riz au lait (french rice pudding)

serves 4-6

Happy Wednesday! Today’s recipe is a real favourite, which I was lucky enough to eat for the first time in Paris with my lovely Pog several years ago. You know the whole thing with that book ‘French women don’t get fat’? Well apparently (please correct me if I’m wrong) traditionally French women tend to feed their children a lovely well-rounded diet using smallish portion sizes, and low on ‘naughty’ treats. So the kids grow up (the men apparently more so – no idea why) with a passion for one of the few comforting desserts on offer ‘riz au lait’ (rice with milk). Whether true or not, I love this version of rice pudding made with risotto rice for extra creaminess, flavoured with fragrant vanilla bean and served luscious and creamy with a topping of crunchy golden praline walnuts and sweet salty caramel sauce…it is basically like a big squishy hug in a bowl. It is also, equally good served hot or cold – but if you serve it cold, fold through the whipped cream before refrigerating to stop it setting like a rock, and remove from the fridge 15 minutes before serving.

Annnd, oh my God I feel so incredibly lucky to have had Henry staying for the last week before flying out yesterday to begin his grand adventure in Italy. (42 minutes until he arrives in Doha en route to Italy according to Mr Flight-tracker). I feel so invigorated by his visit – we had a huge amount of fun eating out and at home, heading to the Comedy Festival, poking around the shops in our favourite spots, hitting the mat at yoga and, hilariously, the games arcade in town where we laughed ’til we cried. I am so proud of him and incredibly grateful for his love and friendship – I know this trip will be a wonderful experience – woofing (organic farming) through Italy and England, meeting up with Rich and I in Croatia (more on that later), then culminating with several weeks of romance, sunshine and azure seas with the gorgeous Will in Greece…I’ll keep you posted along the way, but if you’re keen to see what he is up to ‘in person’ you can follow his adventures via instagram here. 

My other big recent treat was a flying visit to see my lovely Hoob in Welly – and to visit the war museum exhibition created by the renowned Peter Jackson. Visitors are taken to the trenches at Quinn’s post through a physical recreation of their environment and cleverly incorporated films which appear like holograms, where the soldiers interact, tell tales and urge you onwards. Look out for one of the first strapping young soldiers, bare-chested and gorgeous, getting rid of bugs from his shirt with the tip of a lit cigarette…that’s my Rich!!! If you’re heading to Welly it is definitely worth a visit – and the details are here. As always it was so bloody wonderful to see him, albeit briefly, working hard, recovering from his basketball ankle injury, beleaguered with a rotten cold unfortunately but still dishing out bear-hugs and big smiles.

Right then, I can’t linger in bed any longer – stuff to do! Have a great day, and I hope you have the opportunity to give this luxurious rice pudding a whirl – it truly is delicious, and nothing like grandma used to make, unless grandma was French of course…

4 cups whole milk
1 vanilla bean
¼-1/3 cup sugar (more for sweet-tooths)
1 cup Arborio or other risotto rice
½ cup cream, softly whipped

Put the milk in a medium size heavy based saucepan. Split the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds. Put both pod and beans into the milk. Add the sugar, whisk to combine and heat together over a medium heat until just simmering. Add the rice and cook over a gentle heat, stirring occasionally, until the rice is soft and creamy, about 35 minutes. Serve the rice pudding toppped with a little whipped cream, a drizzle of salted caramel sauce and a crumbling of walnut praline.

salted caramel sauce:

makes: 1 cup

3/4 cup caster sugar
2 tablespoons water
200mls cream
1 tablespoon butter
½ teaspoon sea salt

Put the caster sugar and water together in a pan and whisk to start the sugar dissolving. Cook, without stirring over a medium heat until the mixture has crystallized, then turned a transparent light golden color. While the sugar is caramelising microwave the cream for about 30 seconds so that it isn’t being added cold. Whisk the cream into the sugar (it will froth up madly, but just whisk hard until it is all incorporated). Add the butter and salt, whisk to combine then store in a jar once cooled. To re-heat, pour the caramel sauce into a jug and microwave in 30 second bursts.

walnut praline:

½ cup caster sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 cup walnut halves

Put a square of baking paper in a flat, sided dish and sprinkle in walnut halves in an even layer. Put the caster sugar and water together in a pan and whisk to start the sugar dissolving. Cook, without stirring over a medium heat until the mixture has crystallized, then turned a transparent light golden colour. Keep an eagle eye on the caramel so that you don’t miss the magical point between golden and rich, and black and bitter. As soon as you have a golden amber liquid pour it over the walnuts to coat. Once the praline is cold you can smash it into chunks with the end of a rolling pin, or for a fine praline powder it ca be whizzed in a food processor – up to you whether you like your praline chunky or fine!

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