Friday, 21 October 2011

Rice Pudding

The theme for this week's cooking club is peasant food. This connotates simple, inexpensive foods - generally slowly cooked for maximum flavour and tenderness.

My mind immediately went to my favourite - rice pudding. If you have rice (short to medium grain is best), and milk (whole, if possible), and some sort of sweetening agent (I like good old sugar) - then you can make rice pudding!

Rice pudding is the only dish I remember my father making. I went to visit him in his cabin in the middle of nowhere in the Canadian north and he made me rice pudding with cinnamon and raisins. To this day it is my favourite way of having it, but I do like to switch it up from time to time.

The trick is to take your time. Think of it as sweet risotto. You cook up your rice in some water first, to get it close to tender. Then add your milk, bit by bit, sweetening to taste along the way. Keep stirring and tasting and adding. It can be very therapeutic, almost meditative, to slowly cook your rice to creamy perfection. Or else it would be if you were not watching Vampire Diaries at the same time. Ahem. 

In Falling Cloudberries, Tessa Kiros talks about her grandfather slowly cooking rice pudding for her. He would give her such directions as, "Add one flat woodenspoonful of sugar and cook it until it is ready."
I heartily agree. You can have measurements and directions, but the pudding itself will tell you when it is ready.

How you flavour rice pudding is up to you. As I mentioned, my favourite is cinnamon and raisin. Tessa likes just cinnamon or, for a treat, rose water (which would be awesome with some pistachios on top).
But I was swayed by my good friend Jamie's post about Café Latte Riz au Lait. For some reason, in all my years as a rice pudding lover, it never occurred to me to add espresso powder to it. Brilliant! So of course we had to serve them in coffee cups. With a dollop of whipped cream and a little cocoa powder on top. Okay, it's not looking so peasant-ish anymore. But these were all things we had on hand, and the basic idea of rice pudding is in fact quite humble. That's my story and I am sticking to it.

Rice Pudding 
adapted from Falling Cloudberries, Tessa Kiros

1¼ cups medium grain rice
8 cups (approx) whole milk
sugar to taste
flavourings - cinnamon, cinnamon&raisins, rosewater&pistachios, or espresso powder. Or use your imagination!

Cook the rice in enough water to cover generously. When fairly tender and the water is pretty much absorbed, add the milk bit by bit, stirring. Start adding sugar to taste, adding more milk when it gets thick. Bring in your seasonings and keep stirring and adding until the rice pudding is done. Serve hot, warm, or cold. If you are going to refrigerate it, add a little more milk.

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