PERSIAN RICE PUDDING
I absolutely adore rice puddings & consider it the food of the gods -it’s not for nothing that babies here are often weaned on rice! I have eaten it around the world (of course there are many versions as it is such a cheap, staple ingredient) and have loved many of them. My favourites include the slow baked, creamy, nutmeg flavoured pudding of my childhood served hot on a cold day (with the skin of course) and the very rich, sweet Spanish Arroz con Leche served cold on a hot day. Both France & Italy have sweet, custardy versions with vanilla and many Asian countries cook it with coconut milk and serve with fruit such as lychees…I could go on. To be fair I’m very happy with tinned or carton rice puddings and yes, I did snaffle the kids’ baby rice.
When I read this recipe for a Persian style rice pudding in Sabrina Ghayour’s book ‘PERSIANA’ -Recipes from the Middle East & beyond, I knew that I had to try it…I loved the idea of rice delicately flavoured with rose with zesty lime & gentle spices. Sprinkled with crushed pistachio nuts & edible rose petals it looked as beautiful as it tastes.
I don’t often cook from recipe books but I love ‘Persiana’ with a passion, at first glance it seems so exotic but in actual fact, once you have accepted the long list of ingredients, this is a cuisine that is simple is simple to make and made to share-my kind of food. I could eat every page. I have only made some tiny changes, marked by asterisks, the most important being to take great care with the rose flavouring-perhaps it is a western thing, although I love it it’s very easy to over do it and end up with a soapy taste -you have been warned.
(Most of the ingredients are available in good supermarkets (even in Cumbria) or on line.)
Persian Rice Pudding by Sabrina Ghayour
650ml full fat milk
200ml double cream
2 tsp rosewater * (take care with this)
4 cardamom pods, crushed, seeds ground with a pestle and mortar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or the seeds scraped from a vanilla pod
2 tbsp. clear honey, plus extra for drizzling** (I used less)
200g pudding rice*** (I used less)
50g unsalted butter
Grated rind of a lime
50g flaked almonds, toasted
50g chopped, shelled pistachio nuts
A handful of dried edible rose petals
- Set a large saucepan over a medium-low heat, pour in the milk, cream, rosewater, ground cardamom seeds, vanilla paste or seeds and the honey & stir well until the vanilla paste has dissolved into the liquid evenly. Without allowing the contents to boil, heat up the liquid, then increase the heat to medium and add the rice.
- Once the rice is in you will need to stir the mixture continuously for about 20 minutes or so to draw out the starch, which will enrich the dish. Should the rice dry out a little during the cooking process, add a little more milk.
- Once the rice is cooked, add the butter and stir well until it melts. Turn off the heat and stir in the lime rind, to give the dish a burst of freshness.
- In the Middle East, although we do occasionally eat rice puddings hot, we love to eat them chilled. So decant the pudding, either into a large serving dish or as individual portions, decorate generously with the almonds and pistachios, scatter a few dried rose petals and refrigerate for a couple of hours. Drizzle over a little clear honey just before serving.