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Comfort Food#11: Good Old Rice Pudding!

Image from cookingwithalison.com

Image from cookingwithalison.com

 

I love rice pudding – immensely! As a small child, I was quite fussy when it came to food and didn’t really eat it then, but I did get through bowlfuls of the stuff when I was in my teens. It got me through GCSEs, A levels, two degrees, heartbreak and hunger pains – especially when I couldn’t be bothered to cook. Unfortunately,  I was hopeless at trying to make it myself; my one attempt was a bit of a disaster so I stuck mainly with Ambrosia’s tinned rice pudding. Or Marks and Spencer’s if I wanted to push the boat out!  And the shop bought stuff is still as equally delightful as the home made variety.

 

Image from afridgefulloffood.typepad.com

Image from afridgefulloffood.typepad.com

And then I don’t know why but rice pudding just disappeared from my life! I mean I still indulged in the odd tin of Ambrosia but it wasn’t like before when I really guzzled the stuff. I can’t quite remember what happened to my rice pudding addiction. I can only assume it was because my sweet tooth which is in serious danger of overdosing on sugar was tempted away from this simple and humble pudding by more fanciful desserts. It just didn’t stand a chance in a world of salted caramel and tropical fruit flavours!

 

It took Les Dennis’ appearance on Celebrity Masterchef to remind me of how much I’d once loved rice pudding. I wondered if it was still as delicious as I remembered it to be. I mentioned it to Hubby who couldn’t remember ever tasting a rice pudding even once. This comes as no surprise as he’s a fussier eater than I ever was!

Pulut hitam from Malaysia Image from mommycookin.blogspot.com

Pulut hitam from Malaysia
Image from mommycookin.blogspot.com

 

Only one way to find out. So the next day I took myself off to M&S and bought a large tub of it for myself. Forty minutes after taking it out of the oven, I dug in. It was like nutmeg-laced, creamy heaven on a spoon! It was delicious, warm and comforting… everything a rice pudding should be. They don’t call it comfort food for nothing and it really hit the spot. I wondered why and how I’d gone so long without it. And this classic nursery pud is perfect now that the cold, dark nights of winter are drawing closer.

rp4

 

Everyone remembers rice pudding from their school days. Bland milky slop with a blob of strawberry jam in the middle. the best thing about it was stirring the jam into the rice pudding so that it turned pink. Even then I don’t think I took more than a few mouthfuls before confining the lot to the slop bucket. I’m sure this memory has stayed with many people over the years which explains why it may not be everyone’s favourite. Rice pudding has been around since Victorian times but even then it was considered economical, bland, ordinary fare served to infants and invalids. Another common dislike about rice pudding especially baked rice pudding, is the lovely skin that forms on top. Definitely not a firm favourite with me but I know that for some people, it’s considered to be the best bit.

A better looking version of school dinner rice pudding! Image from palattable.blogspot.com

A better looking version of school dinner rice pudding! Image from palattable.blogspot.com

 

However, skin or no skin, rice pudding these days is anything but bland and boring and has come a long way. Cooks are very inventive these days when it comes to rice pudding. Different varieties of rice can be used instead of the classic pudding rice. It can be cooked on a hob or baked in the oven. Egg yolks can be added to give it a more custard-like flavour and consistency. And then there are the million and one ways in which you can flavour your rice pudding. The traditionalists may prefer to stick to nutmeg although vanilla seems to be quite common as well. Bay leaves, lemon zest, cinnamon, dried fruit, candied peel and brandy are also becoming quite popular. In fact I came across a recipe which contained brandy-soaked raisins and was then topped with a meringue before being baked. Definitely sounds like my kind of rice pudding! And I absolutely love Les Dennis’ idea of using mascarpone which is something I’d never heard of but it sounds delicious. All these different ways  of cooking rice pudding means that no two puddings are the same and should help eradicate the image of gloopy school-dinner rice pudding.

Kheer from India. Image from bluejeangourmet.wordpress.com

Kheer from India. Image from bluejeangourmet.wordpress.com

 

And let’s not forget that rice pudding is virtually universal with so many countries having their own version of this dish. My favourite comes from Malaysia and is known as pulut hitam. It is made using a purple variety of rice. It is flavoured with coconut and a fragrant leaf called pandan. Truly scrumptious. I like the fact that countries around the world are very adventurous with their flavourings using rosewater, saffron, pistachios, ginger, anise and date syrup. It all sounds very exotic and inspiring in giving us new ideas for flavourings.

Baked rice pudding. Image from  www.evernewrecipes.com

Baked rice pudding. Image from http://www.evernewrecipes.com

 

I’m so glad I’ve become reacquainted with rice pudding. Now as we’re having cold, wet weather, I like nothing more than curling up in front of a telly with a good movie and a bowl of yummy, hot rice pudding. I think it has something of the cornflake factor – you really do forget how great they taste! So here’s a recipe for rice pudding which sounds scrummy: spiced orange rice pudding. With Christmas fast approaching, I thought it sounded very appropriate. Hopefully after trying this you’ll never suffer the trauma of another school dinner nightmare again!

Spiced Orange Rice Pudding

Image from co-operativefood.co.uk

Image from co-operativefood.co.uk

 

Ingredients

  • 150g basmati rice
  • 1 litre skimmed milk
  • 250ml single cream
  • 75g caster sugar
  • grated zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 2 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 4 cardamom pods, crushed
  • You will need a lightly buttered oven-proof dish.

Recipe method

Pre-heat your oven to 160C/gas mark 3.

Pop the milk, cream, caster sugar, orange juice and vanilla into a saucepan and gently bring to the boil over a low heat.

Meanwhile pour the rice into the buttered oven dish along with the nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom and orange zest, fold the spices into the rice.

Pour the hot sweet milky mixture over the rice, cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon after 20 minutes.

Remove the foil and continue to cook for a further 20 minutes until most of the liquid has absorbed into the rice.

Leave to cool slightly and serve with a dollop of your favourite preserve. If you like a crispy skin on your rice pudding you can always pop the pudding under a hot grill with a little dusting of icing sugar until it browns.

Serve with your favourite preserve. Enjoy!

gingham-apron-pie-lady2

 

 

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Posted by on November 3, 2013 in Nostalgia Tastes Like This!, Recipes

 

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Comfort Food #7: Eggy Bread/French Toast

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You wouldn’t believe how something so inexpensive and so simple to make could be so tasty!

Even now when I bite into a warm slice of just-out-of-the-pan French toast, it brings back such wonderfully comforting memories. We never grew up calling this delicious snack eggy bread like most people did; instead it was the more fanciful French toast. And until today, I didn’t realise that it was also called Gypsy toast!

Mmm... Yummy French toast!

Mmm… Yummy French toast!

 

I think I might have been about five when Mum first made this for me and my sister. I was a very fussy eater and it was very difficult for my mum to get me to eat anything. I’d never finish meals and would only ever pick at my food. However, when I first tried French toast it was definitely love at first bite! I couldn’t get enough of this yummy fried bread. It was quite good for my parents because growing up, we didn’t really have a great deal of money, so Mum must have been thrilled that the one thing I wanted to stuff my face with was as cheap as… well, a loaf of bread! French toast was very much a firm favourite in our house when I was growing up, not just with me but with all of us.

French toast: my first attempt in as long time

French toast: my first attempt in as long time

 

That’s hardly a surprise considering that French toast is eaten practically all over the world, so it really is a very popular dish. It’s unclear where or when this dish was created and by whom. It may not even have originated in France!

The basic ingredients for French toast: eggs, milk, bread, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon

The basic ingredients for French toast: eggs, milk, bread, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon

 

The earliest form of French toast is believed to have originated as far back as the fourth century, when it was found in a collection of Latin recipes. In Sweden, Finland and Norway, French Toast is known as ‘poor knights’ after the fourteenth century German name for this dish Arme Ritter.

The sweet egg and milk mixture

The sweet egg and milk mixture

 

My love for French toast took on another dimension when I met my husband and began my frequent trips to visit him in the States. As an American, he’d been eating French toast his entire life – well since he was old enough to eat anyway! But there were two major differences: in America, French toast is eaten as a breakfast food rather than an anytime snack, accompanying bacon and eggs, and served with lots of maple syrup. Furthermore, French toast in the States is always a sweet dish whereas Mum’s French toast was always savoury. In fact, I don’t think I know anyone other than Mum who made the savoury version.

French toast cooking away!

French toast cooking away!

 

I also found so many different ways of making French toast while I was in the States. You can use pretty much any kind of bread; flavourings such as vanilla, nutmeg or cinnamon, and you can stuff them with mascarpone and fruit such as blueberries before you fry them. Then there are amazing French toast casseroles, where the bread is left to soak in the egg mixture before being baked in the oven not too dissimilar to our bread and butter pudding – delicious!

And into the pan they go!

And into the pan they go!

 

I saw an episode of Nigella Express where she made jam doughnut-flavoured French toast. I didnt even know such a thing existed! It sounded like a fried piece of heaven and I cannot wait to get stuck into that. French toast may be quite a simple concept but with so many variations it has become something quite spectacular. I’ve heard that there are even French toast cupcakes! I’ve never seen one before nor eaten one but I plan on rectifying that situation!

With a good bit of Butter! Image from pixabay.com courtesy of s_masako

With a good bit of Butter! Image from pixabay.com courtesy of s_masako

 

I suppose it sounds as though I’m more geared towards sweet French toast but I do think both the sweet and savoury versions are equally tasty. I couldn’t choose between the two types. And neither could I choose between Mum’s savoury French toast and my brother-in-law Dizzy’s yummy sweet cinnamon version. So I’ve included the recipes for both. Hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

MUM’S SAVOURY FRENCH TOAST

Serves 1-2 people

INGREDIENTS:
2 slices of sliced white bread, cut in half, crusts on.
1 large egg
1 tbsp. semi skimmed milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Oil for frying

METHOD:

  • Heat a little oil in a frying pan. just enough to stop the bread sticking to the pan.

  • Mix together egg, milk, salt and pepper in a bowl.

  • Plunge each piece of bread into the egg mixture so that it is well coated on both sides.

  • When pan is hot, add bread.

  • Cook until side is golden brown then flip over and cook the other side.

  • Eat!

Simple yet delicious!

Dizzy’s Cinnamon French Toast

French toast and syrup. Image from pixabay.com courtesy of annaj

French toast and syrup. Image from pixabay.com courtesy of annaj

 

Serves 1-2 people

INGREDIENTS:

2 slices cinnamon bread or cinnamon raisin bread

1 large egg

1 tsp. sugar

A dash of vanilla extract

Oil for frying

Butter and maple syrup to serve

METHOD:

  • Heat oil in pan.

  • Mix together egg, sugar and vanilla in a bowl.

  • Coat each side of the bread with the egg mixture.

  • Brown each side.

  • Serve with butter and maple syrup

Note: If you cannot find cinnamon bread, you can add a 1/4 tsp. of ground cinnamon to the egg mixture. Butter can be used instead of oil for frying, and the French toast can even be deep fried in very hot oil. All depends on how health conscious you want to be!

 
 

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