Try as you might, it’s impossible to ruin, or even sabotage, Delia’s recipe for this nostalgic dessert
ice pudding is like London’s East End: it’s changed a lot since I was little. When I was a child, the East End was a place where you might be robbed at knifepoint in broad daylight. Daylight robbery is still a day-to-day occurrence in east London, it’s just that now it happens in pop-up restaurants.
And so it is with rice pudding. When I was young, rice pudding was sweet, sticky, jam-packed with E numbers and came in a small plastic pot. It was, as it happens, the first dessert I ever had. It was a regular treat from our next-door neighbour, and it was a special one, as my mother’s idea of dessert was extra cucumber. Nowadays, rice pudding is sweet, sticky, but instead of E numbers there’s cinnamon, sultanas, and it comes in a miniature pint glass or some other god-awful receptacle.
Delia’s recipe for rice pudding is something in between the two, but definitely not something you’d expect to find in an egg cup in Shoreditch any time soon. The good news is that it is among the easiest recipes you will ever make. I tried to make it go wrong just to have something to write about, and honestly, I failed: Delia’s recipe for rice pudding is not just idiot-proof, but sabotage-proof.
The bad news is it involves something called “pudding rice”, which I had honestly never heard of, but everyone else in the world – colleagues, partner, random passers-by – seems to be intimately familiar with. I know this because when Delia asked me to buy “pudding rice” I complained to my partner that I was going to have to shell out at Whole Foods or some other obscure shop and she laughed at me for at least half an hour.
Feeling wounded, I phoned home and asked mother if she had heard of “pudding rice”, because I certainly hadn’t, and she laughed at me before breaking into uncontrollable sobs and saying “I have no son” over and over.
RThen I asked people at work if they’d heard of pudding rice, but I may as well have asked if they’d heard of milk.
Eventually I went to my local corner shop, where, troublingly, the pudding rice is right next to the rice I have been buying for the past three years. Clearly, I have pudding-rice blindness.
If, like me, you have never heard of pudding rice or perhaps you feel that between risotto rice, basmati rice, brown rice and salted caramel rice (I made that last one up, but it can only be a matter of time), you have too much rice in your house as it is, you may wonder if you need pudding rice. To answer that question, I decided to experiment with different varieties of rice other than pudding rice, and I learned the following two things. First off: brown rice has many uses, but if you use it to make rice pudding, terrible things will happen. The second thing I learned is that flavour-wise, risotto or basmati rice will work just as well, although risotto rice pudding has the texture of a particularly robust milkshake, rather than a pudding. It’s slightly easier to make rice pudding with pudding rice and if you are making Delia’s recipe for the first time or attempting to make your own version of it, I’d start with that, but it’s not essential.
Anyway, now I need to invest in a couple of miniature pint glasses: we have people over and I said I’d serve them rice pudding.