep later, I was still in love with the previous nights supper, a clumsy one wok wonder including the unconditional abandonment of dishes, until the next morning.
The torn, forsaken bag of rice stared at me, cast aside in a dish as there’s was not quite enough to do anything sensible like put it into a storage jar with the rest? An opened pint of milk (delivered by a real milk man) a sugar bowl. Oh no out-psyched by a deconstructed, or yet soon to be constructed, rice pudding? This was now an unnecessary waste of cooking emotions, want it, want it, want it, cook it, eat it, being the best by far.
I use the vagaries of my Mothers recipe, like her old woolies they cannot be bettered to me, she was a pharmacist and a post WW2 bride who blossomed as a wonderful wife and stay at home mother, a typical 1950‘s pinny wearing diva.
She would boil a couple of handfuls of pudding (short grain) rice to al dente in water, this was drained and the rice added to an oven proof dish, with a pint of milk, a small tin of sweetened condensed milk, a knob of butter, 2-3 tables spoons of sugar, all mixed together and then a decadent amount of freshly rasped nutmeg over the top (… and don’t use stuff from a jar young lady still echoes). Bake in a suitably convivial time-weathered dish, if you have one, it just needs to be oven proof (medium hot oven for 20-30 minutes).
With the advent of the microwave, rice was zapped in water for 5-6 minutes and she’d then mix and match the types of canned milks much favoring the leche style caramel versions for their depth of flavour so the sugar or butter was outed. Yet another variation can be achieved by reducing (boiling) milk and cream maybe for purists who favour extra work, seems every one has a recipe for their version of the pud. Additions of coconut milk, sultanas, cinnamon softly infused into the milk, stirred, baked, boiled or blasted in the microwave. Variations work with hazelnut or almond milk et al. Serve with a hot to cold compote, add grated chocolate, vanilla seeds or essence , serve warm and soupy or cold in slices with summer berries. I’m often guilty of adding rose-water and/or Cointreau. Oh please don’t look quite so surprised?
Rarely but occasionally I ‘big batch’ for a party. Stir the rice with some unsalted butter and add sweet dessert wine once completely absorbed add a combination of half cream and milk as if adding stock to risotto, then temper with sugar mixed with 8-10 egg yolks as if making a custard, bake in a water bath to a wobble. No, no, the rice pudding not you. Frankly it’s surprising that the results aren’t illegal. I have seen this reduce a big old beefy Barrister to ‘well’ with tears and simpering and nodding are quite common.
A rice pud is a fabulous learning platform for the novitiate. The more experienced Cook’ist? Well your rice pudding rules doesn’t it? Invariably the internet heaves with variations and multi cultural options abound.
I would, however, encourage you to make more than you need next time you make your version and make the remainder into ice cream. Roughly equal parts of remaining pud to the same of milk and cream infused with freshly grated nutmeg, equal parts by volume.
For the infusion: .
Rasp (roughly) a teaspoon of nutmeg into a dry non stick pan and heat very gently so as to release the fragrant oil from the nutmeg, in another pan simmer together half milk and cream stir in the nutmeg and leave to infuse for 20 mins, strain through a fine cloth in a sieve (if desired) and then pour the milk and cream infusion into your remaining rice pudding stir to combine.
Freeze in a suitable container (or individual moulds) until set. Remove your delectable ice cream from the freezer for about 10 minutes or so before serving. Briefly warm the base of metal dariole moulds in hot water to release. Use the cling film from the top to form a hammock and briefly suspend the mould which helps avoid boiled fingers.
The batch shown was served with pistachios that were whizzed with some lavender and rose petal sugar made last summer. Dunno what happened to the last couple of pistachio macron (blush).