Sweet Beginnings – Cardamom Pistachio Rice Pudding
I start my blog with something sweet, a gesture that I grew up with, an expression to invite sweetness in whatever new you approach. Hope this venture of mine brings a lot of sweetness and simplicity in our culinary adventures. I invite you, my readers, to celebrate food in its pure and simple form.
Rice pudding is a humble dish, consisting of just three primary ingredients: rice, milk and sugar. People around the world enjoy this in some shape or form—baked, slow cooked or steamed, but the end result is deliciously divine. Any variety of rice–long or short grain, white or brown can be used. A few strands of saffron gives it a very distinct flavor and the complexity of a gourmet delicacy. Any combination of nuts and dried fruits can be used too. It’s matter of personal choice. It can of course, be accented with flavors of your liking. Let your imagination guide you. But ultimately, it’s a comforting bowl of flavor and depth.
For me it’s a bowlful of memories of my childhood and smell of home. Simple indulgence of sweetness! I acquired the know how of this creamy and luscious yet very simple dessert from my mother who used to prepare it with a lot of love, singing in her kitchen. I am passing it down to my daughter who is notoriously fond of this sweet treat and can’t have enough of it. She expresses her fondness of it like this:
“Rice pudding? Dumpy, old rice pudding? The kind that’s heavy and slodgy? No, no, no. Think floral, pretty, light, so white that it makes you think of clouds, and smile. Mom said she made rice pudding. Yipeee! And I’m on the way to the fridge to sneak a bite. Ofcourse, I can’t hide it. The more spoons, the less left in the bowl, and that means, I’ll be hearing, ‘You ate it again!?’ Yes, sorry, mom. But, I love rice pudding. Partly because it’s that intoxicating scent of cardamom, partly it’s that comforting taste that I grew up with. And most of all, because my tummy never knows when to stop. I like mom’s rice pudding. That’s it. Period.”
Cardamom: A Fragrant Luxury
The flavor that I would like to highlight today is cardamom. This spice is the soul of various Indian desserts. Its intoxicating aroma fills the house. There are three types: green, black, and white. Green cardamom is the most desirable one and is used in sweet and savory recipes that are delicate whereas black cardamom is used in savory recipes and has a little smoky flavor. White cardamom is used in baking. This fragrant spice is available as seeds and ground, but it is better to buy it in its pod as the seeds retain their flavor and freshness. The seeds can be ground with a mortar and pestle, as desired.
5 cups whole milk
½ cup Basmati rice, rinsed
6 pods cardamom, ground fine and skins discarded
½ cup sugar or to taste
20 pistachios, chopped for garnish
Heat milk in a large heavy-bottom pan. Add rice and cardamom and bring it to a boil stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to very low simmer and cover partially, leaving the lid a little open and keeping an eye on it so the milk does not boil over. Stir every few minutes scraping the sides. Cook for 50-60 minutes until rice is cooked and the consistency of the pudding is creamy. If it is too thick for your taste, add a little more milk; and if it is runny, cook for a little longer (though it will thicken as it cools).
Add the sugar and cook for another 2-3 minutes stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved. Adjust sweetness to your taste. Pour it in a bowl and let it cool at room temperature for 15-20 minutes before refrigerating. To avoid a thick film from forming on the top in the fridge, cover with plastic wrap, placing a layer of the plastic wrap directly on the pudding.
Before serving, garnish with pistachios.
ENJOY THE SIMPLE SWEETNESS OF LIFE!