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Fierce Foodie: I’m Just Crazy About Saffron (Rice Pudding)


a blogumn by Roya Hamadani
Photo Credit: Harlan Harris

Photo Credit: Harlan Harris

I know I have developed an unhealthy obsession with a recipe when I make it four times in one week.  This rice pudding is dangerous, people, I warn you now.  One try is all it takes to make an addict.  It all started when my good friend Lisa wrote about her mother’s recipe for rice pudding on her e-blog, Long Way Home.  She and I decided to try and decipher her mother’s typed directions overlaid with hand written notes from the yellowed recipe card.  The result was delicious, as well as nostalgic for my friend.  There’s nothing quite like tasting something that you haven’t eaten since you were a child.

Baking gives this pudding an almost cake-like consistency; you can sink your teeth into it.  Besides its utter deliciousness, another reason I love this recipe is that it uses up leftover rice.  This is especially handy of you have at tendency to get take-out Chinese.  I also created my own variation that uses saffron and cardamom instead of cinnamon and nutmeg for a Persian feel.  I like the traditional version hot or lukewarm, and the saffron/cardamom variation served cold.  It improves vastly after a day in the fridge, if you can leave it alone for that long. (Recipe after the jump)

Southern Rice Pudding – 2 ways

2 cups cooked rice

2 cups milk

1 tsp vanilla

2 tbsp butter

¾ cup sugar

½ tsp lemon zest (the minced rind of a lemon)

3 eggs

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp nutmeg

1 tsp cinnamon plus more for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 325° and butter a casserole dish.  Mix the 2 cups rice with the 2 cups milk, 1 tsp vanilla, ¼ tsp nutmeg, and 1 tsp cinnamon.  In another bowl, soften butter and combine with sugar.  Add lemon zest and salt and mix well so that you make a butter sugar paste.  Beat 3 eggs until frothy and add to the rice mixture, then add butter sugar mixture.  Pour into casserole dish and sprinkle the top with cinnamon.  Bake for 1 hour or until set to a cake-like consistency.  The higher the fat percentage in the milk, the less time it will take to set.  A friend of mine used half and half instead of milk and it took one hour; I used 2% and it took 1 hour and 20 minutes.  For a variation, omit nutmeg and cinnamon and use 3 cardamom pods that you have lightly bruised with a mortar and pestle and 3 strands of saffron that have been soaked in hot milk for 5 minutes.  Add to the rice and milk mixture, and proceed as above.