Arroz con leche (rice pudding) is a staple in my mother-in-law's home. Made the traditional way with whole milk, lemon rind and cinnamon, it's absolutely delicious when served cold on a hot day. But Spain is home to a variety of non-traditional rice pudding recipes too, and my favorite is inspired by the country's Moorish history.
The Moors are credited with introducing rice to the Spanish kitchen, along with foods such as dates, almonds, apricots, sugar cane, and spices like cumin, saffron and coriander. Their influence on Spain's current gastronomy is enormous, and many of Spain's typical dishes (pinchos morunos, espinacas con garbanzos, and pestiños, for example) have their roots in the Moorish culture and cuisine.
This rice pudding recipe uses coconut milk in addition to whole milk, and can be topped with dates, apricots and almonds. It can be served warm or cold, and makes a delicious sweet breakfast, afternoon snack, or decadent dessert.
- 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground cardamon (simply split open 3-4 cardamon pods and crush the black seeds a mortar and pestle).
- 4 cups of full fat, high quality coconut milk (2 cans is usually the perfect amount)
- 2 cup whole milk (if lactose intolerant simply substitute another type of milk here, aloud milk works great)
- 3 tablespoons cane sugar (you can always add more if you'd like it sweeter)
- 1/2 cup of basmati rice*
- Pinch of salt
- 20 toasted almonds (you can put whole raw almonds into a plastic freezer bag and crush with a rolling pin. Then put the crushed almond bits in a frying pan at a medium heat and sauté until golden and fragrant.)
- 8 sliced dates (dried)
- 4 diced apricots (dried)
- 2 fresh apricots (optional)
- *If you want to make this with a different variety of rice, you may need to adjust the amount of milk. Start with two cups in total (one cup of coconut milk and one cup of whole milk) and then add the remaining cup of coconut milk until the texture is that of a pudding. If it needs even more milk simply add more whole milk.
In a medium saucepan bring the coconut milk, whole milk, and sugar to a low boil (stir to make sure the bottom doesn’t stick or burn).
Stir in the rice, the cardamon, and salt. Stir well and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook your rice pudding on a simmer over the next 45 minutes until it is a thick and creamy consistency. Make sure to stir every few minutes so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom or burn.
Taste the pudding, add more sugar if necessary and let it cool. You can serve it warm, or spoon it into serving bowls and refrigerate until cold.
In the meantime, toast your crushed almonds in a hot frying pan (don’t let them burn!). Slice the dates and chop up the dried apricots. Top the rice pudding with the toasted almonds, dates and apricot, and if you've decided to use the fresh apricot garnish each bowl with two slices.