I am back in Sydney after two indescribably lovely weeks in Victoria, one of them spent at the beach, out of internet range. But now I can get back down to business as the Australian leg of my Christmas holidays begins to wind up. Those of you who have been strongly hinting that you would like to see some of the Christmas recipes – I apologize for the delay, I’ll get them up in the next couple of days. To begin with, here is the rice crème…
This is really just rice pudding, but for the purposes of Christmas we change the name – this is because we have adopted the Norwegian tradition (introduced by a Norwegian aunt) of having a Riskrem as part of the Christmas meal. You hide a single almond in the Riskrem, everyone is served, and whoever finds the almond wins a marzipan pig (this year lovingly made by my mother, who is a master with the marzipan – check out the marzipan fruit she also made this Christmas). While the real excitement is just the game, I really surpassed myself this year on the rice pudding, if I say so myself…
The recipe I give here is a slightly modified version of a venetian rice pudding recipe from Rice: From Risotto to Rice Pudding from Murdoch Books. I used to do rice pudding quite a lot, and I can say with certainty that this is the absolute best recipe I have ever come across. Often people think they don’t like rice pudding because the stuff you buy in shops has a tendency to be nasty and gelatinous, or gets the chalky texture of cheap, quick-cook rice. If is this is how you usually think of rice pudding, you are wrong – you will like this.
These quantities make a lot of rice pudding – if you are only cooking for three or four, then you can halve them, or keep it in the fridge for breakfast for the next couple of days. Also – this is meant to be served cold, and improves with a little refrigeration, so it is easiest to make it the day before.
In a large pot (sauce pan) mix 5 cups (1.5 Litres) of full-cream milk, 2 cups (500 mLs) of double/heavy cream, and add two cinnamon quills. Bring to boil – making sure to stir, so the milk doesn’t burn – and then take off the heat.
Add 100g (3.5 oz) of caster sugar to the milk/cream. Caster sugar is superfine white sugar – if you can’t find it, which you won’t be able to in the US, then just add white sugar as, for this recipe, it doesn’t matter so much. However, if it is ever really important that you have caster sugar for a recipe, you can blend white sugar in a food processor until it is very fine, and use that. Also add: the grated zest of two oranges (grate this very fine or, even better if you have one, use a citrus zester; if your zest is a bit dry, you might want to add a little more); a teaspoon or two of nutmeg; and three teaspoons of vanilla essence (or a teaspoon and a half of vanilla bean paste). Return to the heat and add a cup (220g) of arborio (risotto) rice. Once it is boiling, stir slowly and constantly for 35 mins. Your arm will hurt, but the rice will become soft and creamy. Transfer to a bowl, remove the cinnamon quills, add the almond (if it is Christmas), and let cool before putting in the fridge. By the time it is cold, it will be wonderfully rich and thick – sprinkle with cinnamon, and try to resist eating the whole thing in one go.
The big trick to rice pudding is to use arborio (risotto) rice – it is one of the slowest cooking rices, and you will be stuck stirring for far longer than you want to be, but if you only have other kinds of rice, it just won’t be that good. The real joy of this dish is just how rich, thick, and creamy it is. The nice thing about this particular version is that you also get the sweet, fragrant hint of orange.