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 !!!

Silly Me.

It wasn’t.

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.

2 Responses to “Good things come to those who wait, and stir, and wait: cardamom rice pudding”
  1. Florence says:

    How did you find out about this rice, or: how many different kinds did you have to test in order to find out about this one? What would be the equivalent for your fans in other countries – would, in Germany for instance, the rice do that they sell as “Milchreis”? What kind of rice does your Mum use? Payesh sounds wonderful. I’m adding it to my birthday wishlist. I wish I could have a bowl right now.
    And I bet your colleagues at work never noticed that the payesh you served them wasn’t the real thing. How did they react?
    Would fruit compote be an addition worth thinking about? My mother-in-law made cheesecake with sour cherry sauce recently (recipe by Tim Mälzer), it was the first German cheesecake I could eat, and a far cry from the cupcake shop’s cheesecake that doesn’t require any addition but contains enough fat not to be dry.

    • Como Solo says:

      Hi Flo, my one and only “fan”! You were right, my colleagues didn´t notice. They were too busy oohing and aahing about the backup chocolate cake I made. Good point about the rice, actually what you need here is something that´s not too starchy. It will cook for a good 40 minutes, and a starchy rice will probably thicken it up a little too much. All of the thickening in this milchreis is done by evaporation, so I would go with a long grain rice rather than a traditional pudding rice, perhaps even thai jasmine rice would work. My Mum uses Gobindhobag chaal that she brings over from India especially, it´s a tiny fine grained rice, very aromatic. Sour cherry compote sounds yum, whether on a cheescake or rice pudding, and I think it would go very well. Indian desserts are often super sweet, I think to enhance the spices, so a nice compote on the side would be a great idea. So when are going to give Tim´s cheescake a go??? I think it sounds like a fantastic post…

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