When in Spain … it has to be arroz con leche, not plain old rice pudding. Truth to tell, the two are almost identical. In Spain, the arroz is always served cold, with a generous sprinkling of cinnamon, one of the three spices used in unadventurous Spain (the others are saffron and paprika). And of course the rice used is paella rice (bomba), subtly different from the round-grain Carolina rice we use. Many Spanish recipes specify partly cooking the rice in water and then adding it to the milk, but I don’t hold with that — I like my pudding thick and creamy, and you need all the starch in the rice for that.
TV chef Karlos Arguiñano’s recipe suits me; he cooks it in milk, and the only thing I changed was the amount of sugar (many Spanish dishes are over-sweet for my taste) — plus we had it hot.
1.25 litres of milk
115 g paella rice
75 g sugar
2 slivers of lemon zest
2 slivers of orange zest
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 vanilla pod
powdered cinnamon (optional)
Put all the ingredients except the sugar and powdered cinnamon in a heavy pan. Bring to a simmer, then cook over a low heat, stirring every 5 minutes or so to stop it sticking. It will take 45 minutes or so to reach the correct creamy consistency — you’ll need to stir more frequently towards the end.
Once it’s done, stir in the sugar and cook for five minutes more. If serving Spanish style, allow to cool, and serve sprinkled with powdered cinnamon. Otherwise, eat it however you like … feel free to garnish with jam, maple syrup, or brown sugar.