Prep Time 25'PT25M
Total Time 30'PT30M
Think you know rice pudding? We’ve followed this ultimate comfort food around the world, from Spain to Norway to Iran, to find the inspiration for our very own rice pudding recipe.
There’s something magical about rice pudding. We remember the warming combination of soft, starchy rice combined with rich, creamy milk from our childhood, where it acted as the culinary equivalent of a warm blanket.
Back then, rice pudding generally came out of a tin or perhaps as (the best) part of a school dinner. It was ubiquitous and universally loved, topped with a hefty spoonful of raspberry jam.
Times have moved on since then. While there will always be a place in our hearts for the rice pudding of yesteryear, it has been somewhat elevated since then.
The key to the transformation of rice pudding lies in understanding where it came from, and the myriad creative ways it has been incorporated into cultures around the world.
The English Huswife
The earliest record of rice pudding in the UK comes from around 1615. A recipe entitled ‘Whitepot’ was recorded by Gervase Markham in his book ‘The English Huswife’.(1) Clearly, rice pudding was a requisite for any good housewife of the day!
His recipe was surprisingly rich, with a generous amount of cream, six egg yolks, plenty of sugar and spices and even a little rose water, which was a popular flavouring of the time.
It’s unlikely, though, that rice pudding is an English invention.
Rice arrived in Europe via Spain’s trade routes with Asia in about the 10th century. By the 15th century, it was widely cultivated in Spain and had migrated upwards to Italy.(1)
Britain began to import its rice from these regions, particularly a short-grained, starchy variety called ‘arborio’. You might be familiar with it as the favoured choice for making risotto.
However, it was also used to make desserts like rice pudding thanks to its ability to produce a creamy sauce when added to liquid.
Rice pudding around the world
It seems that wherever rice went, a recipe for rice pudding soon followed. In fact, recipes for rice pudding come from all over the world, with variations depending on their origin.
The Spanish Arroz con leche is made with cinnamon and lemon zest, while the German version (Milchreis) is served with apple sauce. Norwegain Risengrynsgrøt is served with butter and cinnamon and eaten on the 23rd December in a celebration known as ‘Lillejulaften’, or ‘Little Christmas Eve’.
In China, ba bao fan is a rice pudding made with red bean paste and eight types of fruits and nuts which is traditionally eaten at Chinese New Year.
Firni, which is popular in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, contains cardamom and pistachio and is reduced right down to a thick paste before eating cold,
Another Iranian version is Sholezard which is often eaten on special occasions and features saffron and rose water as flavourings.(2)
Our rice pudding recipe
With so many varieties to choose from, we were lucky to have plenty of inspiration available when creating our very own rice pudding recipe.
Taking a leaf out of Gervase Markham’s book, we’ve gone for Arborio rice. Pudding rice, which acts in a similar way, is also a good option. Some cultures use short-grain or even basmati rice, but we prefer the nostalgic, creamy texture that arborio gives.
Next, the milk. Although it’s tempting to go for a half-fat coconut milk, resist. The fat in the milk adds a lot to the final texture of the pudding, transforming it from creamy to silky. It’s worth it.
For our flavourings, we’ve taken inspiration from the Middle East and chosen saffron, cardamom and cinnamon. Saffron lends a lovely floral flavour and cheerful colour, while cardamom provides an aromatic bass note. Cinnamon is simply a match made in heaven for warm milk puddings.
Erbology Pitted Prunes
The British like to top their rice pudding with jam and a grating of nutmeg, while the French go for chopped almonds and the Finnish choose a prune kissel, or compote.
Lacking the patience to make our own compote, and disinclined to add lots of refined sugar to our recipe in doing so, we’ve gone for dried fruit.
Erbology Pitted Prunes are the perfect choice here. They’re deeply flavourful; sweet, but with a pleasant sharpness which cuts through the richness of the pudding.
Not to mention all the prune health benefits you will be conferring upon your rice pudding. Prunes are not only good for digestion but are also linked to good bone health, among other benefits.
A sprinkle of ground cinnamon finishes the pudding nicely. It ensures that those lucky enough to get a portion will be rewarded with a comforting scent even before they dig in.
This is pure soul food, done the healthy way.Sweets