I’ve never met a rice pudding I didn’t like.
…come to think of it, I’ve yet to meet ANY rice dish I didn’t like. Something about rice is just wonderfully comforting and moreish, like warm, soft hugs from a familiar older family member. Rice is a massive part of Egyptian cuisine, and you’ll rarely see a lunch/dinner table in the country without a big dish of fluffy white short grain rice, usually stained the slightest hue of yellow from the addition of a little ghee, there to mop up all the sauces from our typical Egyptian tomato-based vegetable and meat stews. If there isn’t, then you’ll most likely find a heaping pile of ‘mahshi’, which are vegetables like zucchini, peppers and eggplant stuffed with spiced rice.
In any case, there WILL be rice!
As with most cultures, we also have a milk-based rice pudding too. The classic Egyptian version is a simple but rich and thick edition, usually served chilled, plain or topped with crushed nuts and/or ice cream. However, in our house, rice pudding was different: we made a very special baked hot rice pudding, strongly flavoured with gorgeously heady mastic and baked till the top is blistered and brown…perfect for a chilly winter evening.
It was – and still is – one of my mother’s specialty desserts, one that she is repeatedly asked for, and which I will most definitely be sharing with you here in the (hopefully near?) future. I actually attempted to photograph it the last time I made it, but it was winter and the light escaped me, and I ended up with a dozen blurry ugly photos that went straight to the bin. I did perfect the recipe though, so it wasn’t a complete failure!
During our trip to Bali in 2014, we were introduced to black rice pudding, and I was instantly smitten with the exotic purple/black hue of the plump grains and the wonderfully bite-y quality they kept after cooking. The pudding was always made with coconut milk, and always served with sweet fresh mango. I simply adored the combination, and thankfully, was easily able to find black rice, which is also known as forbidden rice (how ridiculously cool is that??), here in Sydney upon our return. Just another one of the many joys of living in such a multicultural city with a significant Asian population!
Chinese Forbidden Black Rice is an amazing whole-grain variety that naturally has a crazy gorgeous matt black colour and a beautifully delicate vanilla-like aroma, and it retains it’s shape and texture even after cooking. This makes it just lovely for use in rice pudding, as well as savoury salad type dishes, which I am yet to venture into.
If you’ve been following along for a while on here (p.s: i love you), you’d know that I usually try to pick ingredients that are easy to find and are quite common in most countries for use in the recipes on this blog, but I’m going to have to make an exception here. I simply cannot NOT share this recipe, and I really don’t think there’s any substitute for the black rice in it. The only other rice variety that can be used in this recipe is Thai Black Rice (also known as black sticky rice or black glutinous rice), which is quite similar but results in a stickier pudding. The grains are a little longer in shape than the forbidden black rice, and are of varying colour tones, not totally black like these in the photo below. If there are any Asian grocers in your city, you may be able to score some; it is definitely worth the hunt!
I love having this beautiful rich, inky pudding for breakfast, warm, sweetened with just a touch of coconut sugar, topped with plenty of fresh mango and a little extra coconut milk swirled on top, but it would also make a great dessert. I’ve tried pairing it with other fruit, but honestly it really didn’t measure up at all to the mango. It’s the irresistible combination of juicy mango and creamy coconut that hits the spot!
Important note: In the recipe below, I recommend soaking the raw rice for a while before cooking it, which shortens the cooking time dramatically and helps the grains cook more evenly, as well as helps with digestion. It is worth nothing though that I did find on many occasions that the black rice was sold ‘pre soaked’ or ‘pre steamed’ and dried, so in this case, you would just skip the soaking step completely and cook it right away, so make sure you read the information on the package you buy thoroughly!
- • 1 cup (200g) Chinese black rice (forbidden rice), soaked for 4-8 hours*
- • 2 cups water
- • pinch of salt
- • 1 400ml can coconut milk
- • coconut sugar to taste
- • fresh mango slices for serving
- Rinse and drain the soaked rice thoroughly and place in a large pot with the water and salt. Bring to the boil over high heat then reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, for 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes, remove the lid and add the coconut milk, reserving about a third of the can for serving. Turn up the heat to medium and simmer a further 10 minutes or so, until the rice is cooked through but still ‘al dente’ and retaining its shape.
- Sweeten to taste with coconut sugar and serve, warm, topped with mango slices and an extra splash of the reserved coconut milk. Leftovers can be kept in the fridge up to 3 days and reheated or eaten cold.
*Soaking the raw rice before cooking it shortens the cooking time dramatically and helps the grains cook more evenly & be easier to digest. It is worth nothing though that I did find on many occasions that the black rice was sold ‘pre soaked’ or ‘pre steamed’ and dried, so in this case, you would just skip the soaking step completely and cook it right away, so make sure you read the information on the package you buy thoroughly.