Rice is nice [rice pudding]

I imagine that if the people who went to school in Britain that have never eaten rice pudding met up somewhere, there probably wouldn’t be enough of them to make a water polo team (I don’t actually remember how many people there are in a water polo team, but I don’t think it’s very many). It is surely the quintessential school children’s pudding, along with tapioca (frog spawn), spotted dick (if you went to school in the Victorian age), bananas and custard (if you were lucky), and poached pears in saffron syrup (if you went to private school).

The tapioca aversion I can understand, and whoever is responsible for inventing this stomach-turning excuse for a dessert – the sort of dessert that would make even the toughest boy in school’s top lip start a-quivering and claiming infirmity – should be dragged by their dangly bits around the town while local school children bombard them with cabbages, hot bovril and gravel. But rice pudding, heavenly, comforting rice pudding, why the vitriol, eh? Everything about it is an absolute joy – the skin on top that you sort of feel shouldn’t really be there, and is thus a little bit naughty; the oozy, creamy depth of soft grains of rice that coat your tongue with an ever so slightly savory hug; and, most wonderfully, the way you feel the diffusion of warmth from your mouth all the way down into your belly. It’s like swallowing a radiator. In a good way.

Jam versus no jam, then….entirely up to you. You could leave the lemon zest out of this version and go for something tart like damson jam, or stick to the classic raspberry or strawberry (ah, the eternal conflict – surely raspberry wins hands down), or try something really controversial and see how you get on – nutella (not recommended), peanut butter, honey, red currant jelly? Go nuts, let me know how you get on.

Rice pudding

Serves 6

15g unsalted butter
1 vanilla pod
850 ml whole milk
60g pudding rice
(this milk/rice ratio will seem barmy to you, rest assured this is not a typo…)
Zest of half a lemon
A little freshly grated nutmeg
3 tablespoons caster sugar
100 ml double cream

Preheat the oven to 150C and butter an ovenproof dish, such as the one in the slightly dark photograph.

Put the milk in a saucepan, split the vanilla pod and add. Bring to just below a boil.

Next rinse your rice quickly under cold water and pop in the dish with a few little knobs of butter, the lemon zest, a pinch of nutmeg and the sugar. Pour over the milk and stir. Place in the oven and leave for an hour, removing to stir every fifteen minutes. Stir in the cream and cook for a further 15-20 minutes until the rice is fully tender.

Serve with raspberry jam, or honey, or something a little more bizarre, depending on the extent of your Christmas breakdown.

Happy Christmas, too! x

Stir in the cream

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