Today would be a day that I would describe as the "typical" Autumn day. Not "the perfect" Autumn day … the typical one. Grey skies, leaves blowing here and there, quiet, and chilly, bordering on cold. A "perfect" Autumn day would have been basically the same, except the gray skies would be lightened by the sun.
As far as I know, there’s only one way to deal with typical Autumn days and that’s the application of a variety of comforting dishes to your stomach. Apply directly and as often as necessary.
As many of you know, Orchidea and I are hosting an event called "Dishes of Comfort" where we’ve asked bloggers to share a comforting dish with all by November 15th. It could be a dish from your childhood or perhaps a dish you learned to make when you first left home. Whatever the origin, it should be something that puts a smile on your face every time. I’ve already talked to you about le patatine fritte and how they are the very essence of comfort for me.
But another dish that does it for me every time is rice pudding. And this is most strange as I’ve only been eating rice pudding for about three years. I grew up eating rice and lots of it, but always in savoury dishes. I first heard about rice pudding from a close Swedish friend who explained that it was one of her husband’s specialties. Each Christmas, they would enjoy his stellar rice pudding.
Intrigued, I searched out recipes for rice pudding and tried many before I settled on one that made me happy to the core. I like it for two reasons: it’s easy and I don’t have to share it. Now there I go again, betraying my generous nature, but what can I do? We’re talking about hot milk, butter and vanilla sugar and plump grains of rice swollen with milky goodness.
Are you going to blame me for not wanting to share?
I learned to make this recipe from Nigella Lawson’s book Nigella Bites. The recipe is called "Stovetop Rice Pudding for Emergencies" and yields enough rice for one person. Say what you want about this woman, but she certainly knows how to indulge. And on days like today, I find it almost impossible to come up with reasons not to support her.
But today, in an attempt to expand my horizons, I decided to experiment a bit with my rice pudding so that I’d finally be able to participate in the Spice is Right event, which was originated by Barbara of Tigers & Strawberries with this round being hosted by exceptional Danielle of Habeus Brulee. The theme for this round is using a spice in a different way than you normally would. Well not only am I doing that, I’m using a spice I don’t normally use at all: cardamom.
The idea of using cardamom struck me when I stared at my screen and began drooling over the Fried Cardamom Cookies made by Gattina. I know almost nothing about cardamom so I began doing some research and was surprised to discover that it’s actually part of the ginger family and that in some parts of the world, it’s revered for its medicinal properties. Like most spices, it’s best and most powerful in its unadulterated form. In this case that would be the actual cardamom pod, but I wasn’t about to hunt out cardamom pods. Instead, I visited my local gourmet shop and bought a small amount of the freshest ground cardamom.
The aroma was heady and almost pungent, but pleasing. I couldn’t imagine tossing a handful of this spice into any food (as I often do with cinnamon … seriously), but I could imagine sprinkling in just the tiniest bit.
So as my rice pudding bubbled away, flecked with vanilla bean and slurping up the hot milk I kept adding to it, I blessed it all with the tiniest pinch of cardamom.
Heaven! And all for me!
Rice Pudding For One (with Cardamom)
Adapted from Nigella Bites by Nigella Lawson.
- 2-1/2 cups milk (the original recipe calls for whole milk but you can make it with any type of milk except skim)
- 1/2 a vanilla pod, split down the middle (if you don’t have a vanilla pod, then use 2 tsp. vanilla extract)
- 3 tbsp. butter, divided
- 1 tbsp. sugar
- 4 tbsp. arborio rice (or any rice used for risotto)
- an additional 2 tbsp. sugar or 2 tbsp. vanilla sugar if you have any on hand
- 1/8 tsp. cardamom (optional, you can also add more if you like)
- In a pan, heat the milk. As the milk heats, scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod and add to the warming milk. If not using the vanilla pod, then add the 2 tsp. of vanilla extract to the warming milk and stir.
- Just as the milk comes to the boil, turn off the heat.
- In a large, wide saucepan, melt 2 tbsp. of the butter with 1 tbsp. of sugar. As soon as the butter is melted and bubbling, add the rice and stir for 1 minute.
- Begin adding the milk to the rice, one ladle full at a time. Cook over medium-low heat, being careful not to scorch the rice. Stir constantly.
- As the milk is absorbed, add another ladle full of milk and continue cooking the rice.
- After about 20 minutes, taste the rice. If it’s plump and soft, then you know it’s cooked. If not, continue adding milk and cooking until the rice is done. If you need more milk, warm up some more.
- Once the rice is cooked and the milk has been absorbed, take the rice pudding off the heat and add the remaining tablespoon of butter, either 2 tbsp. of sugar or vanilla sugar and the cardamom if using. Mix well to combine everything.