Dreams of North African rice pudding...

I finally felt like making the rice pudding that I thought I was craving when I was sick. I'm finally back to normal, and of course in need some dessert around, so last night I found myself stirring a pot of stovetop rice pudding that falls decidedly into the North African vein.

Many years ago, I got a LeCrueset tagine. In fact, I think it was my first piece in my growing collection, and fortunately it was red. I was shopping with my Mom at then Marshall Field's, and we saw an incredible deal on this piece of cookware. She bought it for me as a gift, but in classic Mom fashion, she made me wait to actually get it. That turned out to be a good thing, since Marshall Field's was also clearancing out Moroccan cookbooks, and I got one to daydream with in the meanwhile. I spent hours pouring over the recipes which at the time seemed so foreign to me. When I finally got the tagine, I felt fully ready to tackle a new genre of food.

Photo by Amazon.

The book was Cafe Morocco by Anissa Helou, and since its purchase, I have tried a number of the adventurous North African dishes it contained. I have since felt particularly interested in African cooking, especially how it combines combinations of French and Middle Eastern cooking. I also can not get enough of the spice combinations North African cooking employs: my favorites being my darlings cilantro, cumin and cinnamon. I love how, due to spice, the foods suggest sweetness without actually being sweet themselves, are most times vegetable heavy, and I love that most everything tastes best at room temperature.

This rice pudding is no exception. After patiently stirring and delivering it to a serving bowl, I tried it hot. I covered it with a towel and then tried it later at room temperature. For lunch today, I tried it cold - since it spent its overnight in the icebox. Without question, it was most superb at room temperature. The secret ingredient, orange flower water, tasted too much like a perfume when it was hot, but mellowed into sultry seductiveness at room temperature. There is something amazing about consuming food that is the same temperature as the mouth it's going into as well. It makes for an overwhelmingly calm experience.

Orange flower water can be a love-it or hate-it experience, but when permeating this silky pudding, even the lukewarm aficionado would declare true love... At least that is what happened to me. When I ate my little bowl after lunch today at gazed outside at the typical overcast and grey January day, I was clearly able to dream North African dreams, complete with spicy colors and aromas.

Moroccan Rice Pudding

This recipe is easily halved or doubled. As written, serves 4-6.

  • 3/4 c. short-grain white rice
  • pinch sea salt
  • 2 T. unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 c. milk (skim is fine)
  • 2/3 c. confectioner's sugar
  • 2 T. orange flower water
  • slivered almonds for serving

Put rice and 1 1/2 c. water in a medium saucepan with a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 12 minutes until the water is almost all absorbed.

Add butter, stir to melt. Turn heat to medium high and add the milk and sugar. When it comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium and boil, uncovered, for about 5 minutes stirring often. (There is cornstarch added to the confectioner's sugar, so boil a bit longer if you like thicker pudding, but also keep in mind that the pudding does thicken as it rests.)

Add the orange flower water and let the mixture bubble for a few more minutes. Pour into a shallow serving bowl, cover with a clean towel, and leave to cool. Just before serving, scatter the almonds over the rice. (Anissa also suggests sauteing blanched whole almonds in a bit of butter, but I prefer using raw slivered almonds since they have a finer texture.)

One last note: Anissa suggests rinsing the rice thoroughly before beginning. I did not rinse the rice since (according to Foods That Harm, Foods That Heal from which my Mom read to me over the phone) often there are minerals added to the exterior of white rice prior to shipping, and I felt the extra starch could only lend additional silkiness to the finished pudding. I think I was right in omitting this, since my finished pudding was so silky and smooth.

I think I'm forever through with heavy baked rice puddings. You can actually feel the light permeating this stuff, and hopefully see a bit of it in the photo above. Not bad for a mere half hour at the stovetop...

Moroccan Rice Pudding on FoodistaMoroccan Rice Pudding