….tales of taste and food wisdom, for modern times

Bring on a little sunshine with Orange & Ginger Spiced Rice Pudding February 12, 2012

It’s  freezing cold.  It’s February.  It’s bleak, we’re glum.  And craving sunshine.

We need something golden, warm, sweet and comforting to make ourselves feel loved.  What better winter food fantasy can there be than the thought of sliding a spoonful of  rich, creamy velvet  slowly into an expectant mouth, watering with anticipation?

Tell me what could be more comforting and restorative on a cold, glum February evening than the deliciously sweet, rich aroma of a Proper Rice Pudding, wafting in from the kitchen,  to cuddle us as we sit cosily in front of the fire?  Nothing, I’d say!

Except, maybe, an Orange and Ginger Spiced Rice Pudding?  Oranges – the sunniest of fruits – are at their juicy best during these beak winter months, just waiting to spill out their fresh, sweet nectar for our delight.

Orange, accompanied by warming cinamon, ginger and  nutmeg and ginger, is a marriage made in heaven.  Food heaven.  Try it.


Mmmm…..seconds already?


Unsalted butter: 37.5g, plus 1 tablespoon
Ginger: 2 teaspoons, finely grated
Cinnamon: 1.5 teaspoons, ground
Nutmeg: 1.5 teaspoons, finely grated
Short grain (pudding rice): 80g
Milk: 375ml**
Double Cream: 375mls**
Unrefined sugar: 37.5g, plus 1 tablespoon**
2 medium – large oranges

You’ll also need a 20 cm round terracotta or other flame-proof dish.  (If your dish isn’t flame-proof, use a heavy-based saucepan for Steps 4 – 6).


1. Firstly, soak the rice in cold water for at least an hour (this will soften the grain, make it easier to digest and will substantially reduce the cooking time). Drain the rice well.

2. Soak your terracotta dish in warm water for about 5 mins and dry thoroughly.

3. Meanwhile, prepare your mis-en-place for the rice pudding: Peel and grate the ginger finely, grate the nutmeg finely, measure out the sugar and measure the milk and cream and stir together well.  Zest the rind of one orange, then with a sharp knife, peel both oranges vertically and then cut them horizontally into thick rounds. Cover, and set aside.

4. If you’re using a terracotta or clay dish, place a heat diffuser over a COLD gas ring or hot plate (see Techniques: Terracotta Cooking).  Put the butter into the dish and melt it slowly on a slow/medium heat.

3. When the butter has melted add the rice.  Stir well to coat all the grains – the rice should not sizzle at all.  Add the ginger, cinnamon, one teaspoon of the nutmeg, and the orange zest and pour in about half of the milk & cream mixture, stirring well.

4. Increase the heat to medium and bring the liquid up to very slow simmer, then add the sugar, stirring slowly until dissolved.

5. Set the oven to 180 degs (fan) or Mark 5 (gas).

6. Continue to cook the rice on a very slow simmer, until it has softened, but is still quite al dente (about 6- 10 mins). You’ll need to stir (note: lots and lots of stirring in this recipe!) regularly and top up the liquid to maintain a soft, creamy consistency.

7. Give the rice a final stir(!) and top up the liquid if necessary (you may not need to use it all). Sprinkle over the remaining nutmeg and place in the oven – for about 15 mins – until the rice is quite sticky and the top has set and is beginning to brown.  Let the pudding sit for 5 mins or so before serving.

8. While the pudding is resting, melt one tablespoon of butter in a hot frypan and sprinkle in one tablespoon of sugar. Add in the orange rounds and let them caramelise lightly on one side.

9. Arrange the orange slices on the top of the rice pudding. Serve the pudding on its own, or with a little cream, Greek yoghurt, or ice cream.

Heavenly.  Winter sunshine on a plate!

Tell me what makes the winter sun come out for you?

** If you want it “free from”

…To make it dairy free, you can use full fat coconut milk (about 1.5 cans);  if the pudding gets at little stiff as it’s cooking, just add a water as necessary to loosen it.

…The cinnamon will lend quite a bit of sweetness as it’s a very sweet spice, but if you want it sugar free, you can use about five (or more, if you have a very sweet tooth!) stoned and finely chopped dates at Step 4.

…Or, right at the end of cooking, when the rice has cooled a little, you can also drizzle in honey to taste.  (I subscribe to the wisdom that heating honey above 40 degs destroys all its benefits and makes it very difficult to digest).



I’ve  been “off-line” for quite a while …..having a bit of an adventure.  Well, a bit of a cooking frenzy, really.  I’ve discovered the joys of terracotta cooking!

And these words spring to mind: LOW, SLOW, VERSATILE, and VERY PRETTY.

Terracotta cookware holds a slow, steady heat, allowing foods to cook gently and evenly and food continues to cook even after you remove the pot from its heat source.

Good quality, properly seasoned terracotta cookware can be used in place of a skillet or frypan, a sauté pan, and a casserole dish.  How versatile is that?

(Image courtesy of ABS Terracotta Limited)

And, when the cooking’s all done,  it really looks the part on the table.  Bring your lovely pot to the table and wait for the compliments. Not only does the food look and taste great, the clay will retain its heat and keep the seconds warm. Impressive?

Well, I’m seriously impressed.  Terracotta cookware can be found in every Spanish kitchen and Spanish cuisine is increasing popular, so let’s embrace some of their traditional cooking methods and techniques!

I’ve been doing a bit of research, so look out for a post on Terracotta Cooking  in the Techniques category.  And look out for lots more recipes from the Spanish kitchen!


~ Spanish Chicken ~


(Serves 2 – double up the quantities for 4)

Chicken: 500g leg & thigh, or thigh pieces (not breast meat)
Olive oil: ½ tablespoon (not extra virgin)
Onion: 1 small – medium (at least 120g, prepared)
Celery: 1 stick (at least 50g, prepared)
Garlic: 1 fat clove
Red pepper: 1 medium or ½ large
Butternut squash: ½ large (approx 350g, prepared)
Chopped tomatoes: 1.2 400g tin
Paprika: 1 heaped teaspoon
Smoked paprika: 1 teaspoon
Ground cinnamon: ½ teaspoon
Red chilli flakes: good pinch, or to taste
Black Olives: 4 -6
Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
Flat-leaf parsley: Good handful

A lidded terracotta pot, large enough for 2-4 persons & a heat diffuser.

1. Firstly, prepare your mis-en-place: Peel and finely slice the onion, celery and garlic. De-seed and slice the red pepper into 1cm thick slices. Peel and cut the butternut into 2cm dice. Measure out the two paprikas, cinnamon, and chilli separately onto a small plate. De-stone and roughly chop the olives. Set aside.

2. Pre-heat the oven to 140 degs (fan oven) or Mark 2 (gas) and soak your chosen terracotta pot and lid in warm water for 5 mins.

3. Place a heat diffuser over a COLD gas ring or hot plate (see  Techniques: Terracotta Cooking).  Heat ½ tablespoon of olive oil slowly in the terracotta pot on a slow/medium heat.  When the pot and oil are hot, increase the heat to medium and saute the chicken pieces, right-side down  until well browned (put the lid on to prevent the fat splashing everywhere – this may take several minutes, so don’t move them about too much or they’ll start cooking rather than browning).

....nicely browned...

4. When nicely browned, remove the chicken from the pot and drain off all but about 2 tablespoons of the fat. Lower the heat and add the onion, celery and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, cover with a cartouche and sweat the veg (see: Techniques) over a low heat until translucent but still firm. Remove the cartouche, add in the red peppers and butternut, turn up the heat and saute until the veg is just beginning to brown at the edges. Check the seasoning.

5. Add in your measured spices, chopped tomatoes and mix everything well. Place the chicken pieces and olives on top of the veg and tuck in a couple of sprigs of parsley. Season again, and tuck a disc of foil over the dish before placing on the lid. This step is optional but it will ensure your cooked dish is really succulent.

...and all ready for the oven...

6. Place in the oven and increase the heat to 180 degs (fan) or Mark 5 (gas) and for 30 mins. Reduce the heat back to 140 degs (fan oven) or Mark 2 (gas) and cook until the meat is falling off the bone (maybe another 1.5 hours, but check a couple of times).

7.  Serve with a side of Chickpea, Carrot & Parsley Mash, and a cold beer!




Although you’ll find it throughout North Africa, the Middle East, India and in parts of Italy and Greece, there are few places where the “garbanzo” bean, or chickpea, is more popular – and revered – than in the Spanish kitchen.

The Spanish are particular about how their garbanzos should be treated.  Cooks will debate the relative merits of garbanzos coming from specific areas – are they better from Segovia or Zamora, from Badajoz or Cádiz?   It’s often a case of  “my mother-in-law’s garbanzos” are superior to “your sister’s garbanzos.”

Chickpeas are eaten almost daily in Spain, appearing in the cocidos (one-pot meals) and potajes (thick soups) of every region and soaking up the strong flavours and spices in Spanish cooking — salt pork, sausages, tomatoes, cabbage, garlic and onions, pimentón and cumin.

So, in honour of the noble chickpea, I offer a spiced mash in which the little golden nuggets can really strut their tasty stuff….

Chickpea, Carrot & Parsley Mash


(Serves 2 – double up for 4)

Carrots: 2-3 (approx 200g)
Onion: ½ medium (red or white)

Red Pepper: 1/2 medium

Garlic: 1 fat or 2 small

Cumin seeds: ½ teaspoon
Olive oil: 2 – 3 tablespoons (not extra virgin)
Sea salt & ground black pepper
Lemon: ½ lemon, zest and juice
Boiling water
Garbanzo beans (Chickpeas): 400g can, rinsed & drained
Flat-leaf parsley: Large handful, chopped
Tahini paste: 1 tablespoon

A terracotta “sides”  pot large enough to serve 2  (or 4) and a heat diffuser.


1. Firstly, prepare your mis-en-place: Peel and dice the carrots, onion and red pepper into chickpea-sized dice. Peel and grate, or chop the garlic finely. Zest half a whole lemon (it’s easier!), then halve it and juice the zested half. Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Chop the parsley (but not too finely). Set aside.

2. Next, place a heat diffuser over a COLD gas ring or hot plate (see Cooking Techniques: Terracotta Cooking).  Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil  in the terracotta pot on a slow heat and add the cumin seeds.  Heat gently, until the seeds are fragrant (don’t over-heat or they’ll burn and taste very bitter, in which case start again!).

3. Then, add the chopped veg to the frypan with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the lemon zest and juice and enough boiling water to just cover everything. Season well, cover with a cartouche (see Cooking Techniques) and cook on over a medium heat, stirring from time to time and adding a little more water until the carrots are tender but still have a good bite. The pot should now be almost dry, so if you have a lot of liquid going on  increase the heat slightly and remove the cartouche.

4. Add the drained and rinsed chickpeas, season again and heat through on a medium heat, stirring everything well.  Add a splash or two of boiling water to create steam – this will help to get the chickpeas hot without making everything soggy.

5. Now put the whole lot in a food processor, with a good tablespoon of Tahini paste (I use “light” for preference) or mash well with a strong fork. Check the seasoning to taste.

6. Add the chopped parsley and enough olive oil to give the consistency you want: You may want a stiffer mash to accompany a well sauced dish like Spanish Chicken (see Recipes), casseroles or stews, or a softer mash if you are serving it with a drier dish, say, lamb chops or pan-roasted fish.

7. The mash will “hold“ really well in a warm oven, covered with foil. Or, it will refrigerate a couple of days. Re-heat it in a frypan until piping hot, adding splashes of boiling water to create steam.