I love rice pudding but the milky version can lie heavy on your stomach once the weather warms up. To tell the truth, this non-milk version, inspired by various Middle Eastern recipes, is just as solid and starchy but somehow – without that creamy note – it seems lighter.
Rice – 150 g
Demerara sugar – 100 g
Blanched whole almonds – 1 tbsp
Unsalted shelled pistacchios – 1 tbsp
Pinoli – 1 tbsp
Lemon – one quarter
You’ll need to find a good, starchy, round pudding rice. I use riso originario. Rinse the rice and put it in a saucepan with one litre of water and a few filaments of saffron or half a tsp of the powdered type. Bring the water to the boil then turn the heat down very low and let it simmer gently for 20 minutes or more, until the rice is swollen and nicely soft. Exactly how long it takes will depend on your rice.
While the rice is cooking, put the sugar in a small saucepan with 200ml water plus the juice and grated rind of the quarter lemon. You can vary these ingredients considerably. Stick with 100g of sugar and you’ll get a result which is sweet without being overwhelmingly so; if you prefer something very sweet, you can use anything up to 250g (yurk!). For an extra note of tartness, use half a lemon. Or leave the lemon out completely and use rose water or orange water for a more perfumed effect. Shake in a dash of cinnamon, and bring the water to the boil, stirring, until the sugar dissolves.
Pour the hot sugar syrup into the cooked rice and continue simmering the mix over a low heat until most of the water is absorbed and you have a sticky glutinous mass – about 15 minutes or more, depending on the rice.
As it bubbles, roughly chop all the nuts together and toss them briefly in a dry frying pan to brown them slightly. When the rice mixture is ready, mix the nuts into the rice, then pour it all into a serving dish.
You can eat this sticky rice pudding hot, or refrigerate it and eat it cold, in slices. It will keep in the fridge for several days. It’s especially good served with a dollop of plain Greek yoghurt on top.
© Anne Hanley, 2011