Rice pudding is almost a universal spoon dessert. It is either cooked on a stove top or baked, eggless or eggy, bland or spiced. Rice pudding remains a comfort food that evokes sweet childhood memories across the globe. My personal predilection goes for the simpler and creamier one. This version of rice pudding contains no eggs, only rice, milk, cream, and flavorings. The subtle taste of spices in this dish comes from scalding the milk, and infusing it with warm spices, while the fluffiness is attributed to a mound of whipped cream folded into the cooked and cooled rice pudding. It is up to you to dress it up with a drizzle of salted caramel or a spoonful of jam. Yet, my favorite is a sprinkle of toasted vibrant pistachios.
The most memorable rice pudding experiences I had, were at two places: Hafez Mustapha, the renown bakery in Istanbul and at Lola’s. Lola, a beloved relative, was older than me, but we had a beautiful friendship. She was a generous soul, devoted wife and mom, unmatched hostess, and an exceptional home cook. I never had her recipe of rice pudding, so I improvised it, relying on my palate’s memory.
I post this recipe today to commemorate her memorial. She abruptly passed 10 years ago in a car crash, three months before my wedding, leaving a bitter void and a well of sweet memories and recipes. My kids who never got to meet her, will hear a lot about her at tonight’s dinner, when we have her signature rice pudding . God bless her soul, a real angel she was, who will always be remembered.
Lola’s Rice Pudding
Serves: 6 people
- 1/2 cup cooked short grain rice (also known as arborio)
- 2 1/2 cups full fat milk.
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 2 whole cloves
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons corn flour dissolved in 1/2 cup of milk (optional)
- 5-8 pieces mastic crystals, depends on their size
- 1 tablespoon orange blossom water
- 3/4 cup cream
- 1/4 powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 teaspoon rose blossom water
- Pistachios and organic Damask roses for garnish (optional)
- Cook the rice. Add 1/2 cup of rice to a 1 1/2 cup of boiling water for 15 to 20 minutes on medium-high heat. Don’t overcook the rice, so it stays firm and not mushy. Strain it using a colander and set it aside to cool down.
- Add the milk to a heavy-bottomed pan on a low heat. When it is warm add the sugar and stir it until it is all dissolved.
- Wrap in a piece of cheese cloth the cloves and cinnamon stick forming a small pouch. Tie the pouch with a kitchen twine. Add it to the milk-sugar mix and let the spices impart their flavors and aromas during the cooking process.
- Add the rice to the milk-sugar mixture, and keep stirring until the pudding thickens. You can speed up this process by adding 2 tablespoons of corn flower diluted in 1/2 cup of milk. Once the milk reaches the right pudding consistency, add the crushed mastic. Stir it for few more minutes until the mastic dissolves. Turn off the heat and remove the spices pouch.
- Add 1 tablespoon of orange blossom water and let the pudding cool down completely.
- In a hand or stand mixer, fitted with a whisking attachment, add 3/4 cup of whipping cream. Start beating the cream at a low speed first for 3 minutes, and then add the rose water, vanilla and the sugar. Increase the speed until soft peaks form. Keep the whipped cream in the fridge at least for a couple of hours.
- Fold the cold whipped cream into the equally cold rice pudding using a spatula, until all cream is incorporated.
- Serve it cold and garnished with toasted, crushed pistachios and petals of organic Damask roses.
- The rice should be barely cooked and not mushy before adding it to the milk. You don’t want to end up with a porridge-like consistency.
- Using uncooked rice in this recipe (something that I tried before), leads to a starchy texture rather than a creamy one.