Arroz Kon Leche (rice Pudding)
- 1 cup (200 g) Italian risotto or short-grain round rice
- 1 1/2 cup (350 mL) water
- 4 cups (1 liter) milk
- 3/4 cup (175 g) sugar or to taste
Serves 6. Put the rice in a large pot with the water. Bring to boil and simmer, covered, for about 6 minutes, or until the water is absorbed, watching and stirring so that the rice does not dry up and stick to the bottom of the pan. Add the milk, bring to the boil, and simmer on very low heat for 30-45 minutes, or until the rice is very soft and the milk almost absorbed (there should be some liquid left), stirring occasionally so that the rice does not stick. Stir in the sugar and one of the following flavorings and cook for a few minutes longer. Serve hot or cold, accompanied if you like with fruit compote. FLAVORING VARIATIONS: For a Judeo-Spanish version, flavor with a vanilla bean at the start of the cooking, or with a few drops of vanilla extract towards the end, and serve sprinkled with cinnamon. (Some people also add the zest of 1/2 lemon). An Arab version known as "roz bi halib" (rice with milk) is flavored with 1 tablespoon rose water and 1/2 teaspoon ground mastic stirred in at the very end. Mastic is a resin from a tree which you can buy in small grains or crystals in Greek or Oriental stores. You have to pound it yourself to a powder with a pestle and mortar, or wrap it in a piece of paper and cruch it with a hammer. It gives a marvelous flavor which Oriental Sephardim are very fond of, but you must use very little, for otherwise the taste becomes unpleasant. For a splendid Iranian version called "shirberenj," add 1 teaspoon ground cardamom and 1/2 teaspoon saffron powder or crushed saffron pistils. Use 1/2 cup (90 mL) honey instead of sugar. For a baked version, pour into an oven dish and let it cool, then pour over the top 1 beaten egg mixed with 1/2 cup (125 mL) milk. Bake in a 425oF (220oC) oven for 20 minutes, or until a brown crust forms. For a caramel version, heat 4 tablespoons sugar until brown, add 1 tablespoon water, and let it bubble, then pour over the pudding, making circular lines. Bake for 30 minutes and serve hot or cold. (In this case, use 4 tablespoons less sugar at the start, or you might find it too sweet). In Jewish Aleppo (Syria), a very thick, sticky rice pudding, made thicker by using less milk, was cooked with honey instead of sugar and eaten in bowls with milk poured over. It was called "brekhito".