Jeremy Lee Hello, vanilla rice pud­ding

There are many ways to make a rice pud­ding, but none can beat our colum­nist’s fa­ther’s, baked in the oven and served with a blob of bram­ble com­pote ... home­made, of course

The Guardian - Cook - - Front Page - Jeremy Lee

If ever there was a pud­ding that could soothe it was a fine rice pud­ding. This recipe, for a bowl with nowt else in it but the seem­ingly small­est spoon­ful of rice, a dod of but­ter and a great jug of milk, to be then popped in the oven, is lit­tle short of mirac­u­lous. The re­sult­ing love­li­ness re­quires lit­tle else ex­cept, say, a rasp­berry jam – home­made of course. Fail­ing a fine pre­serve, per­haps a com­pote of fruits – in this in­stance bram­bles – or “black­ber­ries” for those south of Hadrian’s Wall – gen­tly cooked in some su­gar and a squeeze of lemon. Their bright sharp­ness are a per­fect foil for such a dish of good­li­ness.

My grand­mother made a rice pud­ding that was so white it made some­thing ap­par­ently in­no­cent seem sin­is­ter. Granny would never dream of poi­son­ing her fam­ily (or, not too of­ten) but that rice pud­ding stands out to this day as some­thing oth­er­worldly. I never knew how Granny made this whiterthanwhite pud­ding and never asked; I con­fess it was not a favourite. My dad, how­ever, made an ace rice pud­ding. It never failed to please and was mem­o­rable in that not a drop of milk re­mained in the bowl it was cooked in. It could al­most have been sliced. I know not how this was achieved apart from through many hours in the oven, but it al­ways tasted very good and we loved it.

I have cooked rice pud­ding on the stove and liked the re­sult well enough. I have eaten it cold and nurse a pen­chant for a spoon­ful of it stolen in a fridge raid. But af­ter many years of cook­ing it, I have reached the con­clu­sion, agree­ing might­ily with Si­mon Hop­kin­son, that the best rice pud­ding is baked.

I still have Dad’s rice-pud­ding dish, dropped off by my lovely sis­ter-in-law Poppy, and so thought it fit­ting to use to­day, with Si­mon’s recipe that uses ar­bo­rio rice.

Rice pud­ding

You will need a hand­some dish for bak­ing. You can find the recipe for bram­ble com­pote on­line.

Serves 6

50g 50g caster un­salted su­gar but­ter 150g ar­bo­rio rice 1.5 litres milk ½ vanilla pod, split length­ways 225ml dou­ble cream A pinch of salt

A whole nut­meg, grater to hand

1 Pre­heat the oven to 150C/300F/gas 2. Melt the but­ter in a heavy-bot­tomed pot over a gen­tle heat. Add the su­gar and stir for a minute, then gen­tly add the rice, stir­ring all the while. Cook this for a fur­ther 30 sec­onds.

2 Pour in a lit­tle milk – with care, as it splut­ters on con­tact with the heated rice and su­gar. Once the rice is loos­ened, add the re­main­ing milk and stir well. Add the seeds scraped from the vanilla pod. Pour in the cream, sea­son and bring the pan to a sim­mer. Stir well.

3 Tip all into a hand­some dish. Grate around half or two-thirds of the nut­meg over the sur­face, then put the pud­ding in the oven. Bake for at least an hour, check­ing now and again to en­sure it isn’t colour­ing too en­thu­si­as­ti­cally. Should this hap­pen, cover with tin foil. In this case, con­tinue cook­ing – this can take up to 30-45 min­utes longer. Bake un­til a skin forms, the sur­face is lightly browned and, when care­fully shaken, there is just a wob­ble. Re­move the pud­ding from the oven and let it cool. Best just warm, but not pip­ing hot.

Jeremy Lee is the chef­pro­pri­etor of Quo Vadis restau­rant in London; @jere­myleeqv

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