It’s lovely rice pudding for dinner again (and a nice soup for spring)

After a recent bout of illness, I craved rice pudding; its creamy warmth, its puddingy comfort.

Perhaps seen as one of those Victorian, nanny-knows-best types of pudding (see also semolina and tapioca), rice pudding in the UK can trace its ancestry back to around the 11th century and the emergence of Asian trade routes.

Recipes and ways of making rice pudding abound, but it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to know I favour a no-frills approach to this nursery classic.  I’ve tried various versions, including one with an egg mixed in (the pudding is too firm – bleurgh!), however, the recipe here is low fat, and the ratio of rice to sugar and milk has yielded good results so far.  My household prefers vanilla over nutmeg, and the lemon zest adds a little zing.

Some essential rice pudding rules: you must use short grain or pudding rice. Stir the pudding occasionally during cooking, but if you want a good skin, don’t stir it in the final 45 mins to one hour. You’ll then hopefully achieve a crowd-pleasing dome of golden brown skin as you present your pudding straight from the oven. It soon sinks, but reactions (so far) from eager diners include much ooh-ing and ahhh-ing. And that’s why we cook, people.

Rice pudding

(just enough for 4)
2oz/60g pudding rice
1 oz/30g caster sugar
1 pint/600ml of skimmed milk (or semi or whole if you prefer)|
about 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and/or
lemon zest

Heat oven to 150C (130C fan)/Gas 2  Grease a large ovenproof dish (at least 1 1/2pints). Rinse the rice in cold water and drain. Put the rice in the dish then pour in the milk and let the rice soak for about 30 minutes.

Stir in the sugar and flavourings then bake in the oven for 2 – 2 1/2 hours. Stir the pudding occasionally during cooking (don’t stir for the last hour if you’d like a skin).

Once the rice has absorbed most of the milk it is ready – not to the point of firm ‘cakey-ness’, more thick yet sloppy. As it cools it firms up, so if there are any leftovers you may need to add a little milk or cream to loosen things up.

Another trawl through the fridge using stuff up has yielded a soup I’m really pleased with and will definitely make again. Perhaps as a metaphor for spring, new life was given to some rather tired broccoli.

Courgette and broccoli soup 

(serves 2 – 3)
glug of oil
1 onion, chopped
cumin seeds
1 large courgette, sliced
approx 10 florets of broccoli
1 medium potato, chopped
vegetable stock, approx 750ml – 1 litre

Heat oil, add cumin seeds and stir, cook for 30 seconds or so. Add onions and cook until soft.

Add courgette, stir and cook for a minute or two. Add broccoli and potatoes, stir and cook for a minute then add vegetable stock (enough to cover all veg plus a bit more. Don’t add all of it though – you can add more later if too thick).

Bring to boil then simmer for 20 minutes or so until all vegetables are soft. Blend but keep a few small lumps for a thickish texture. Season to taste.

Verdict: Practically perfect in every way

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