My latest effort for my Delicious Days cookbook challenge was little pots of rice pudding. I have to say I have never really understood why people eat cold rice pudding. It’s just not as good as the lovely hot, creamy comfort food we ate as children — the best of nursery food. Nicky suggests toppings of strawberries or caramelised apples. I substituted pears for the apples because that was what I had, and seasoned them with nutmeg instead of cinnamon. This sauce was delicious and went really well with the rice — it just would have been better served hot! I think the leftover sauce will also be rather good poured hot over vanilla ice cream …
Anyway this is my excuse to present three ways of cooking traditional rice pudding. In the old days, you had to bake it for 2-3 hours, but with the advent of pressure cookers and microwaves, it’s become almost an “instant pudding”, to be whipped up if you are still feeling hungry after your main course. Here are three ways of cooking it; if you want proper golden skin, you have to use the traditional oven-baked method, but otherwise the others produce excellent results. Note: theoretically you can cook it in the microwave, but in my opinion it doesn’t produce good results and takes as long as cooking it in a pan, so I haven’t included that method here.
We like it hot with either jam (must be red) or maple syrup, or soft brown sugar. But in future I may well try the caramel sauce again. If you’re not watching fat intake, make it with full-cream milk; otherwise semi-skimmed is OK.
1 pint (0.5 litres) milk, preferably full-fat
2 tbs round-grain rice
2 tbs vanilla or plain sugar, or to taste
vanilla essence (if not using vanilla sugar)
1. Oven baked
Butter an ovenproof dish and pour in the milk. Add the rice, vanilla essence, and sugar, and stir. Grate over some nutmeg and dot the top with little pieces of butter. Bake in a low oven (about 130 C) for 2-3 hours, until the rice is soft and the consistency is thick and creamy. You can stir the skin in from time to time, but who would want to?
2. Pressure cooker
Melt some butter in the pressure cooker and swirl it to coat the base. Then pour in the mlik and bring to a rolling boil. Pour in the rice and stir. Add vanilla essence and nutmeg. Do not add the sugar! Bring up to pressure, regulate the heat until the cooker hisses gently, and cook for 12 minutes. Then leave the pressure to fall naturally, before opening and stirring in the sugar. Pressure cookers vary, so if the result is not creamy enough for your liking, just cook it 2-3 minutes longer next time. Do not overfill the cooker, or let it boil furiously! Otherwise the milk will froth and block the vents.
This is the most time-consuming method because you have to stand over it till it’s cooked, a bit like making risotto, but if you don’t have an oven or a pressure cooker, it’s a good standby. Just put the rice, butter and milk in a pan, and if you have one scrape in the seeds from a vanilla pod and throw in the pod too. Heat gently till it comes to a simmer. You need to stir it to stop it sticking, occasionally at first and constantly when it’s nearly ready; it will take 20-30 minutes. As it thickens, taste to see when the rice is done. You may need to add a bit more milk if the rice is not done when most of the milk has been absorbed.