Thursday 6 January 2011

Rice pud

Rice pudding is a dish full of memories for me. The best of all was at school in the sixties. The fifth form girls waited on everyone else at lunch time, dragging trolleys out of the kitchens loaded with piles of plates and dishes of hot food. The rice pudding the girls ate was nothing to write home about - sweetened rice and water - but the staff always had the option of a real rice pudding as dessert. The girls on waitress duty ate after everyone else, and if there was any staff rice pudding left, there were squabbles over it. Cooked in the bottom of the oven for at least two hours, it had a hide like a rhino, a creamy texture and you could stand a spoon up in it. The real deal!

Going fast!

Also from my childhood - Sunday lunch always finished with a tin of Ambrosia Creamed Rice between the three of us. Pleasant, but no skin (the best bit).

Rice pudding was on the menu at the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital in Birmingham, only a few miles from my old school, when I was in for an operation a few years ago. I was really looking forward to that pudding, having not eaten for 24 hours before the operation, then being unable to keep any food down for another two days after the anaesthetic. Horror! It was sweetened with aspartame. Misery! Worst taste in the world!

At school, we girls all studied "domestic science". Everything - measures, temperatures, techniques - was exactly prescribed. It's engrained now - I find it really difficult to sling in a bit of this and a bit of that, or to measure using cups or coffee spoons. "A teaspoon" of something is 5ml, and "a tablespoon" is 15ml. These little measures come as a set, on a ring. I got my first set at the age of 11, when the manufacturers of Stork margarine gave a cookery demonstration. I still have them nearly 50 years later. Yes, I'm brainwashed. But I'm fighting it! It's rarely important for such precision to be at all necessary.

The changes in the recipe for rice pudding in our three copies of the Good Housekeeping Cookery Book (GH) reflects the changes in cooking technology over the years, and the relentless rise of the exact measure. Tim's 1954 edition speaks of "a slow oven" - no gas marks or degrees, neither fahrenheit or centigrade. I got the 1965 edition in 1969, when I went to college, entirely in imperial weights and measures and fahrenheit. The 1976 edition in the longère kitchen dates from the interim period when direct translation of imperial into metric, rather than a truly metric recipe, was the norm, with unintentionally hilarious results. So the 1976 GH recipe starts off nicely metric...
45 mls round grain rice (three tablespoons)
30 mls of sugar (two tablespoons)
568 mls of milk (a pint - come on now! I haven't got a burette, should have nicked one from the chem lab when I had the chance)
Freshly ground nutmeg
A knob of butter

Heat the oven to 150 degrees centigrade / 300 Fahrenheit (we're doing OK)
Butter a 900ml ovenproof dish (that's a 1½ pint dish, can you find a 900ml one?).
Wash the rice and put it in the dish with the sugar. Pour on the milk (that's unpasteurised full cream milk from La Borde), top with shavings of butter and grate some nutmeg on the top. Bake for about 2 hours, stirring after half an hour.

Eat on its own or with jam, honey, bottled fruit .. also delicious cold. Serves four.

PS that pie dish is a whole blog entry in itself - we have a Grimwade Patent Perfection pie dish which does the job nicely.
PPS GH has recipes for both rice pudding (baked) and creamed rice (cooked in a saucepan on the hob). Ken's scrumptious recipe for gâteau de riz is therefore based on creamed rice, not rice pudding!


Jean said...

Brilliant post !!

Rice puddding is my all-time favourite pud and both my grandmother and mother made it perfectly, just as you describe, almost solid with a golden skin on the top. I could never understand why it was only me that spent at least five minutes picking the remnants of the skin off the dish when it was all gone - still, at least I didn't have to fight my brother for it.

When I had an unfortunate and unscheduled three-week stay in a foreign hospital a few years ago, my mother welcomed me home of her best rice puddings as a special treat. It was heavenly. Nowadays I resort to eating tinned rice pud as Nick hates it (his mother was a terrible cook and it has unpleasant memories for him!!) - so I never make it.

Mind you - he's away for two weeks just now.............

Word verif is "sated" - which I would be if I had made myself a rice pud.

PS My old grammar school at Wirksworth made fabulous rice pud, also great trifle and crumbles. Happy days.

GaynorB said...

I was wondering whether we went to the same school, but the bits about the 5th form girls and Birmingham is a stumbling block, as I went to a mixed sex school in Wales.

I guess school rice pudding was the same pretty much everywhere! The rice pudding at my school now seems to contain sweetener instead of sugar, and leaves a very nasty aftertaste.

Like Jean, I like it really thick and not too creamy. My husband was brought up on rice pudding that you added evaporated milk to, which for me made it rather sloppy, and to my mind, inedible.

I rarely make it any more, but your post has inspired me to have another go.

Susan said...

It is an astoundingly polarising issue this rice pudding business. I grew up in a household that made thick oven baked rice pudding like you describe. Simon, on the other hand, grew up with what he calls rice pudding, but I am glad to see from your post is the distinctly inferior rice cream - no lovely skin, and way too sloppy.

Unknown said...

A great post.
We used to have both kinds of rice pudding when I was growing up. A wonderful thick baked pudding on Sundays when the oven was on for the roast, and my father used to make the stirred type mid-week whenever he had a rice-pud craving. He used to say the secret was to cook it slowly and to use just the right amount of sugar. I still do a stirred rice pudding from time to time... in fact I think I need one right now.