Now, I know there are lots of people who don’t like milk puddings, but bear with me here if you’re one of them.
Most food cultures across the world boast a milk pudding or 2 – rice pudding is the most widely found, but semolina, sago, tapioca all feature in various guises. For me a good milk pudding is one of the most comforting things in the world, especially as the weather turns and it starts to get wetter and darker. School dinners didn’t put me off – not even the particularly lumpy version of semolina pudding that my junior school served up. In my mind, it was only improved with either jam to stir in or brown sugar to sprinkle on the top (as I remember). As if that wasn’t controversial enough, yes, I LOVE skin. The skin that forms on top of a rice pudding (ditto custard). Nothing better.
To me, milk puddings soothe and comfort. They are reasonably economical and you can dress them up in many ways. They are brilliant with stewed fruit.
If you are still scarred by the trauma of school dinners, of rice pudding thick enough to paper walls with, 'soggy semolina (with or without sugar/jam), or frogspawn like tapioca, and if you have never enjoyed the soothing restorative effects of a homemade milk pudding, I urge you to try again (well, may be not the tapioca).
Now I may have failed dismally in my attempts to get my son to embrace another of my favourite comfort food, cauliflower cheese, but where milk puddings are concerned, I win. During a brief flirtation with an Annabel Karmel book when I started weaning Blue, I came across a recipe involving ground rice which has evolved and still makes a regular appearance on our teatime menu when I am in the mood to receive unadulterated mummy points from my kids. I cannot tell you how much they love this.
Ingredients: 1 ripe pear, quartered, cored and roughly diced, divided between 2 ramekins, 25g ground rice, 280 ml semi-skimmed milk, 1tsp caster sugar, sprinkling of cinammon
Method: Put the ground rice, sugar and cinnamon in a pan, and carefully stir in the cold milk to make a smooth paste, then put the pan on a gentle heat and bring slowly to a simmer stirring pretty much continually till the mixture thickens. Allow it to cook for a couple of minutes, then pour onto the pears and allow to cool a little (or a lot) before serving.
Baked rice pudding with plums – serves 4
Ingredients: 8 plums, stoned and halved, 25g soft brown sugar, grated zest & juice of an orange, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 star anise, 2 cloves, 65g pudding rice, 650ml milk, 25g caster sugar, ½ tsp vanilla extract
Method: Pre-heat the oven to 1500C. Place the plums cut side down in a dish, sprinkle over the sugar and orange zest, add the cinnamon stick, star anise and cloves, and pour over the orange juice.
In another dish, stir together the rice, milk, sugar and vanilla. Make sure all the grains of rice are stirred in.