Recipe: Lovely Rice Pudding For Dinner Again

After you all egged me on to make rice pudding the other day, I found myself compelled to give it a try.  The difficulty was, my evil, chocolate-loving side wanted to make a completely decadent rice pudding with chocolate and coconut milk and raspberries (why yes, I *am* fond of that particular flavour combination), but my Christopher Robin purist side was fairly sure that rice pudding is supposed to be fairly plain and full of plump raisins.  And, while I demonstrate very little common-sense when it comes to culinary experimentation, it did seem to me that it might be a good idea to start with a traditional version when making a pudding that I’ve never cooked or even eaten before. 

This recipe is taken from The Women’s Weekly’s Sweet Old-Fashioned Favourites cookbook, and modified quite a bit, because it sounded way too rich.  The baked rhubarb is, I think, initially a Nigella thing, though I’m no longer following a recipe for it – rice pudding seemed to demand stewed fruit, and with the oven on already, I wanted something I could pop in to cook above the pudding and forget about.

And what was it like? To my surprise, it tasted absolutely and exactly the way my imagination had pictured it – hot, mushy, creamy, full of plumped-up raisins and sultanas, and a hint of spice, and with the rhubarb providing a sharp tartness that made the creaminess manageable.  I don’t think I’d want it for dinner it every day – I’m just not that fond of rice – but for a hot, comforting, winter dessert when you aren’t feeling well and don’t want to spend more than five minutes in the kitchen, it would be hard to do better.

(Oh, and if you are wondering why I am going on and on about Christopher Robin etc, this is why)

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1/2 cup arborio rice
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla essence
2 tbsp (40ml) raisins
2 tbsp sultanas
2 cups milk (I used a low-fat, but not a no-fat, milk)
1/2 cup water (you can use all milk, but this sounded really rich to me)
20g butter
nutmeg, 1/2 a cinnamon stick
1 bunch rhubarb (approx. 700g)
175g vanilla sugar, or plain caster sugar
2 tbsp caster sugar (optional)
marmalade or orange jam, to serve

Now what will you do with it?

Lightly butter a 4-cup capacity baking dish.  Rinse the rice well, and put into the dish with the sugar, vanilla, raisins and sultanas, and mix up a bit.  Pour in the milk and water, and stir around a little more.  It’s going to look very, very liquid at this point.

Dot the butter (it will float on the milk in a very dodgy-looking fashion) and sprinkle with nutmeg and cinnamon, or float half a cinnamon stick in the middle.  Bake slowly for 2-3 hours.  My recipe said 2 hours at 160°C, but I think it lied, because at the end of 2 hours, it was still soup.  This might be because I also cooked dinner in the oven during this time.  I gave it another 45 minutes at 180°C, which did the trick – what you are looking for is for the rice to have absorbed the milk and swollen up to the top of where the milk was, and for a crust to have formed.

While the rice pudding is cooking, prepare the rhubarb.  Wash it, and cut it into lengths of around 1 1/2 – 2 inches.  Put it into a baking dish with the vanilla sugar, and stir to coat.  If you don’t have vanilla sugar, use castor sugar and either cut a vanilla bean lengthways and put it in with the rhubarb, or add vanilla paste or essence during the cooking.  Or leave it plain.  Don’t add water – the rhubarb will produce plenty of liquid like this.

Cover the rhubarb with foil, and put in the oven when the rice pudding has been baking for about an hour. It should be soft and juicy by the time the rice pudding is done.

If you feel like it, you can make a sort of rice pudding brulee by sprinkling the extra 2 tbsp of sugar over it at the end of the cooking time, and putting under the grill for a couple of minutes.  This is also a good trick if you broke up your crust by stirring everything part-way through when it wasn’t done yet.

Serve the pudding with a spoonful of marmalade or jam stirred through each portion and the rhubarb on top. You have no idea how ugly this is once served – the jam you stir through breaks up the crust and it all looks deeply dubious, especially once the rhubarb juices hit the creamy rice and it all curdles.  But it tastes really good and strangely comforting (despite the fact that it was never one of my childhood foods), especially when you have a cold.

This makes enough for four people.


I don’t have the energy for really interesting variations right now, but I don’t see how you could go wrong replacing the dairy milk with coconut milk, though one might then be tempted to change some of the other flavourings.  Soy milk would probably be a non-controversial and non-flavour-changing choice.  Rice milk would be incredibly pointless, I think.  And it has been pointed out to me that black or purple sticky rice could make this rather wild.    Johanna over at Green Gourmet Giraffe has an amazing vegan variation with chocolate and wattleseed which I certainly intend to try sometime.

But it seems to me that you, O my readers, are far more knowledgeable in the art of chocolate pudding than I am.  So tell me – what’s your favourite variation?

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11 comments for “Recipe: Lovely Rice Pudding For Dinner Again

  1. Alison
    June 25, 2011 at 10:11 pm

    Plain – served with fresh mango. But I love rice 🙂

    • June 26, 2011 at 1:53 pm

      Interesting. I can see that working with a coconut-milk rice pudding, actually, though I think the plain rice + mango would be a bit cloying for my personal taste.

  2. June 26, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    Yes try the chocolate one! I think fruit with rice pudding seems the right way to serve it – though my mum never served it that way – makes me laugh you think it too rich with all milk as many recipes seem to call for cream as well – but I agree with you about not having too much dairy

    • June 28, 2011 at 9:20 am

      I know they do, but still…

      I’ll be trying your chocolate one next week, I think. We have an overseas guest coming to dinner who is vegetarian, lactose intolerant, and gluten intolerant – but nuts and seeds and rice and chocolate are all fine! And your pudding even has an Australian bush spice, so it’s pretty much perfect! I will report back.

  3. Megan
    June 27, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    I make stove-top rice pudding, not baked: 2 cups cooked rice, 3 cups milk, somewhere between 1/4 to 1/2 a cup brown sugar or your sugar/sweetener of choice, a pinch of salt, cinnamon to taste. Put it all on a pot and stir over moderate heat until sufficiently puddingish, serve sprinkled with nutmeg.

    Pleasing variations include sultanas, vanilla essence, stirring in a beaten egg if you like gloopier pudding, and any kind of dried fruit you fancy, but I usually make it plain as above, and when I’m alone in the house so I don’t have to share:)

    • June 28, 2011 at 9:21 am

      That sounds like a *lot* of pudding, and it’s interesting how much lower your rice/milk ratio is. Probably the stove-top thing. But quite a similar flavour profile to mine.

  4. treeandleaf
    June 28, 2011 at 2:05 am

    I’ve never tried to make it with arborio rice – in Britain you can get something called pudding rice, which is also a short grain rice, but absorbs water better than arborio (and isn’t suitable for risotto, because it winds up too mushy). That might explain your timing issues.

    • June 28, 2011 at 9:22 am

      Interestingly, the recipe I had actually recommended risotto rice (which you rinse beforehand – very unusual in my experience! But yes, it would be interesting to experiment with other rices.

  5. June 28, 2011 at 7:13 am

    I’ve definitely seen coconut and mango rice pudding somewhere. Thai cookbook, I think? I’ve also seen quite a strongly flavoured coconut rice pudding, probably Indian, in the Claudia Roden Book of Jewish Food. Go and explore!

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