A tourist visiting Southern California right now would be forgiven for wondering what happened to the spectacular California weather: we have been under a cloud of relentless cold and rain which, if it’s a godsend for our parched earth, it drives the average Los Angeleno to stay home on the sofa as much as work will allow. On days like today, one craves warm and soothing food. Something like rice pudding, for instance.
As it so happens, former colleague, loyal reader and always a friend Ellie recently asked me if I had a good recipe for rice pudding. I thought it was odd that Ellie, who is British but lives in Tuscany, would ask me for a rice pudding recipe: she probably thinks my American side must have mastered a decent rice pudding, because it is a dish that is definitely not steeped in Italian culture.
Before my Italian friends start complaining and sending in recipes for rice cakes, it is true that custardy rice cakes do exist but the milky, creamy concoction we think of when we talk about rice pudding is hardly fare found on the Mediterranean shores.
Rice being a humble and cheap ingredient, a variation on rice and milk or rice and water, can be found pretty much in every culture, starting from India, where the first rice pudding was probably made, and stretching all over Asia, crossing over to South America and most European countries.
I was introduced to American rice pudding by an American boyfriend many, many lives ago. I had never encountered the dish before and fell in love. He left but his rice pudding recipe stayed behind and it is the one I still make when a craving strikes, or after a particularly brutal session at the dentist’s. It’s ridiculously rich but oh so satisfying.
Ellie, this one if for you.
1 1/2 C cooked rice, pretty al dente (I use Arborio, or any risotto rice)
2 C whole milk (or 2% – do not use non fat)
1/4 C sugar
1 egg, beaten
2/3 C golden raisins
1 T butter
1/2 ts vanilla extract
cinnamon to taste (or, alternatively, lemon or orange zest)
- Cook the rice in water until al dente, or still pretty firm. Either drain and put it back in the pot with the milk or, if most of the water has been absorbed, add 1 1/2 C milk. Add sugar and salt. Cook on medium heat, stirring frequently, and being careful not to scorch the milk, for about 20 minutes, until thick and creamy.
- Mix remaining 1/2 C of milk with the egg and add to the pot, stirring vigorously. Add the raisins. Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Add butter and vanilla. Spoon into serving dishes and sprinkle with cinnamon.
- Best eaten cold but I have been known to eat it straight from the pot.
I did not make rice pudding for this post: the pretty picture is from Jamie Oliver.