Sugar, Spice… Rice

Rice pudding wouldn’t be my last meal, put it that way.  So I was surprised to find myself craving it particularly as I don’t really have any previous experience of making it.  And although my Dad likes to make a traditional rice-based porridge for Christmas Eve, I can only ever manage a mouthful of the rich, sticky-sweet goop. 

I think my craving can probably be traced to all the reading up I’ve been doing on Indian cooking recently- I keep coming across the famous rice pudding, Kheer.   I find that there’s an unexpected crossover between many Swedish and Indian puddings,  as they both rely heavily on spices like cardamon, saffron and, of course, cinnamon.   For example, Swedish ‘vetebröd’ ( literally ‘wheat-bread’) is the cardamon-packed basis for the cinnamon buns and other varieties of sweet, bready cakes that we couldn’t do without.

So this rice pudding is really an homage to those spices and that unlikely cultural meeting of flavours.   I felt it needed something else, though, so made some cherry compote to accompany it.  Leftovers of which work particularly well with Greek yoghurt or bircher muesli for breakfast.  Or slathered on croissants, of course.  

Scandi Rice Pudding
(serves 2)

You will need:

For the rice pudding: 
300ml whole milk
40 g shortgrain or pudding rice
pinch of salt
1 small egg
25g dark brown sugar (muscovado)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of cinnamon
20g raisins
handful flaked almonds
2 cardamon pods

For the cherry compote:
250g cherries
juice of half a lemon
splash of brandy


1.  First off, get started on the cherry compote.  You need to get rid of all the cherry pips- a tedious and messy business.  Turn on the radio and get started. Remember, cherry juice stains like a mother, so don’t forget an apron. 

2.  Put the pitted cherries into a saucepan and turn on a low heat.  Add the lemon juice and leave to quietly bubble away for about 20 minutes.

3.  Meanwhile, get started with the rice pudding.  Use a wide pan to maximise the surface area.  Add the milk, rice, pinch of salt and slightly crushed cardamon pods and bring to a simmer slowly.  Turn down the heat and leave for about 20 minutes, until the rice is tender, stirring frequently.

4.  Your cherries should be cooked through by now, so it’s time to add the sugar.  Pour the contents of the pan into a measuring jug to get an idea of how much cooked fruit you have.  You want to add 3/4 of the same amount of sugar (so the ratio of cherries to sugar is 4:3).  So if you have about a cup of cooked cherries, add 3/4 of a cup of sugar. 

5.  Return to the heat and let simmer for a further 20 minutes or so, until you have a thick, jammy consistency.  The best way to test if it is ready is to put a spoonful on a plate, leave for a minute and then see if it ‘wrinkles’ when pushed with a finger.   Add a splash of brandy, if desired (and when isn’t it?) and stir before transferring to a bowl if eating straight away, or a sterilised jar.  Store in the fridge for up to a week.

6.  While you are waiting for the jam to come together, return to the rice pudding.  In a separate bowl, stir together the egg, sugar and vanilla.  Take the pan of milky rice off the heat and add a large spoonful of this to the egg mixture and stir vigorously.  Add all of the contents of the bowl to the pan and stir to incorporate.

7.  Put back onto a very low heat and add a pinch of the cinnamon, the raisins and finally the flaked almonds.  It should be properly thick and oozing by now.

8.  Serve in a bowl with a scoopful of the cherry compote, then sit back and enjoy.