Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Rice pudding and apricot compote

We have just had a few very bleak, wet days in London. Nothing unusual for this time of year but enough to make you feel that those sandals belong back under the bed, or wherever else you store them for 51 weeks a year. This means just one positive thing: comfort food is allowed, if only because bathing-suit season currently seems so distant that all resolutions to swap crumbles for sesame right cakes have been swiftly abandonned.

Still, I felt a bit guilty so I told myself that I would make rice pudding, because rice, you know, is healthy, never mind that it is the white Italian pudding variety I am using here rather than the organic wholesome brown one. The oriental twist, via the splash of rose or orange water, is just an excuse to further my exploration of the Middle Eastern corner shops in my new neighborhood. Unsalted pistachios, cardamon pods, pomegranate syrup, I bet you will see them again around here in the next few weeks.

One final word, on apricots. I know they can be sour, or worst, insipid. Fortunately there's no need to find exceptional ones for this recipe, for it will transform even the blandest fruit into a miraculous burst of summer.

Set aside 45 minutes for this recipe, so you're not rushed, altough I promise you won't be actively occupied by it for more than 20. And while the rice cooks in the milk, well, you could, in the spirit of this post, have some fresh mint tea.

This recipe is from Claudia Roden's marvellous Arabesque cookbook. It serves six moderate eaters or four greedy ones.


Rice pudding
200g Italian round Italian rice or pudding rice (you can use risotto rice)
350 ml water
1 litre half-skimmed milk
150g sugar or to taste
1 tablespoon rose or orange water

Apricot compote
1kg apricots
200ml water
150g sugar
1 lemon

First boil the rice in the water until it is absorbed. Beware not to let it burn. It can happen very quickly once the water has been absorbed. Reduce the heat to a simmer and pour the milk. Let the mixture bubble along until the rice is soft but some liquid is left (roughly 30 minutes) You are striving to achieve, more or less, the consistency of a risotto. Stir in the sugar until disolved and add the rose or orange water. If the pudding seems too dry, add splash of milk at the end, as when the rice cools down it will absorb some of the excess liquid. You want it to be gooey. That's the best rice pudding.

While the rice is cooking, get on with the apricote compote. Rinse the fruit, stone it and cut it in half. Put it on a low heat in a heavy-bottomed pan (Le Creuset or imitation will work fine) with the sugar, the water and the lemon juice. I have reduced the water from the original recipe but if you feel you need it, by all means, add another half glass. You should stop cooking the compote just when the apricots are falling apart.

Spread the rice pudding in a serving dish and spoon some compote on top. This dessert can be eaten hot or cold. For texture, I would consider adding chunks of unsalted pistachios, but that's just me. I think pistachios go with everything.

1 comment:

  1. beautiful... maybe a bit more sugar???