Sunday, 16 December 2012

Rice porridge

I just read on Hufvudstadsbladet (the Swedish-Finnish daily newspaper) that the hottest food trend is porridge. Apparently, you can buy creme brûlée oatmeal in New York for $16, and there is a pub in Copenhagen called Grød which only serves porridge. You can find their menu here, and it looks lovely, if I ever happen to be in Copenhagen, I will definitely give them a try. What would you say about oatmeal with caramel sauce, roasted almonds and apple? Or barley porridge with flaxseed, apple, raisin and ginger syrup. And in the Christmas-time, they are obviously also serving rice porridge. I will certainly keep the porridge trend in mind next year, as there are so many wonderful porridges out there to make, and I love a nice steaming bowl of porridge for breakfast. I almost never have breakfast anywhere but home or at my workplace cafeteria, but when I'm travelling, I have a tradition of getting a serving of oatmeal with fruit compote from Eat at Heathrow airport. There is something very soothing about spooning oatmeal into your mouth while staring at the giant screens, waiting for the gate of your flight to be displayed.

Call it sticky rice or rice pudding, in Finland we call it rice porridge, and eat it for Christmas. Other times of the year it's oatmeal all the way, but on Christmas you celebrate by making your breakfast porridge from luxurious rice. Well, it was luxurious probably a hundred years ago or so... In Finland (and Scandinavia) rice porridge is served warm, and usually eaten for breakfast. For Christmas, an almond is added to the pot of porridge, and getting the almond means good luck for the next year. Christmas rice porridge is served with cinnamon and sugar sprinkled on top, and sometimes with a bit of butter as well.

For rice porridge you should use a round, short grained rice. In Finland it's sold under the name of Puuroriisi (porridge rice) and it's similar to pudding rice. Also risotto rice works quite well. What you want is a rice with high starch content, which will make a creamy porridge.

In my family, rice porridge is our traditional Christmas brunch, usually eaten before the Christmas sauna. I actually sometimes cheat and make rice porridge other times of the year as well, because it's really tasty. It's nice to have for dinner on a cold winter's day, or even for breakfast in the middle of summer while thinking about the fact that it's only half a year left until Christmas. Although rice porridge is traditionally served with cinnamon and sugar, this time I decided to pimp it up with some Christmas-y apple syrup with pecans and raisins. The recipe for the syrup for the pecans is stolen from Completely Delicious.

Rice porridge (serves 4):
200 ml (3/4 cups plus 1.5 tbsp) rice
200 ml (3/4 cups plus 1.5 tbsp) water
1 liter milk (the more fat in the milk, the tastier the porridge...)
1/2 tsp salt
(1 almond)

For the candied pecans:
200 ml apple juice
100 g light muscovado sugar
cinnamon stick
4 whole cloves
1 tbsp (or a bit more...) whiskey
20 pecan nuts
1/4 cup raisins

The howto:
For the candied pecans, cook juice, sugar, cinnamon, cloves and whiskey until a heavy syrup forms (about 30 minutes). Add the pecans and raisins, take the saucepan off the heat and let cool. Store in a glass container.

For the porridge, heat water until boiling. Add the rice, and let cook until the rice has absorbed the water. Add milk and cook on a low heat until the milk has been absorbed (about 40 minutes). Just remember, no matter how big a saucepan you use, the milk will boil over, you will just have to accept that, and clean up the mess...
The verdict:
First of all, every time I have rice porridge, I am amazed at how rice and milk can taste so extremely good. And this is one of the most Christmas-y flavours I can imagine. At the same time, this was a bit different to me, as I'm used to having rice porridge very simply with cinnamon and sugar. However, I absolutely loved the syrup. I don't think I have ever made syrup, but it turned out to be really easy. Just let the mixture slowly boil away, and it will turn to syrup. There is no way you can mess that up. And the super sweet syrup tastes very Christmas-y of apple. It is one of those food epiphanies where you just make something really simple, and it turns out to be so amazingly delicious that you have to taste it over and over again until you have spooned half of the syrup into your mouth before being able to serve it to anyone. Not sure if that correctly illustrates how much I loved the syrup. To summarise, I effin' loved it!!!! I would love to bathe in the stuff. And eat it with pretty much anything. Pancakes. French toast. Any sort of toast. On crackers. Using a spoon right out of the jar. Sip it through a straw. Lick it off the floor. Just a few ideas...

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