If there is a dessert that we all grew up with, it is rice pudding. Versions of it are found in every country and culture on this planet. Sweet, rich and simple, rice pudding is the ultimate comfort dessert.
Rice pudding was thought to have originated in either India or china, both countries having the oldest history of cultivating rice, where it was served as a sweet porridge. It achieved fame in the old English courts where imported rice from India was expensive and could only be afforded by the rich. Today, it is cheap and simple, the go to dessert in many a culture and household. However, dont let this fool you from the complexity, diversity and joy of this dessert.
This version from Turkey is super simple to make and absolutely different from the common versions found in India and other cultures. The soft rice is folded into a rich cream that is scented with rose water and topped with chopped dried apricots and walnuts and fresh pomegranate seeds. The fresh fruit and nuts add a wonderful texture and brightness to the dessert. I realize trying to tell an Indian about rice pudding (Kheer) is like trying to sell ice to an eskimo, but this dessert is probably better than most that I have ever had.
This is an amazing cookbook by a British chef who specialized in cuisines from the Middle East and across Turkey. This book is filled with recipes for kebabs, stews and other Turkish favorites, as well as, some more contemporary dishes. Everything I have cooked from this book has been fantastic, this is one of my favorite Turkish cookbooks.
For more wonderful recipes from this cookbook, click here.
2/3 cups basmati rice
1 3/4 cups water
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 1/4 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sugar, or to taste
3/4 -1 teaspoon ground cardamom
A few drops rose water
3/4 cups pomegranate seeds
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/3 cups walnuts, lightly toasted
Rinse and cook the rice in the water on a slow flame till the rice is cooked through and all the water is evaporated. You want the starches to remain to thicken the cream. Set aside.
Add the cornstarch to the milk and cream, mix in the sugar and ground cardamom and bring to a slow boil using a whisk to mix in the corn starch. Turn down the heat to a gentle simmer and whisk the milk mixture continuously till it is thickened to the consistency of heavy cream, about 10 minutes. You need to whisk continually so that the corn starch does not clump. When thickened, strain through a fine mesh strainer to remove any lumps that may have formed. Add the rose water and mix in. Taste and make sure the flavors are balanced and you get hints of the cardamom and rose water. Set aside.
Chop the prunes and walnuts into small pieces and mix together. Keep the pomegranate seeds separately.
To serve: I like to assemble the dessert right before serving to get the consistency correct and keep the nuts crunchy. Adjust the consistency of the cream mix to that of heavy cream, it sometimes tends to thicken due to the corn starch, and add the rice. Mix well and make sure the consistency is to your liking. Pour into a bowl or small glasses or wine glasses. Top with the chopped nuts and fruit and pomegranate seeds. Sprinkle a generous pinch of cinnamon and serve immediately.