Home-made rice pudding, gently baked for hours in the oven, has long been a favourite comfort food of mine. The recipe my mother used was from her copy of Bee Nilson’s Penguin Cookery book. As a child, I was always amazed that such a small amount of rice could swell and expand to create a whole pudding; in fact, it still amazes me.
When making rice pudding, I’ve always stuck to traditional flavourings – a grating of nutmeg, a touch of finely pared lemon zest or a fragrant vanilla pod. The other day it struck me, however, that pandan leaves would work well in a traditional British rice pudding. There is an affinity between pandan and rice. Pandan leaves and pandan juice are traditionally used to add flavour and colour to rice in the making of various Malay kuih (Malay cakes). So, I experimented, adding coconut milk, freshly-made pandan juice and a whole knotted pandan leaf to a classic milk-based rice pudding, which I baked for three hours in the oven.
I was very pleased with the result – creamy, soft-textured rice, ever so easy to eat, with a wonderful, grassy pandan fragrance which lifted the whole dish. Comfort food with a tropical twist.
PANDAN RICE PUDDING
70g short grain rice
1 pandan leaf, tied in a knot
600ml full-fat milk
6 pandan leaves, chopped
1 x 400ml can coconut milk
60g caster sugar
pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 150° C.
Place the rice, knotted pandan leaf and milk in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the pandan juice. In a food processor, blitz together the water and chopped pandan leaves into a green sludge. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve to extract the green pandan juice.
Stir the pandan juice, coconut milk, caster sugar and salt into the simmered rice.
Transfer the rice mixture to a buttered ovenproof dish. Bake in the oven for 3 hours.
Serve warm or at room temperature, rather than hot, as this enhances the flavour.