Rice pudding is one of those nursery desserts we all grew up with. It’s comforting, gloriously rich and soothing like a great big hug. Love it or hate it, rice pudding is one of our all-time much-loved classic desserts. I remember when I was at school, it was very normal to have school dinners (yes, I’m that old) rather than lunch boxes as is the norm today and rice pudding was a staple dessert along with semolina and tapioca pudding. It would be served warm with a dollop of raspberry jam, I really do feel ancient now!
So many countries and cultures have their own version of rice pudding such as Kheer from the Indian subcontinent. This is essentially rice being very slowly cooked in milk and sugar or jaggery which is the common form of sweetener (unrefined sugar) used in Indian and Asian cooking and flavoured with a variety of delicate spices and textures such saffron or cardamom and pistachios, even rosewater and dried rose petals. Rosewater though is a very Middle Eastern flavour and it appears in many desserts from that region including the Mediterranean.
Middle Eastern rice pudding is very rich with the addition of cream, lots of rosewater, sometimes dried rose petals and pistachios. In Italy, it is called Budino di Riso and has the addition of raisins, cinnamon, vanilla and maybe even a little marsala wine, and rather unusually, eggs so it becomes quite custardy. Italians also use rice in desserts and cakes and the most common is an Italian rice torte or Torta di Riso alla Carrarina from Tuscany which has a crème caramel-like brulee topping. My all-time favourite version of rice pudding is what I grew up with, made the Cypriot way using fragrant orange blossom water or rosewater and lots of cinnamon, it’s my childhood on a plate. We call rice pudding Rizogalo which means rice/milk and can be served warm or cold, I always leave the cinnamon stick in the pudding as it carries on flavouring the rice once made. I even have it for breakfast, nice and cold straight from the fridge with a big dusting of cinnamon and an extra drizzle of rosewater. I make it for my family and they too love it just as much as I do, and I hope you will too.
Always get your ingredients ready:
Simmering the rice first in water until the water has been absorbed.
The rice should look like this once water has been absorbed.
The rest of the ingredients are then added, sugar, cinnamon stick, milk, cream apart from the orange blossom water or rosewater (whichever you’re using) and simmered slowly stirring frequently.
The rice pudding is ready in about 20 minutes, put a lid on and leave alone. The great thing is, the rice continues cooking and absorbs about 50% of the milk so you’re left with a rich not too runny porridge-like consistency. Leaving the the cinnamon stick in continues to permeate the rice adding a lovely subtle spicy warmth. Enjoy as it is, warm or place in the fridge to enjoy whenever, I eat it for breakfast! Keeps for two days covered in a fridge.
Authentic orange blossom water can be bought from Greek delicatessens many of which are located in North London. An example is Despina’s Food Store at 456/458 Bowes Road, London, N11 1N.
Specialist food stores such as WholeFoodsKensington have an extensive and diverse selection of multi-cultural food. If you’re local to Harrow/Pinner where I live, a small independent Asian grocer in Kenton Road, Kenton which used to be Cypriot owned, Savvas is now owned by an Asian family but they still stock Greek and Cypriot food for the local Greek community and it’s where I purchase my rosewater and orange blossom water.
Please don’t buy the stuff you can get in Waitrose and other supermarkets, it’s just a strong essence, this is not authentic blossom water or rosewater however rosewater can sometimes be found in the speciality section at Sainsbury’s. You can also purchase orange blossom water at Amazon.
Fragrant Greek Rice Pudding
The great thing is, the rice continues cooking once done and as it cools down. It absorbs about 50% of the milk so you’re left with a rich not too runny porridge-like consistency. Leaving the the cinnamon stick in continues to permeate the rice adding a lovely subtle spicy warmth. Enjoy as it is, warm or place in the fridge to enjoy whenever, I eat it for breakfast! Keeps for two days covered in a fridge.
- 200g short grain/pudding rice
- 500ml water
- 110g caster sugar
- 300ml double cream
- 900ml whole milk
- 1 stick cinnamon stick
- sprinkling of ground cinnamon
- 3 tbsp orange blossom water/rosewater
Wash the rice in water 2-3 times. Place rice in a big saucepan with 500ml of water and simmer gently stirring frequently so it doesn't stick. Should take about 15 minutes.
Once the rice has absorbed the water, add the sugar, milk, cream and cinnamon stick. Bring to the boil and simmer gently stirring now and again for about 20 minutes.
The rice should be done after about 20 minutes. It will continue to cook and thicken up as it cools down. It should look like slack porridge, it will have absorbed about 50% of the milk, then you know it's done. Leave the cinnamon stick in the rice and add about 3 tablespoons of orange blossom water or rosewater, both are lovely.
Can be served warm with lots of cinnamon sprinkled over or cold straight from the fridge. Add an extra little bit of fragrant rosewater or orange blossom water before serving if you like.
You can use either orange blossom water or rosewater, both equally as delicious. I use both, obviously not at the same time!!If I use rosewater, then the next time, I will use orange blossom water. I've added links to where you can buy authentic rosewater and orange blossom water in the post.