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Slacker Saturday: Best Rice Pudding

19 Mar

I think Saturday is going to shortly become my recipe-posting day, meaning I have to come up with a food-related word beginning with S (Salty Saturday? Salivating Saturday? erm, that one’s a bit yuck). Luckily this one fits perfectly under Slacker Saturday because I have no pictures and this recipe is all about never having to leave the house.

It’s actually a beautiful day here in Wellington, and rice pudding is winter food; snuggly food; I-just-got-off-an-airplane-having-been-on-it-for-like-36-hours-and-I-have-a-horrible-cold-and-it’s-the-middle-of-winter food, that last set of circumstances being those under which I first jiggled this rice pudding recipe together. I wanted something I wouldn’t have to leave the house to make; something, frankly, I’d have to leave my *bed* as little as possible to make, so it had to be a boiled pudding rather than a baked one; something soothing and not overly-flavoured, without being dull. Not all that necessary on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in early autumn. But I’ve been craving this recipe all week, since the day I got caught in a rainstorm and showed up at work sodden, and today I finally had time to make it.

Best Rice Pudding
Or my favourite, anyway.

3/4 of a cup rice
1 1/2 cups water
pinch of salt
1 cup cream
3 cups milk
1 vanilla bean
1 cinnamon quill
Zest of half an orange
1/2 cup of sugar

A note on substitutions
I am ALL about substitutions in this recipe, because the “don’t leave your house” principle requires a flexible attitude. Here are some comments and subs for these ingredients:
Rice: I use arborio rice, if I have it. But you can make rice pudding with about any kind of rice. I’ve even seen recipes calling for basmati rice.
Cream: If you don’t have cream, this recipe tastes perfectly grand using four cups of whole milk, although it will be a little thinner until it’s cooled a little. However, it still tastes really rich.
Orange zest:  Easiest way to get this is to use a potato peeler, by the way. You could certainly substitute lemon zest here, probably also tangerine or hell, mandarin. I don’t know what effect using lime zest would have, but I sort of want to.
Vanilla bean: Vanilla beans are very dear, especially if you buy them from the supermarket – this is because it takes like eleven years to produce one. There’s no reason not to substitute a teaspoon of vanilla essence here. If you do decide to go with beans, you can avoid leaving your house (and save a ton of money) by buying them off TradeMe – I had a very good experience with willyow last time (oh gosh, browsing their listings, they sell dutch cocoa powder too – sighhhhh!) US readers can get them even more cheaply – frankly obscenely cheaply – on eBay.
Cinnamon stick: Cinnamon sticks are more affordable but if you don’t have them in your pantry – a teaspoon of ground cinnamon will do.
Sugar: Hey, brown sugar would probably be really tasty in this. Honey or maple syrup, too.

1.  In a large-ish pot, bring the rice, salt, and water to boil. Turn it right down, bung the lid on, and let simmer until the water has almost all absorbed.

2. Zest the orange. Slice the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds (ESSENTIAL for the I-am-a-food-snob-see-these-vanilla-seeds look), adding all to the pot. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a simmer. Let cook, stirring every ten minutes for the first twenty minutes and every five minutes thereafter, for forty minutes to an hour – until the pudding reaches the appropriate consistency (the time it takes to do this will depend on how fatty your milk is and, obviously, how you like your rice pudding).

3. Remove the zest and throw it away. Wash and dry the vanilla bean and cinnamon quill – you can use these again. A nice thing to do with the bean is grind it up and let sit in a jar with some sugar for a couple days to make vanilla sugar.

4. Pour or ladle into a bowl depending on how classy you’re feeling. Eat watching television.


Slacker Sunday: Tuna & Rice and Banana Choc Chip Muffins

6 Mar

I was going to save these up for a Friday, but I thought that in all good conscience I couldn’t really. Fridays ought to be saved for posts with my (crappy, but hey, I make the effort) food photography and recipes that are slightly more complicated than macaroni cheese. Instead, I thought to myself, these recipes – things I’ve made a thousand times, things it’s impossible to stuff up – are perfect for one kind of day: Sunday. The kind of Sunday where you’re a little bit hungover and a little bit tired and almost everyone in the house is still asleep at 1 pm. The kind of Sunday when it’s cold and rainy and you’d like to go down to the best festival in the world but, well, it’s still cold and rainy. And you’re maybe starting a new job on Monday and you’re a bit nervous and you’re worried about some friends in another city where things have been pretty shitty. And you’re hungry. So you should cook these things.

Tuna & Rice

Half a cup of raw rice (or more if you’re feeding a lot of 17 year olds) per person you plan on feeding, up to around three cups, maybe three and a half. This meal reheats well so you can go for a bigger quantity if you’re not sure.
Sandwich tuna in spring water or brine – two of the 175g cans is what I usually use to feed 5-6 people
Cheese, edam or tasty is fine, don’t get flash
Parsley, lemon, sweet thai chili sauce – optional
Breadcrumbs and/or tomatoes – optional

1. Preheat oven to 200 C (400 F). Make rice.

Sidebar on making rice:

Here is my favourite method:
1. Buy a rice cooker
2. Follow the instructions in the box
Here’s another method:
1. Half a cup of rice per person. Add twice as much water and two or three teaspoons of salt.
2. Bring to a boil very quickly, turn heat to very low, stir vigorously once, bung the lid on and leave for 15 to 20 minutes when the water has nearly all evaporated. Turn off heat, take off lid, stir up and let sit for a couple minutes.
There are lots of other methods, some people make it in the microwave, I think that tastes grainy, some people make it like pasta, I think that requires too large a pot. Here’s an actualfact: If you have never made rice before, you WILL burn it the first time or two you make it on the stove. Don’t worry about it! Most of the rice will still be good. Leave the burnt stuff in the pot and soak the pot until it comes off, and you can serve the non-burnt stuff. This is not Classy Cookery, I know, but it works and that’s what counts.

2. Make a white sauce.

Sidebar on white sauce:

A white sauce is the basis for Bechamel sauce, cheese sauce (the kind you put on cauliflower!), and heaps of other stuff. It’s a really good thing to be able to make, ideally without too many lumps. Here is how you make it:
1. Melt a lump of butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. How much depends on how much sauce you want, probably you want around two tablespoons.
2. Add an equal quantity of flour, plus a pinch of salt and a couple grinds of pepper, and keep heating, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.
3. Slowly add 1-2 cups of milk (blue top is best although I have made it with yellow top – that’s full-fat and calci-trim for those people playing in the USA). I SAID SLOWLY. Add a small splash, stir it in, add another small splash, stir it in, keep doing that until it’s all in. Now keep stirring constantly until the sauce thickens.

3. Remove pot from stove. Add to your white sauce a couple of handfuls of grated cheese (BAM! Now you know how to make cheese sauce!) and the tuna. At this point you might also want to add something more interesting: a couple of tablespoons of fresh parsley and the juice of a lemon, maybe. My brother likes to add sweet thai chili sauce. Mix it up, maybe onion fried until soft and translucent would be nice? Maybe soy sauce? Have a play. But also, if you just have the sauce and the tuna, that is fine too.

4. Wait til the rice is done. Mix the tuna sauce thoroughly through the rice and put the whole lot in a casserole dish. Now you can cover it with breadcrumbs, or slices of tomato, or grate some more cheese over the top, OR you could do all three! OR you could do something else! Bake in the oven for about twenty minutes, until the top is kinda crispy and the cheese is melty.

5. Serve with a green salad and a really comfortable feeling.

OK? Feeling all kinda cosy and snuggly and comforted? Me too. But maybe you want to take your soothing slacker eats to a whole new, totally sweet level. And also you have some bananas going kind of brown and unappealing in your fruit bowl. OH WHAT’S THAT, it’s the world’s most reliable banana chocolate chip muffin recipe!

Wendy’s Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Makes 12-18.

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (or more, or less) chocolate chips – my best recommendation is standard, cheap, dark chips you get in bulk bins.
100g butter, melted
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
2 or 3 bananas, crushed with a fork – as old and brown as you like. Remember if you see your bananas going off and you don’t have time to use them, you can pop them straight in the freezer and defrost when you want to bake with them.

1. Preheat the oven to 220 C (430 F). Grease muffin pans. This recipe makes between twelve and eighteenof the standard NZ muffin sizes, which I think is regular cupcake size in the US.

2. In a large bowl mix the flour, baking powder, salt  and chocolate chips.

3. In a smaller bowl, whisk the melted butter together with the sugar. Beat in eggs, one by one, and then carefully whisk in the milk, and then the banana. The banana doesn’t need to be mixed in all that well.

4. Pour the wet mix into the dry mix and fold gently until just combined. The classic Muffin Problem is the hard, overmixed muffin – this is something you can only get to grips with by making a bunch of muffins, but for the record if you do overmix, just eat your muffins straight from the oven or reheat them for 30 seconds in the microwave before eating and you’ll never notice.

5. Spoon a heaping dessertspoon of mix into each muffin cup. At this point my mother likes to top the muffins with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. I personally find that this creates a dry crust and I don’t enjoy the texture very much, but some people like it.

6. Bake muffins for 12 to 15 minutes, until they look, you know, cooked. You want them to be a light golden colour.

These muffins are DELIGHTFUL straight out of the oven, or cool, and they keep well for a day or two, but to be honest they’re not likely to last that long unless you live alone (if you do maybe you want to freeze them or something so you can take them to work?)

Alright. I hope you find this food soothing and warming. Be well! And slack!