It's rice pudding, but not as you know it

This is a beautiful dessert that is as reassuring familiar as it is exotic

Lilly Higgins’s chai rice pudding with orange-blossom roast rhubarb: as reassuringly familiar as it is exotic

Lilly Higgins’s chai rice pudding with orange-blossom roast rhubarb: as reassuringly familiar as it is exotic

 

I’ve been on a mission to keep rice pudding on everyone’s dessert radar. It’s comforting, delicious and so easy to make, not to mention cheap and nutritious. Its only negative can be how long it takes to cook, but I’ve solved that one: you can make my rice pudding on the hob, with minimum intervention, in just over half an hour. It’s a big promise, I know. But recently I did a cookery demo where I made this, and it got a great reaction.

For a traditional rice pudding I usually use a dash of vanilla extract and a handful of raisins (sacrilegious to some), but here I’ve used chai tea, which usually contains black tea, cinnamon, cardamom and ginger, to add some gentle spice and warmth. (When I make tea brack I soak my fruit in chai tea for an extra layer of flavour.) Paired with some gorgeous orange-blossom-scented rhubarb, it’s a real winner.

At this time of year, when it is plentiful, I usually roast rhubarb at the weekend and dip in to it all week

I use Ann Ahern’s raw Jersey cow milk. It’s organic, and about a third of the glass bottle’s contents is pure cream. My children love it, as does anyone visiting the house. It froths up beautifully for coffee and is incredible in porridge or for rice pudding. This rice pudding makes a lovely breakfast, so don’t feel you can only keep it for dessert.

At this time of year, when it is plentiful, I usually roast rhubarb at the weekend and dip in to it all week. It’s delicious with granola and yogurt or porridge. I’ve used sugar to sweeten it here, but I’ve also roasted it with honey quite successfully.

I bought three large bunches of rhubarb for €5 at my local farmers’ market. It grows well here in Ireland, so do look for it locally. Rhubarb-and-ginger jam is divine, and it makes a fantastic tart or crumble, especially when combined with strawberries. I sometimes pop a few slices of raw beetroot on to the rhubarb as it roasts, to stain it bright pink; it doesn’t affect the flavour.

I’ve used a little orange-blossom water here, but rose water is delicious, too. Just add it one drop at time, as it can be a little overwhelming otherwise. Scattered with flaked toasted almonds or pistachios, for crunch, this is one beautiful dessert that is as reassuringly familiar as it is exotic.

Chai rice pudding with orange-blossom roast rhubarb

Serves four

Ingredients
1tbsp butter
500g rhubarb, chopped into 6cm pieces
120g sugar
1 orange, thickly sliced
3-4 drops of orange-blossom water
100g toasted flaked almonds or chopped pistachios
150g pudding rice (arborio or paella rice are fine, too)
750ml milk
2 chai tea bags
3tbsp sugar

Method
Preheat the oven to 180 Celsius. Rub the butter around an ovenproof dish. Add the rhubarb, scatter the sugar over it, and then top with the orange slices. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Sprinkle with the orange-blossom water and leave to cool or keep warm.

Put the rice, milk, chai tea bags and sugar in a heavy-based saucepan. Bring to the boil on the hob. Turn down to a gentle simmer for 10 minutes. Remove and discard the tea bags, then stir the rice and leave it to simmer gently for another 30 minutes, stirring every so often to ensure it doesn’t stick to the base of the pan.

Spoon the rice pudding into bowls, top with some rhubarb and scatter with toasted almonds. Serve right away.

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