It’s rice pudding, Jim, but not as we know it. This is a version of the Spanish arroz con leche and it’s delicately spiced with lemon zest and cinnamon. You can eat it warm or lightly chilled.
I like to serve it cold in small, vintage, glass punch or custard cups, with a crisp spicy biscuit on the side. It makes a gentle, fragrant end to a meal. It isn’t too overwhelming if you’ve over-indulged on the main and it’s something you can prepare in advance. Of course, if you prefer, you can ladle it into bigger bowls and tuck straight in.
Unlike British rice puddings, this is made more like a risotto, by the gradual absorption of the milk. You can add other spices, such as cardamom or star anise and substitute orange peel or zest for the lemon if you’d like to change up the flavours. Traditionally, bomba rice is used (the type you make paella with) but any short grain rice will work.
Spiced Rice Pudding
200g bomba rice
Around 1 litre of whole milk
1 cinnamon stick
The thinly pared skin of 1/2 an unwaxed lemon (minus any pith)
70g-100g golden caster sugar
Pour the milk into a saucepan, add the lemon peel and cinnamon stick and 70g of the sugar and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar has melted. Set aside at the back of the stove to infuse for a few minutes while you rinse the rice in cold water.
Put the drained rice in a second saucepan and add enough of the warm milk to barely cover it. On a low to medium heat, stir continuously until the liquid is fully absorbed.
Continue to add the milk, splash by splash, stirring each time until it is absorbed before adding any more. After about 20 minutes the rice should be tender and the pudding creamy and fragrant but keep testing until the grains of rice no longer feel chalky to the bite.
Check the seasoning, adding the remaining sugar if you prefer, and zesting in the rest of the lemon peel if you’d like it more citrussy. Bear it mind if you’re serving it cold, it will taste less sweet once it has chilled.
Eat straight away or spoon into small glasses or pots and cool quickly (an ice bath will do the trick) before covering loosely and refrigerating. Optionally, you can sprinkle a small pinch of ground cinnamon over the top just before serving.