A few weeks ago, I was reading the June/July issue of Donna Hay Magazine which worked out perfectly. Since it's an Australian magazine, and our seasons are opposite, it's fine that the issues take longer to arrive here and June and July were long gone. By the time I read it, our weather had cooled off some, and I was ready to think about more wintery dishes. There were lots of lovely things made with root vegetables in one story, and another story about a dinner party around a roaring fire that ended with chocolate whisky truffles. I'll get back to those soon enough, but it was the rice puddings that I had to try first. That's such a basic, comfort food kind of dish, and why I'd never made it I don't know. What made me finally want to do it was the fact that there wasn't just one flavor presented in the story. There were eight, yes eight, versions from which to choose. And, I got a little excited when one of the eight was rhubarb and creme fraiche because I had cooked some extra rhubarb and stored it in the freezer earlier in the year. So, that one was for sure, and really, I wanted to try all of the other seven, but I narrowed it down to three. Once the basic rice pudding recipe was made, altering it or adding different toppings was easy enough. I scooped the plain pudding into ramekins, topped some with stewed rhubarb and creme fraiche, others with burnt caramel, and the remaining pudding was flavored with orange zest and topped with melted chocolate.
For the basic rice pudding, all that's required is combining arborio rice, whole milk, sugar, and the seeds and pod of one vanilla bean in a saucepan and bringing it to a boil. The heat was reduced, the pan was covered, and the rice simmered while being stirred occasionally for about 30 minutes. Since I'd already cooked some rhubarb and had it in the freezer, I just let it come to room temperature and spooned it over some rice pudding in ramekins. That was topped with creme fraiche. For both the burnt caramel and chocolate orange versions, some cream was to be added to the basic rice pudding first. Then, sugar was melted in a small saucepan, and the pan was swirled until the sugar became an amber caramel. It was drizzled over the rice pudding just before serving. Last, some orange zest was stirred into the remaining rice pudding, and dark chocolate was melted to top it.
The rhubarb was fruity and tangy with the vanilla rice pudding, but a spoonful of any fruit preserves would be great too. The orange zest paired well with the swirl of chocolate which was a good contrast to the vanilla pudding. Trying all three was a lot of fun and rice pudding could be gussied in many, many ways, but my favorite of all was the burnt caramel topping. It went perfectly with the simple, basic, vanilla rice pudding which is pretty delicious even left plain.