In a former article I described how rice is the base of many main courses in Colombian food recipes. Now I want to present you a dessert made of rice as well, something ideal to share in the evenings with family or friends.
After a little research in order to understand why rice is so important in the Colombian cuisine (in Medellin its consumption is daily, even more than once a day). I concluded that it is very easy to understand, considering that according to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) Colombia is the second largest producer of rice in Latin America and the Caribbean. They have two rice harvests per year: the first starting in March or April and finishes in July or August and the second starts between August and October and finishes in January or February. But rice consumption is so popular in Colombia that, in order to satisfy our own demand, we need to import large quantities.
Today I would like to tell you about a preparation of rice quite popular in Medellin: “Rice Pudding”. It seems that this recipe is very traditional in many countries of the world, and its origins date back to ancient times in Asia, but we know it was introduced to America by the Spanish conquistadors, the same as the famous song of our nursery rhymes (rice pudding I want to marry …)
I have tried to keep the custom begun by our ancestors: they usually enjoyed the rice pudding in the afternoon, as part of a meal that we call “el algo” (the something). That is just a small afternoon snack before dinner . In my family, “el algo” was served at about 4 pm and could be anything from a buñuelo or pandequeso (cheese bread) and coffee or latte, or even some gelatin topped with evaporated milk. But the truth is that at least once a month my sisters and I asked my mom what she was going to do for ‘el algo” for that day. If the answer was not what we expected, then someone would talk about the long time that had elapsed since the last time we had eaten rice pudding, and finally we would make my mom proud of herself, telling her how much we missed her rice pudding, because it was the best that anyone could try.
After that ingenious intervention, my mother, with her culinary ego renovated, ran in haste to get the necessary ingredients to delight our insatiable appetite, because once we tasted the first spoonful, it was impossible not to ask for more. The smell of cinnamon, milk and panela (brown sugar) we perceived in the air, would take shape in our mind as a cup of thick white sauce bathing the cooked rice, tinged with a few raisins and coconut chips. The rice pudding was everything a child could ask for and an it was an absolute pleasure for mothers to see their children so eagerly consume a healthy and natural food.
Prepare desserts at home is a custom that has been lost gradually, given modern times needs, which require simplification of processes in order to make everything faster, including food. When I was younger, it was much easier to refer to this food, since it was present even in our playground, and our mothers were committed housewives that had enough time to pamper the family with these delicacies, while proud of their culinary skills and used to brag about them, at the same time caring for the health of their children with nutritious meals, quite different from the artificial candy that children are having these days.
Our Colombian rice pudding recipe has passed from generation to generation. Even though the preparation varies slightly depending on the region, the ingredients are almost the same.
In my family, the rice pudding is prepared as follows:
Colombian Rice Pudding
½ cup rice
3 litres of milk
½ pound of panela or brown sugar
1 small jar of evaporated milk, sugar
1 small jar of cream.
2 cinnamon sticks
½ cup raisins and shredded coconut
1 pinch of salt
Put on the stove the rice with water and brown sugar.
Let it cook until the grain is tender.
Add the milk. Remember to stir frequently until it begins to thicken.
Add cinnamon, raisins, coconut, pinch of salt, evaporated milk and cream, stirring constantly.
Put stove on low heat.
Once the right consistency is achieved you can remove the cinnamon sticks.
You can also add a little vanilla extract for a different flavor.
You can decorate with some ground cinnamon or small lemon leaves.
What I like about this preparation is that it can be served hot or cold, and in the latter case can add fresh cheese at the time of serving. As this article was about satisfying appetites, I’m already want some rice pudding. I have about two free hours to prepare some and then I’ll be ready to enjoy it.