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  • This rich, heavenly dessert matches brilliantly with a glass of port.
 

Beat The Bland

Think you don't like rice pudding? Think Again.

By Kara Wille

A few years ago, I was a guest at a dinner to celebrate that season’s harvest. We sat outside on a terrace overlooking the vineyards in the slanting, golden autumn light and enjoyed an extraordinary meal by one of the area’s finest chefs. Whose food I don’t remember at all.

The reason? One of the guests, Maria Oliveira, a grape grower originally from Portugal, had brought the most lusciously simple dessert to share with the group. Maria described her concoction as rice pudding, but it was completely unlike any rice pudding I’d ever had before. This was not the bland coagulation found in high school and hospital cafeterias, no, this was Arroz Doce (sweet rice) a rich, golden, custardy, heavenly dessert.

Liberally flavoured with lemon zest and finished with cinnamon, Arroz Doce has a lovely festive quality, especially when enjoyed with a small glass of port. Once you taste it, you’ll understand why Maria’s mother only made this special rice dessert for special occasions like Christmas or weddings. Its tangy golden flavour will make you want to serve it weekly, but with such generous measures of sugar and whole milk, it’s probably best kept for special occasions.

So...perhaps it’s time to start inventing more frequent special occasions?

Maria’s Arroz Doce
*Chef’s note: While the lemon zest cuts the sweetness of Arroz Doce, if you don’t have a particularly sweet tooth, you can reduce the sugar to 3⁄4 cup. Serves 6-8

3 cups homogenized milk (750 mL)
2 cups water (500 mL)
1 cup sugar* (250 mL)
1 tsp butter (5 mL)
1⁄2 tsp salt (2.5 mL)
zest of 1 large lemon
1 cup white rice (I prefer to use Italian rice) (250 mL)
4 egg yolks, beaten
cinnamon for sprinkling

Combine milk, water, sugar, butter, salt and lemon zest in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.

As soon as it reaches the boiling point, add rice, reduce heat to the lowest possible setting, cover the pot and simmer for 50 minutes.

As you approach the 50-minute mark, whisk a few spoonfuls of the hot rice mixture into the beaten yolks (to temper the eggs), then pour the eggs slowly into the rice. Stir to distribute yolks throughout rice mixture and cook for 5 minutes longer on low until the pudding is rich and custardy.

Pour into a serving dish and sprinkle with cinnamon. It will thicken further as it sets. Serve at room temperature.

 

Wines to Match

Taylor Fladgate Late Bottled Vintage Port Douro, Portugal $17.95 (046946)
This barrel aged late bottled vintage Port offers terrifically complex and concentrated flavours. Its dried fruit flavour gains richness from a pervasive chocolate note.

W & J Graham’s 10-Year-Old Tawny Port Douro, Portugal $27.95 (206508)
Graham’s 10-Year-Old Port reveals classic plum, raisin and nutty flavours. Its full-bodied style is richly concentrated, but not overtly sweet which means it should pair magnificently with this delicious rice pudding.

Warre’s Otima 10-Year-Old Port
Douro, Portugal $22.95/500 mL (566174)
Consistently made in a lighter style, the medium-bodied Otima offers more versatility than richly concentrated and sugary models of port. It delivers a traditional dried fruit and nutty flavor profile but with more intensity and less concentration.



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