At Christmas, rice pudding (we actually call it ‘rice porridge’) is a big deal all over Scandinavia. We eat warm, unsweetened rice pudding with cinnamon, sugar and a knob of butter the night before Christmas, usually, and on Christmas Eve we serve the pudding cold with a few delicious additions.
Scandinavians always make rice pudding on the hob/stovetop, never in the oven, and we don’t sweeten it because the toppings are sweet. This recipe makes enough for rice pudding for 23rd December – as well as dessert on Christmas Eve. If you only want to serve one of the two dishes, reduce the recipe by half.
It’s said that Scandinavian Christmas elves love rice pudding, so we always leave out a bowl for them as a thank-you for taking care of the house, farm and animals throughout the year. If you forget to do this, they will play tricks on you in the coming year (ever wondered why you can never find the remote control?)
Ingredients – Risengrød / Risgrynsgrøt
Serves 4 (plus 4 for dessert the day after)
400 g/2 cups pudding rice
2 litres/2 quarts whole milk
1 whole vanilla pod/bean
salt, sugar and/or vanilla extract, if needed
butter and cinnamon sugar, to serve
In a heavy-based saucepan, add the rice and 600 ml/21/2 cups water and bring to the boil for a good few minutes, then add all the milk and the vanilla pod/bean. Bring to the boil for around 5 minutes, stirring constantly to avoid the rice sticking to the bottom of the saucepan. Turn the heat down to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the rice is cooked through but not overcooked (around 25–35 minutes – do check). It’s important to keep a close eye on the pan as it can burn or boil over.
Once cooked, add a little salt to taste (never add the salt until the rice has cooked through). You can add a little sugar if you prefer a sweeter pudding or a few drops of vanilla extract.
The pudding may still be a little liquid when the rice is cooked.
Don’t worry as the milk will soak into the rice as it cools if using with the dessert. If you are keeping half of the rice pudding for the dessert and eating the other half immediately, reserve half in the fridge for the dessert and simply boil the rest with no lid for a little while longer until the rice pudding is thicker. Remove the vanilla pod/ bean once cooked and discard.
Serve the hot rice pudding in bowls topped with a knob of butter in the middle and a generous amount of cinnamon sugar sprinkled over (mix one part ground cinnamon with three parts granulated or caster/ superfine sugar).
Tip: If you are trying to reduce the fat in your food, you can use skimmed milk instead. The result is less creamy, but still delicious.
Risalamande/Ris à la malta/Riskrem – CHRISTMAS CREAMED RICE PUDDING
‘A loved child has many names’ is a Scandinavian saying that is apt for this dish – Danes adopted a French name meaning ‘almond rice’, while it seems Swedes misunderstood Danish pronunciation and called it ‘Maltese rice’. Norwegians rightly just call it ‘rice cream’.
50 g/3/8 cup blanched almonds
250 ml/1 cup whipping/ heavy cream
2 tablespoons icing/ confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar or extract
1/2 quantity of Rice Pudding, chilled
Roughly chop the almonds, except for one which must be kept whole.
Whip the cream with the sugar and vanilla until thick, then gently fold it into the chilled rice pudding. If the rice pudding is too cold and hard to fold, leave it out at room temperature for a while. Add the almonds, including the reserved whole one, and pour into your serving dish. Pop it back in the fridge until ready to serve with one of the sauces below.
Some people prefer a very creamy version, and some less so – you can vary the quantity of cream accordingly. The rice is served cold, while the sauce is usually hot.
The person who finds the whole almond wins a price, usually a marzipan piggy or a box of chocolate pralines.
The different toppings:
Apelsinsås – Swedish Orange Sauce
2–3 tablespoons orange juice 75 g/6 tablespoons sugar
2 oranges, peeled, pith and pips removed
When making the creamed rice pudding, add 2–3 tablespoons orange juice to the whipped cream before folding into the rice.
In a pan, bring the sugar and 100 ml/7 tablespoons water to the boil until the sugar is dissolved and slightly thickened, then take off the heat. Slice the oranges 5-mm/ 1/4 –in. thick, add to the warm sugar syrup. Add a few slices to top the ris à la malta.
Rød saus – Norwegian red sauce
250 g/2 cups frozen berries (raspberries or strawberries are good)
50–100 g/1/4–1/2 cup sugar, to taste
freshly squeezed lemon juice (optional)
Place the frozen berries in a pan with 100 ml/7 tablespoons water and sugar to taste. Bring to the boil, then simmer to let the berries break up. Whizz it with a stick blender until smooth. If it needs a little something, add a few drops of lemon juice before serving with the riskrem.
Kirsebærsovs – Danish Cherry sauce
1 heaped tablespoon cornflour/ cornstarch (or arrowroot, as this prevents it going cloudy)
2 x 300-g/101/2-oz. cans of black or morello cherries in syrup
1 teaspoon orange juice
2 tablespoons rum
Mix the cornflour/cornstarch with a small amount of syrup to make a paste. Bring the cherries and 250 ml/1 cup syrup to the boil in a pan, add the paste and stir. Boil for 1 minute to thicken, then take off the heat and add the orange juice and rum. Sweeten with sugar, if needed. Serve hot over cold risalamandes.
Recipe from ScandiKitchen Christmas by Bronte Aurell, published by Ryland Peters and Small. Photography by Pete Cassidy. RRP £16.99