It's like one of those natural built-in instincts the wild creatures succumb to when the cold weather sets in. Some grow thicker fur coats, build up body fat for a long hibernation, stockpile their feed, or migrate miles and miles to a warmer climate. This animal just starts making feverishly fattening, filling, stodgy food - preferably laced with all things cream, butter and spice and that will summon the gods of heavy eyelids and fluffy blankets early on in the evening. It's Autumn now, so learning from the wisdom of mother nature - it must be the time to build up some (more) bodily insulation for Winter.
Now that we've got it all justified, here it is. It's called Arroz Con Leche and I'm told it means "rice with milk". Uh uh, don't run away - I wouldn't dream of suggesting leftover steamed rice with plain old milk! But this - it's Spanish, it's creamy, it's aromatic, it's immoderately moreish, and hopefully it's sounding a little more enticing than 'rice with milk'. Even Google Translate tries to ham it up and tells me it translates as "Rice Pudding".
As with all ancient traditional recipes, there are as many variations of Arroz Con Leche out there as there are abuelas lovingly stirring away at this dessert for their families. Some of those variations are listed below the recipe. So, after much searching and comparing, I've chosen what I think to be the best points from about two dozen recipes and smooshed them all together here. wannabeafoody approved, abuela disapproved.
Probably Improper Arroz Con Leche
(I suggest halving this recipe if you don't have a hoard of people to eat it - it's rich and makes a lot)
Serves 8 - at least
1 cup arborio rice (long grain will work too)
1 cinnamon stick
2 strips of lemon or orange zest (just use a peeler)
2 whole clove or an itty bitty pinch of ground cloves
1/2 vanilla bean
4 cups milk
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 egg yolk
pinch of salt
ground cinnamon and/or grated nutmeg, to serve
Add the rice, cinnamon, zest, cloves and vanilla bean in a large saucepan with the milk and and soak for about an hour. (You can skip this step no problems) Bring to the boil over a medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer on lowest heat setting for around 45 minutes, stirring often. Add sweetened condensed milk and stir until incorporated. Take off the heat and stir in the egg yolk with the salt. Remove the cloves, cinnamon, zest and vanilla. Sprinkle with the ground cinnamon or nutmeg before serving.
- Brazilian and Puerto Rican versions use coconut milk in place of regular milk.
- Long grain rice can be used with good results, however short grain will give a creamier texture.
- The milk can be substituted with evaporated milk, cream, or water. Remember to adjust the sugar accordingly, and that the total cooking liquids for the rice still amounts to 4 cups (or more, but no less).
- Raisins or sultanas are often added at the end.
- Rum or brandy can be stirred in at the end.