My dad always used to say if you had an itchy nose it meant rice pudding for tea… goodness knows why! He had a lot of funny sayings! Mum often made rice pudding at home, and I never asked her how she made it, I guess in the most simple way, rice, milk, sugar; we had it just plain like that, no jam or syrup or anything else – although I think when we had those other milk puddings made from tapioca, sago and semolina we had a spoonful of jam plopped in the middle.

I’m going to make a rice pudding at the weekend, but I think I will add some spices like cardamom, all spice, nutmeg and maybe a teeny bit of cinnamon – I don’t like cinnamon very much but mixed with other things it’s fine! So what recipe? I think Mum would have used Mrs Beeton- 1 pint of milk, 3 tablespoons of rice, 1½tablespoons of sugar, salt and nutmeg; interestingly in the recipe I have in which was published in 1912 she says ‘average cost 3d (2½p – about £1.33 today) sufficient for 3 or 4 persons; NOTE – skim milk and ½ an ounce of butter or a level tablespoon of finely chopped suet may be used instead of new milk.’ 

In my favourite Indian cookery book, ‘Indian Regional Cookery’ by Meerea Taneja, there are quite a few rice pudding recipes – a simple one called payasam from Tamil Nadu made with rice, milk, jaggery or sugar and roasted cashew nuts, a similar one called pongal made with brown sugar, a pinch of cardamom and some ghee, and zaffrani chawal made with long-grained basmati rice not pudding rice, sugar, saffron, slivered almonds, pistachio nuts, green raisins, cardamom and decorated with edible silver – it sounds very grand and delicious and was traditionally served at the festival of Basant, celebrating spring. A very similar recipe from Gujarat is called doodh pak puri, and one from Orissa, meetha narial bhat using coconut (fresh) cardamoms, almonds, green raisins also sounds lovely – so does kamla kheer from Bihar which has mandarins in it – that actually sounds just the sort of thing to finish a meal! The variety of Indian rice puddings is no doubt endless, I imagine each mum has her own recipe – I have just spotted another, zarda from Kashmir with plenty of spices, saffron, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and lemon juice… another one maybe I could try… I will report back!

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