Wednesday, July 20, 2011

On Having Breakthroughs

When you cook at home as much as I do, you often find yourself craving specific restaurant foods. When you're also on a tight budget it can be hard to satisfy those cravings. Toss in being in a different city than you are used to and not having found "your restaurants" yet and you've got a sad combination of what feels like horrible deprivation. Luckily, though, I consider myself a somewhat creative person. I mean, how else do you describe someone who, as a child, fell asleep by telling herself stories.

So when the craving came for Indian Rice Pudding, I decided that I would have to figure out how to make it. I knew I wasn't going for a perfect replica... I was looking for something of a hybrid between a standard rice pudding that you might eat with a spoonful of jam in the center, and a thin, soupy, flavorful Indian rice pudding. I knew the flavor that always stood out was cardamom, but I also knew that there had to be another flavor in there that made it different.

And so, to the internet I went. I slogged through several rice pudding recipes before finding an Indian one. And then the lights came on. Of course! How could I have missed it. The ingredient was, of course, coconut milk. Fantastic, wonderful, delicious coconut milk. The staple ingredient that is always in my pantry for when my other half demands his regular curry fix.

So I set about making myself some rice pudding. I decided to use cardamom pods as I had no ground cardamom. I added milk to cooked brown rice, added in spice, some sugar, a can of coconut milk... after it was done I left it and went to work so that it could cool down. Later, when I got home, I picked out the cardamom pods, scooped up a bowlful of rice pudding and went to town devouring it. It was just what I wanted. Cold, texturally interesting, creamy and rich with all of the familiar spices I remembered. The use of brown rice instead of a white short grain was very interesting... giving it an almost steel cut oat quality that I greatly enjoyed.

Of course, biting down on the cardamom pod that I happened to have missed was not an experience I'm interested in repeating. I'm definitely going to have to add ground cardamom to my ever growing spice collection.

Indian Spiced Rice Pudding

The rice I use here is cooked long grain brown rice. This is an easily found staple in our house. Because brown rice takes longer to cook, I usually make a huge batch, portion it out, and freeze it. Then I thaw it for use. This is not everyones cup of tea but it works in our house. You can substitute pretty much any unseasoned rice here.

2 Cups Cooked Rice
1 1/2 Cups Milk
1/3 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 14oz Can Coconut Milk (I used light)
1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamom
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cardamom (Or a handful of cardamom pods but chew carefully!)
Pinch of Cloves
Pinch of Allspice
Pinch of Salt

Combine the milk and rice on the stove over a medium heat and simmer until the milk has reduced to the consistency of heavy cream (about five minutes). Be sure to stir often as the rice and milk can stick. Add the sugar and other spices and mix well. Pour in the coconut milk and cook for a further three minutes. If you're interested in a very thin rice pudding, stop here. If you want something a little more like a traditional rice pudding, keep simmering and stirring until you have the consistency you desire. Do remember that this will thicken when it has cooled. Taste as you go and adjust the spices as you choose. Everyones palate is different.
If you decide that you want this even thinner, just add a little more milk.
Best eaten completely cold from the fridge.

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