If I have a flat full of cyclists, you’ll find a large bowl of home-made rice pudding in my fridge. It’s instant comfort food and can easily double as a quick and nourishing breakfast before a long ride. Pretty much everyone loves it because it evokes fond childhood memories. My husband claims it’s one of the few dishes his mother used to cook well. Frankly I doubt it as, like cigarettes, her cooking carries a government health warning!
I don’t like a skin on my rice pudding. I cook it on the top of the stove and I eat it cold, often with compote of spiced fruit. This particular recipe came about last summer when I trained at altitude with some cycling friends who have sworn off milk, cream and white sugar.
Ingredients (serves eight cyclists)
- 1 litre (4 cups) rice milk
- 500ml (2 cups) coconut milk
- 1 fat vanilla pod, split lengthways
- 1 medium-sized cinnamon stick
- 1 star anise
- a pinch of sea salt
- 150g (1 cup) short grain pudding rice
- 3 tbsp of rice syrup
1. Warm the rice milk, vanilla pod and seeds, star anise and cinnamon stick in a saucepan over a low heat until simmering. This helps infuse the flavours.
2. Add the rice which you’ve pre-rinsed under a hot-water tap and continue cooking, stirring from time to time until the rice is tender. I find this takes anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. Remove from the heat.
3. Warning: don’t be put off by the putty-coloured and thick wall-paper paste consistency of the pudding.
4. Gently stir in the coconut milk to restore the pudding to a creamy colour and runny consistency. Add the rice syrup and the pinch of salt, stir to dissolve and check the sweetness. I do not have an overly sweet tooth, so you may wish to add more syrup, but do so in teaspoons rather than tablespoons.
5. Pour the rice into a serving bowl. Cover the surface with cling film (plastic wrap) and leave to cool. Do not remove any of the flavourings as they will continue to infuse the rice with their heady perfumes. When cool, put in the fridge. The pudding will thicken to the right consistency.
6. To serve, remove from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature. Remove the flavourings and serve either on its own or with a fruit compote (see recipe below in Sheree’s Handy Hints).
Sheree’s Handy Hints
1. A more traditional rice pudding can be made in exactly the same fashion by substituting the rice milk with full-fat milk, the coconut milk with single cream, the rice syrup with 6 tbsp of caster sugar and retaining just the fat vanilla pod and seeds for flavouring. I generally work using the proportion of 150g (1 cup) of rice per 1½ litres of liquid (6 cups). Of course, it can be served either hot or cold.
2. I have also made the dessert using almond milk and soya milk but was less keen on the overall taste, preferring to use unsweetened rice milk for the lactose–free version.
3. For a more Spanish take on the dessert, rather than the vanilla pod, use two sticks of cinnamon and a single large piece of lemon zest for flavouring. Serve the pudding cold with a dusting of cinnamon powder.
4. For the spiced plum compote, take 2-3 ripe, juicy black plums, quarter and remove stones. Simmer gently in a saucepan with a star anise and one cinnamon stick in either a few tablespoons of water or some plum vodka – I have a store cupboard full of all manner of alcoholic beverages which only get used for cooking – just until the plums soften and give up their juices. Sweeten as necessary with your sweetening of choice. I will generally use 1 tbsp of runny honey. Serve cold on the side with the rice pudding.
4. I have also served the lactose-free rice pudding recipe above decorated with toasted shredded coconut and with chopped fresh mangoes on the side.
5. There are a few more iterations that I have successfully tried with the traditional milk rice pudding.
- A sinful adult version with the addition of a handful of raisins soaked in warm rum before the pudding is left to cool.
- A more child-friendly version with the addition of 200g of dark melted chocolate. Though, to be honest, plenty of adults enjoyed this too.
(Images: My chief in-house tester and photographer, Richard Whatley.)