Good things come to those who wait, and stir, and wait: cardamom rice pudding
The way I see it, the Spanish are the Indians of Europe.
1. Pedro Almodavar is soooo Bollywood.
2. Like us, the Spanish have no concept of volume control.
3. Families are tight. As in India it’s socially acceptable here for your 30 year old son to live at home where Mummy can take care of the ironing and cleaning.
4. All happy events, no matter how minor, MUST be celebrated socially and with food. This includes school exams, promotions at work and the purchase of a new car.
5. Rice. Both take it very seriously.
Where I come from in the east of India birthdays are traditionally celebrated with a cardamom scented rice pudding “Payesh“. All other rice puddings paled in comparison, until I met my first arroz con leche. Fragrant with citrus peel and made with Spain’s excellent short grain rice* it is far from the insipid turgid mass that I associate with most rice puddings.
Last week it was my turn to bring dessert into the office and I decided to give Payesh a go. What could bridge the intercultural culinary gap better than rice pudding? My vague recollection of how to make Payesh involved my Mum standing over a hot stove for hours. This obviously wasn´t going to work for me, so I surfed the net and pulled together a recipe involving a ton of cream and vanilla pods. How could it be less than stellar? With a hefty does of cardamom it might just even be better than Payesh !!!
It was a disgrace – and a pricey one at that.
So this weekend when I was visiting my parents I got my Mum to teach me how to make Payesh.
It wasn´t as arduous and time consuming as I thought. OK, it needs attention. You need to stir every 3-5 minutes, to make sure that nothing scorches or sticks to the pan. Don´t just give it a stir, scrape down the sides of the pan where the milk will collect and solidify. Also, it´s essential to use a large heavy bottom saucepan, and you must not use a non-stick pan. If you don´t have one, then give up right now. Make the chocolate cake from my last post instead.
Cardamom Rice Pudding
Serves 2 extremely greedy people
FULL FAT Milk: 1.25 L (no Melissa, you cannot use that insipid milk by-product that the supermarket fobs off on you as ”skimmed milk”)
Sugar: 4 tablespoons (have an extra 2 tablespoons handy as you may want to sweeten it up towards the end)
Cardamom pods: 4 – split them open along one side
Bay leaf: 1 (optional)
Rice: 2 tablespoons (don´t use a starchy grain, use an everyday long grain rice, or basmati)
Raisins and cashew nuts – a handful (feel free to leave them out)
Sweeten the milk with the sugar and bring to a boil over high heat, paying attention to stir every now and then. When it´s boiling throw in the spices and turn down the heat. You want to keep it at a gentle boil -the milk has to reduce by about two thirds. While you are bringing your milk to the boil, soak the rice in a a cup of water. Let the milk cook for about 10 minutes and during this time drain and re-soak the rice once or twice. Add the drained rice to the milk and keep cooking away. After 40-45 minutes you´ll reach an sort of pre-risotto point. It won´t coat the back of a spoon but the milk will have taken an off-white colour and significantly thickened. Throw in the nuts and raisins if using and take the pan off the heat. Allow it to cool and keep it in the fridge – it will thicken significantly.
*About the photo. Rice pudding is far from photogenic, and also I´ve left my camera at my Mum´s. So I have no photos of Payesh for you. Instead I thought I´d give you a shot of a bag of Calasparra rice, that I used in my first attempt at Payesh. If you ever stumble across this BUY IT, it´s the best rice for making paella. The plump round grains can absorb a lot of broth and can be cooked for a long time before going mushy.