For my first post of the new year I'm going to start as I mean to go on, with a foodie post, which I'll hopefully be writing more of and more frequently.
Arroz con leche is Spanish for "rice with milk", or rather, good old rice pudding. That may not sound like a typical Mexican dish, but it's arguably as much Mexican as British. You see it on dessert stalls along with jellies and flans at fairs, markets and on the street, served in little disposable plastic cups and always flavored with cinnamon. It's a homely and simple dessert that has become part of Mexican cuisine.
Arroz con leche, like many Mexican traditions, was brought to Mexico from Spain, but going further back in time, the origins of the dessert are most probably to be found at the place of origin of the main ingredient, in south-east Asia.
I have childhood memories of Ambrosia tinned rice pudding, and fonder memories of my mum's oven-baked flaked rice pudding, but I'd never made rice pudding myself. Ever since I saw a recipe for rice pudding in the little recipe booklet that came with our rice cooker I've been wanting to try it - that was about three years ago, though! That booklet got lost the last time we moved house and I just hadn't got around to looking for a similar recipe on the Internet ...until these holidays.
Of course, it's a dessert that's eaten all year round, but it does seem to me especially appropriate for winter - maybe it's because of the cinnamon, or because it's such a cosy, comforting dish. Anyhow, I was determined to try it out in the rice cooker over Christmas. It seemed so easy, and it was!
I sort of amalgamated/adapted several recipes I saw, some were for the stovetop, others were for a rice cooker, but I knew my recipe had to have both condensed milk and evaporated milk. In this recipe, the delicately fragrant citrus peel mingles with aromatic cinnamon and the creamy sweet combination of milk and rice, making for an irresistible dessert and ultimate comfort food.
1 cup rice (all recipes called for Arborio rice; I just used the normal long-grain rice we always buy as it's cheaper and it worked perfectly!)
3 cups water
1 cup milk (recipe specified whole milk, but I used skimmed as it was what we had in the house)
1 tin evaporated milk
1 tin condensed milk
1 lime peel, whole or grated
1 stick cinnamon
Pinch of salt
This recipe does no need any extra sugar as the sugar in the condensed milk makes it sweet enough.
First, rinse the rice and cook with the three cups of water, lime peel and salt in the rice cooker on the normal rice setting. When it's done, the liquid should have been absorbed and the rice should be soft. Switch off the rice cooker and stir the rice to make sure it's not stuck to the bottom, then add the three different types of milk, stirring them in. You can put the cinnamon stick in whole or break it into pieces which, so I'm told, releases more flavour, but also means you'll be picking small pieces of cinnamon out of your pudding later. If you want extra flavour, or instead of the cinnamon stick, you can mix in some powdered cinnamon.
Now close the lid again and switch the rice cooker back on. I put mine on the low setting at this point, but, rather unhelpfully, I don't remember how long for. I guess there's probably some variation among different rice cooker models anyway so I would advise you to keep checking it to make sure it's the consistency you want. Definitely don't wander off and lose track of time as I tend to do, and don't put it on the "keep warm" setting either; I did this after I thought it had cooked enough, came back to it later and found most of the milk had been consumed. I had to add extra milk while it was cooling, but that worked fine and it turned out well in the end.
|Before I added the extra milk, looking a bit too dry.|
Oh, dilemma - do you serve it hot or cold? According to my mother-in-law, eating warm rice pudding will give you the runs (I didn't suffer any ill-effects, though, thank you!) so I guess the convention in Mexico - or in this corner of Mexico, at least - is to serve it chilled from the fridge. And it is delicious cold.
Either way, serve with a sprinkling of ground cinnamon and enjoy!
If you try out this recipe, let me know how it went. I'd love to hear from you!
More Mexican food posts you might be interested in: