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If ever there were a pudding that could soothe, it would have to be a fine rice pudding. This recipe, for a bowl with nowt else in it but the seemingly smallest spoonful of rice, a dod of butter and a great jug of milk, to be then popped in the oven, is little short of miraculous. The resulting loveliness requires little else except, say, a raspberry jam – homemade of course. Failing a fine preserve, perhaps a compote of fruits – in this instance brambles – or “blackberries” for those south of Hadrian’s Wall – gently cooked in some sugar and a squeeze of lemon. Their bright sharpness are a perfect foil for such a dish of goodliness.
Jeremy Lee’s recipe for lemon tart | King of puddings
My grandmother made a rice pudding that was so white that it conjured images of the glowing glass of milk in Alfred Hitchcock’s Suspicion, making something apparently innocent seem sinister. Granny would never dream of poisoning her family (or, not too often) but that rice pudding stands out to this day as something otherworldly. I never knew how Granny made this whiter-than- white pudding and never asked; I confess it was not a favourite. My dad, however, made an ace rice pudding. It never failed to please and was memorable in that not a drop of milk remained in the bowl it was cooked in. It could almost have been sliced. I know not how this was achieved apart from through many hours in the oven, but it always tasted very good and we loved it.
I have cooked rice pudding on the stove and liked the result well enough. I have eaten it cold and nurse a penchant for a spoonful of it stolen in a fridge raid. But after many years of cooking it, I have reached the conclusion, agreeing mightily with Simon Hopkinson, that the best rice pudding is baked.
I still have Dad’s rice-pudding dish, dropped off by my lovely sister-in-law Poppy, and so thought it fitting to use today, with Simon’s recipe that uses arborio rice.
You will need a handsome dish for baking.
50g unsalted butter
50g caster sugar
150g arborio rice
1.5 litres milk
½ vanilla pod, split lengthways
225ml double cream
A pinch of salt
A whole nutmeg, grater to hand
1 Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/gas 2. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed pot over a gentle heat. Add the sugar and stir for a minute, then gently add the rice, stirring all the while. Cook this for a further 30 seconds.
2 Pour in a little milk – with care, as it splutters on contact with the heated rice and sugar. Once the rice is loosened, add the remaining milk and stir well. Add the seeds scraped from the vanilla pod. Pour in the cream, season and bring the pan to a simmer. Stir well.
3 Tip all into a handsome dish standing ready for baking the rice pudding. Grate around half or two-thirds of the nutmeg over the surface, then put the pudding in the oven. Bake for at least an hour, checking now and again to ensure it isn’t colouring too enthusiastically. Should this happen, cover with tin foil. In this case, continue cooking – this can take up to 30-45 minutes longer. Bake until a skin forms, the surface is lightly browned and, when carefully shaken, there is just a wobble. Remove the pudding from the oven and let it cool. Best just warm, but not piping hot.
Wild blackberries are ideal for this should the hedgerows prove bountiful. Should nature thwart this exercise then plums perhaps, or blackberries cooked in blackcurrant jelly, would be rather good.
200ml blackcurrant jelly
1 small lemon
1 Wash the blackberries and drain them well. Put a heavy bottomed pan on a gentle heat. Add the blackcurrant jelly and when made liquid, add the berries. Up the heat to a feisty boil and cook thus for one minute. Stir occasionally with care. Remove from the heat, add the juice of one small lemon and stir gently. Let it cool. Decant into a pretty bowl and serve with the rice pudding.
- Jeremy Lee is the chef-proprietor of Quo Vadis restaurant in London’s Soho; @jeremyleeqv