The Proof is in the Pudding

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My mother wasn’t much of a cook. (I was fifteen before I realized lasagne didn’t come in a box from the freezer), but she did have a couple of fabulous signature dishes–a killer steak and potato pie that caused me to give up my vegetarian tendencies every time she made it and smooth, dreamy rice pudding that filled the house with a heavenly milky scent while it baked.

British Blokes Cooking were kind enough to post a recipe for traditional baked rice pudding.

Theirs was rich, velvety and undoubtedly delicious, like the rice pudding I so enjoyed throughout my childhood.

Sadly, mine was more solid than creamy. (My boy said, “Where’s the pudding? I only got rice!” when I served him a slab.)

The recipe called for short grain rice, but all I could find in Wal Mart was long grain. Rice is rice, I thought tossing a bag into my cart.

Apparently not. I learned today that size does indeed matter.

Trouble started at step one when I rinsed the starch off the rice prior to cooking. I discovered the holes in my colander are bigger than grains of rice. (This was actually a lucky break–if I hadn’t lost so much rice down the sink, my pudding would have been too dense to cut with a steak knife.)

Things continued to go down hill when I converted the baking temperature from Celsius to Farenheit. It seemed far too low to cook anything properly so I added about fifteen degrees because nobody likes raw, crunchy rice. Note to all inexperienced home cooks: the baking temperature given in a recipe isn’t merely a suggestion.

Other than rice size and baking temperature, I followed the recipe to the letter, well, except for not adding quite enough milk because Canadian cans of evaporated milk are smaller than British ones. Instead of adding extra regular milk to make up the difference, I added less because I wanted to preserve the ratio of canned to fresh milk. Yes, I know, thinking about it now, it doesn’t make any sense to me, either.

But the experience wasn’t a complete failure.

I have a rice pudding starting point now, and that’s gold. After years in the rice pudding desert, I can see the oasis of creamy, mild comfort food on the horizon. All I have to do is get the right kind of rice, use enough milk and cook it at the proper temperature. It’s easy peasy!