It was an honour to be asked into the BBC News studio last weekend, to talk about the latest resurgence for rice pudding. One of the producers remembered I made a rice pudding in the MasterChef kitchen back in 2011. Actually I wasn't the only one to make a rice pudding that day. The series champion Tim Anderson (author, chef & owner of Nanban) also made a coconut rice pudding with a Hawaiian poki twist (and yes it was better than mine, as per, which is why he should probably be my nemesis rather than my friend). We cooked a dinner service for a dining room full of previous winners and finalists, with John Torode on the pass. It was the first time they had brought back previous winners and finalists, and the restaurant set up was fabulous. We were a big budget show back then!
I remember it was very exciting because it felt a bit like a restaurant kitchen (little did I know at that point). But it was a good introduction to timing and finesse. I made a chai spiced coconut rice pudding with mango coulis, caramelised pineapple with pistachio and a ginger tuile. Because let’s face it, it wouldn’t be MasterChef without a tuile! I remember Gregg said I’d been heavy handed with the nutmeg (which I no longer include in my chai spice mix) but James Nathan (2008 MasterChef winner) loved the pineapple and tuile. Looks so basic now compared to the 'plate art' we see now. But the flavours were banging and that's what counts most in the MasterChef kitchen.
After an early start last Sunday morning, and with some last minute prep and baking at 4am, I got to go into hair and makeup on arrival and they worked wonders on my poor tired face. Thank goodness! I joined Regula Ysewijn on the famous red sofa; a wonderful Flemish woman with a penchant for foodie history and author of a stunningly beautiful book entirely dedicated to British puddings.
Also known as Miss Food Wise, Regula provides us with a fascinating history to the much-loved rice pudding, it’s latest rise in popularity and even a medieval recipe to try. There’s some impressive food photography to enjoy on her website too.
For me, I think rice pudding is comfort food, pure and simple. And it’s crowd pleasing simplicity provides the perfect backdrop to whatever flavours you want to bring to the table. It can take some strong flavour too so don’t be scared to play around with spicing and flavours. Perhaps try Indian kheer with it’s gentle cardamom warmth. Or you could keep it traditional with vanilla and a slow bake to form that lovely crusty skin (I know some people hate this but I love it). Here’s a simple and classic rice pudding recipe based on Simon Hopkinson’s recipe, but with a little vegan healthy twist.
Coconut Rice Pudding
2 tbsp coconut oil
100g Arborio rice (or pudding rice)
50g unrefined brown sugar
2x 400g tin of good quality coconut milk
1 vanilla pod
1/2 tsp salt
Add the coconut oil to the pan, then add the rice and gently sauté on low heat until rice is well coated. Add the sugar and mix well, continue to heat gently so that rice swells slightly and the mixture is all sticky. Mix the coconut milk with the water in a jug and then add to the pan. Add the seeds of one vanilla pod and salt, mix well and bring to simmer. Pour into a small ovenware pot and grate some nutmeg on top. Bake at 140C for 1½ hours, until it has a light brown crust and the rice is soft and unctuous. Serve it with some raspberry jam if you like.
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