British Food Fortnight has now started and I'm busy plotting my own entry for my event which celebrates the best of British produce and the best of our culinary heritage. I'm still undecided as to what I should make but I have a few ideas bubbling away... Should I make something with our fantastic meats or fish or plunk for one of my favourite British desserts? I'm really looking forward to receiving your thoroughly British entries too and hope you'll think of joining in. In fact, I'm so keen for you to join in that I'm even bribing you with the promise of a prize for one lucky participant...!
I'm exceptionally keen on British 'nursery' puddings. Such puds are usually made from simple, inexpensive ingredients and are usually immensely comforting. Rice pudding more than most. Of course although I always think of rice pudding as being typically British, it is in fact popular the world over in many different forms. Its origins (unsurprisingly) are to be found in Asia. The traditionally British version of this creamy pudding involves baking the rice over several hours with milk and sugar and plenty of nutmeg. Usually, a good dollop of strawberry jam is stirred in before serving and jolly good it tastes too.
At least it does to me. They are an alarmingly high number of people who don't seem to like rice pudding. They baulk at the texture and the brown skin that forms on top. Not so in my family. There were frequent fights over who got the best bits of skin and to me, rice pudding without skin is like apple crumble without custard. Just plain wrong!
Rice pudding is a positively thrifty dessert in times of credit crunch too. I'm always astonished just how little rice you need to make a sensible sized pudding. I made enough for three and used just this tiny amount of rice (...which makes you wonder why they sell it in such large bags, does it not??)..
The key to a really good rice pudding (I think) is to use full-fat milk. Semi-skimmed just does not cut the mustard here. You might even like to add cream too. I don't, but then I'm a bit of a wuss when it comes to cream.
The simplest of rice puddings involves just pudding rice, milk and nutmeg. On this occasion though, I infused the milk with a few different spices. A little vanilla and a touch of cinnamon. And plenty of nutmeg freshly grated on top. It smelt (and tasted) heavenly. Sometimes I add cardamon too which is great if you serve some fresh (or dried) mango alongside.
Simple rice pudding
50g pudding rice
550ml full-fat milk
1. Pre-heat oven to 160C. Butter a shallow ovenproof dish. Pour in the the rice, sugar and milk and stir to combine.
2. Grate nutmeg all over the top and bake in the oven for 2-3 hours, until the skin is golden and the pudding creamy. After an hour, you might want to give the pud a quick stir before putting back in the oven.
I served my rice pudding with some seasonal fruit. Two bramley apples stewed down with a punnet of the juiciest blackberries. Delicious!
This much-loved of puddings is also the subject of one of my favourite A.A.Milne poems.... Here is the final verse...
'What is the matter with Mary Jane?
She's perfectly well and she hasn't a pain.
And it's lovely rice pudding for dinner again
What is the matter with Mary Jane?'