Saturday, 16 February 2013

The Shrieking Violet rice pudding

I recently started a PhD, and during two weeks training in how to be a research student we had a session on time management (we were mainly told fairly obvious things like 'checking your Facebook page will not help you with your research'). One of the things we had to do during this session was to think of five things we could not live without. I decided that without food, sleep, fresh air and exercise (getting out for a walk every day, even if it's only just to the shops), and having time to spend by myself and having time to spend with other people with whom I have things in common, I would quickly get very miserable and find it hard to function. We were then asked to narrow our choices down to the two most important (food and sleep for me) and finally pick the one thing we really couldn't live without. Whilst I was trying to choose between food and sleep, it turned out everyone else was thinking about things like their family and their pets.

However, I don't think it's possible to overstate the importance of food in my life, not just as sustenance but also as a way of experiencing experimentation, adventure, comfort and familiarity. I feel like thinking about what I am going to eat, where I am going to get the ingredients from, and how I am going to cook them, gives my days and weeks structure, as well as something to look forward to, and I hope that however busy I became I would still have time to cook for myself. As well as trying out new recipes, I also love making old favourites. Strangely enough, I had never made rice pudding until recently, but it is a great dish as it pretty much looks after itself – once you have put the ingredients in the oven you can just leave them for a couple of hours until it's ready. I'm not a big eater of desserts, so I tend to make it into a main meal, or eat it cold for breakfast. I've also started making sure I have a pomegranate around (they are fairly cheap on the fruit and vegetable stall on High Street in the Northern Quarter and, once deseeded, last in the fridge for several days) as their seeds can be added to any number of dishes, sweet and savoury (see also the Shrieking Violet porridge recipe below, and an aubergine, walnut, pomegranate seed and brown rice salad I invented recently).

On one of the occasions I made rice pudding for a communal dinner lately, my friend Lauren Velvick commented that she would love to make rice pudding but didn't know where to buy pudding rice. It was her birthday last weekend, so I made her a 'rice pudding kit' based on the ingredients and recipe below.

The Shrieking Violet rice pudding


100g pudding rice
50g sugar
700ml soya milk (or other type of milk. I really want to try using coconut milk from a can but have not got round to trying it yet)
Freshly grated nutmeg
1 bayleaf
5-6 cardamon pods
½ of one pomegranate (seeds)

Serves 2 


Pre-heat oven to 150 degrees celsius. Grease a large oven dish. Wash and drain rice and add to dish. Add sugar and milk and stir. Grate in a generous amount of nutmeg and add the bay leaf and cardamon pods. Cook for two hours until the rice has reached the desired consistency (I like mine quite runny). Remove from the oven, remove the bayleaf and cardamon pods (if wished), stir in the pomegranate seeds and serve.

The Shrieking Violet porridge 

I never used to be a great porridge eater (it’s the stodgiest food I know of, but strangely, and contrary to popular myth that it will keep you full until lunchtime, I’m always ravenous again an hour or two after eating it), but I have found myself eating it a lot in the winter mornings as it’s relatively warm, quick and convenient. As a savoury aficionado, I’m also not a big fruit eater (perhaps because I’ve never been much of a snacks or desserts person) and fruity porridge is also my way of feeling like I’m doing my bit to keep my diet varied and vitamin-filled.

My main complaint about porridge is that it’s often runny or bland (unlike rice pudding, which I prefer runny), but I get around that by cooking it until all the liquid is absorbed and making as much of a meal out of it as possible. Using up some leftover desiccated coconut and chopped nuts one day was inspired, if I say so myself, as it lends the porridge some crunchiness; further ammunition against the blandness!


50-70g porridge oats
½ cup soya milk or water
½ pomegranate (seeds only)
1 apple (or peach/nectarine or plum), chopped
1.5cm ginger, chopped or grated in while the porridge is cooking
½ teaspoon cinnamon and/or ground ginger
½ teaspoon golden syrup or honey
Desiccated coconut or chopped hazelnuts

Serves 1


Heat milk/water in a large pan. Add chopped fruit and simmer for 5-10 minutes depending on how much time you’ve got and how soft you like your fruit. Once fruit has softened, stir in oats, adding more liquid if required. Stir in ginger and cinnamon and sprinkle liberally with coconut/nuts. Keep stirring until porridge has reached desired consistency (up to a couple of minutes). Remove from the heat, stir in pomegranate seeds and serve in a bowl with a teaspoon of golden syrup or honey.

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