Creamy ginger rice pudding – Pearl rice cooked in an infusion of milk, vanilla, and warming ginger. Than topped with crunchy caramelized pears and walnuts.
Poor rice pudding. It suffers from a bit of an image problem. It’s often thought of as a little old-fashioned, something your mother or grandmother might have cooked up back in the day.
It’s a dessert you never see on a restaurant menu. I’ve tried putting it on a few menus in places I worked over the years and gave up, it’s never been a good seller. I suppose customers expect something a little sexier on a menu when they go out to eat, especially for desert.
With the exception of those dreadful chilled rice pudding pots they sell in the supermarket this humble dessert seems to have been forgotten about. It’s maybe something served in a nursing home or a hospital to the elderly and infirm rather than in a restaurant.
Sexey it’s not but tasty it is. It’s a great pudding for this time of year when the days are short and the weather has turned just a little chillier. Pure comfort food, a bowl of creamy sweet goodness that clings to your insides and warms you from within.
When I’m cooking rice pudding I like to think of it as a sweet version of a risotto, that’s all it really is anyway. You can even make it with arborio rice, though it’s a little more expensive than the pudding rice I used here.
Similar to a risotto a rice pudding takes a while to cook. This give innovative cooks time to impart tons of flavour to the starchy rice as it swells and enlarges absorbing flavors from the cooking liquid it’s swimming in.
The classic flavouring is vanilla but next time you’re cooking a creamy rice pudding think of something you can mix into the milk for an added flavour hit. Maybe a little orange or some other type of fruit juice. Some seasonal fruit puree or perhaps a little alcohol if you really need warming up. Any type of liqueur, brandy, or whiskey would probably work well.
To add a little pizazz to my recipe I used some seasonal pears that were gently poached in a ginger and vanilla syrup till tender. A good quantity of the cooking liquor from the pears is than used to cook the rice infusing it with its spicy warmth. When it’s nearly done I just add a little cream for richness and a dollop or two of Greek yoghurt. Its natural acidity adds a little balance to the creamy sweetness of the rice and pears.
The creamy pudding is than topped with the poached pears and a handful of walnuts that have been caramelized in a searingly hot pan with some butter and honey for a little crunch and texture.
One word of warning don’t get distracted or go wandering off while your rice pudding is on the stove. It need a little tlc, so give it a good stir every minute or so. You don’t want it to catch on the bottom of the pan. Not only will your pudding be ruined but you’ll have quite a job of washing up. You can cook it covered in your oven (recipe from Delia here) but I’ve found you don’t get as creamie a result as when it’s done on the stove top like a risotto.
To add a little flavour and make your rice pudding a bit more exciting you don’t even have to get that complicated. Just a little chopped seasonal fruit, or perhaps some of your favourite chocolate swirled in close to the end of cooking to add another dimension. I know a snickers bar happens to work quite well….chocolate, caramel, and salty peanuts. yum…..
Who ever said rice pudding was boring? How will you pimp out yours?
2 vanilla pods, split in half and the seeds scraped
for the rice pudding
180g / 6oz pearl rice
60g / 2.5oz caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, split and the seeds scraped
500ml /1.05 of milk
200ml / .42 pint of the syrup from poaching the pears
150 ml / .25 pint of cream
120 g of natural yoghurt
to caramelize the pears
25g / 1 oz of butter
25g / 1oz caster sugar
2 tablespoons of honey
25g / 1oz of walnuts
Bring the water to the boil in a pot large enough to hold the pears. Add the sugar, vanilla, and ginger and allow your syrup to simmer and infuse for about 10 minutes.
Add the peeled pares to the syrup and cover them with a piece of greaseproof paper. Than poach them gently till tender. How long this takes will depend upon the ripeness of the pears. You should be able to insert a knife easily. You want them soft but not falling apart.
Once the pears are cooked remove them from the heat and allow them to cool in the syrup while you make your rice pudding.
To make the rice pudding mix together the milk and pear syrup in a pot before adding in the vanilla. Add the pearl rice next and bring everything to the boil. Turn the rice pudding down to a gentle simmer and cook for about 20 minutes, giving it a stir every minute or so.
Once your rice pudding starts to thicken add in the cream and keep cooking till the rice is soft and the pudding has a nice loose creamy consistency. Finish the rice pudding by stirring in the natural yoghurt and keep warm while caramelize the pears.
To caramelize the pears remove them from the syrup and drain well. Cut each pear in half and scoop out the core with a teaspoon or a small knife.
Melt the butter in a pan till bubbling and foamy then sprinkle each pear half with the castor sugar and toss in the butter.
Next add the honey to the pan and turn up the heat. Cook the pears till their nicely caramelized and have a deep brown golden colour.
Finish your pears by adding in the walnuts and a couple of tablespoons of the syrup.
To serve, divide the rice pudding between 4 bowls and top with 2 halfs of the caramelized pears then spoon some of the sweet caramel sauce around each bowl
You can make the pears ahead of time for this, even a day or two in advance. just leave them sitting in the fridge covered with the syrup where they’ll take in even more flavour. you can than just caramelize them on the day you make the pudding.
They also make a great dessert served warm on their own with a little chocolate sauce.