NEW WORLD RICE PUDDING.
Every country in Europe and Latin-America claims this lovely pudding as their own, but some historians say this was a dessert known since ancient times in Babylonia. There, they cooked the rice in goat´s milk and sweetened it with honey and dates. From this part of the world it found its way to the Middle East, and the Arabs introduced it in Europe, maybe through Spain in the Middle Ages.
The Spanish conquistadors brought to South America their Arab cooks and recipes, along with sugar, rice and milk, unknown to our continent before them. The simplicity of this pudding conquered the hearts and the palates of the people, especially because of its intense sweetness. Needless to say, Peruvians are, and have always been fond of everything sweet. Since then it is a staple in every household, in pastry shops and restaurants, and street vendors all over the country sell this comforting and delicious dessert in plastic cups, always warm, especially during the winter.
To this basic recipe you can add raisins, grated coconut, dried apricots, Cointreau, Rum, Amaretto or Whiskey instead of vanilla essence. Put a spoonful of aguaymanto (golden berries) or sauco (elderflower) marmalade before serving, or do what Peruvians do and serve it in the same glass with Mazamorra Morada (purple corn pudding), another of the most popular desserts in Lima.
Our version of this pudding is easy to make. I recommend Arborio rice but you can use whichever you have at hand except converted or parboiled rice. These simply won´t work here because you won´t get the right texture. Forget it. Arborio rice is starchy and the final result will be succulent and creamy. The perfect texture is creamy once cooled. If you cook it too long it will then become solid, too thick to be enjoyable and it will lose all its charm.
You can make the changes that you fancy and can multiply the recipe. You won´t regret it if there is rice pudding around for a couple of days, maybe it won´t last that long.
Arroz con Leche (Serves 8 )
4 cups regular milk
2 cups evaporated milk
1 cup water
2 cinnamon sticks
The peel of one lemon
1 cup Arborio rice
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 teaspoons powdered cinnamon
*In a heavy saucepan put the regular milk with the cinnamon sticks and the rice, cook over low heat without cover, stirring frequently and taking care that the milk doesn´t boil over.
*When the rice is soft (about 25 minutes), add the evaporated milk, water, sugar and lemon peel. Continue cooking over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until it is slightly creamy and soupy (about 30 minutes). Don´t let it dry too much, the mixture will become thicker as it cools because the rice will absorb most of the liquid.
*Remove from the heat and fish out the lemon peel and the cinnamon sticks. Add vanilla essence.
*Pour the pudding in cups or glasses or in a nice container. Dust with powdered cinnamon and serve. Can be refrigerated and eaten cold.