Rice pudding is an enormously popular English dessert comfort food, or a very nutritious dish for children, or a national joke, depending on personal experience and perspective. But when did it start to wheedle its way into the British psyche? The Oxford English Dictionary puts a query against a reference to ‘rice puddingcake’ from 1553, the inference being, I suppose, that it is not authenticated. I intend to chase the original text and will report back. The second supporting reference for ‘rice pudding’ is not for another hundred years – but it goes to a cookery book, which delights me. Here it is:
How to make a Rice–pudding baked.
Boyle the Rice tender with Milke, and season it with Nutmeg or Mace, Rosewater, Sugar, yolks of Eggs, with half the whites, with grated Bread, and Marrow minced, with Ambergriece (if you please) temper them well together, and bake it in a dish buttered.
The Art of Cookery (London, 1654), by J. Cooper
Rice was used in many dishes from medieval times, but it was an expensive imported item, so only available to the wealthy. By the nineteenth century it was cheap, and a huge variety of pudding recipes could be found in cookery books. The following is my favourite:
Normandy Pudding. (Good.)
Boil, until very soft and dry, eight ounces of rice in a pint and a half, or rather more, of water,* stir to it two ounces of fresh butter, and three of sugar, and simmer it for a few minutes after they are added; then pour it out, and let it cool for use. Strip from the stalks as many red currants, or morella cherries, as will fill a tart-dish of moderate size, and for each pint of the fruit allow from three to four ounces of sugar. Line the bottom and sides of a deep dish with part of the rice; next, put in a thick layer of fruit and sugar; then one of rice and one of fruit alternately until the dish is full. Sufficient of the rice should be reserved to form a rather thick layer at the top: smooth this equally with a knife, and send the pudding to a moderate but not very slow oven, for half an hour, and more, should it be large. When two thirds baked, it may be glazed with yolk of egg, brushed over, and fine sugar sifted on it. Morella cherries, with a little additional sugar, make an excellent pudding of this kind.
Eliza Acton Modern Cookery in All its Branches (1845)
The North Queensland Register (Townsville, Qld) of 19 January 1898 was a veritable treasure-trove of rice pudding recipes. Here are three of them:
Make a rice pudding with one pint of milk, and bake it in the ordinary way. When half cooked stir in one ounce of grated chocolate, which has been heated in the oven, and a few drops of vanilla essence. Beat the white of an egg to a stiff froth. Pile it on top of the pudding when cooked, just place it in the oven to brown slightly and serve.
Cook three ounces of rice in a pint of milk until tender. Then sweeten with a teaspoonful of white sugar, and flavor to taste with essence of lemon. Serve with this sauce: Beat one egg, until stiff, with two ounces of sugar, then add half a cupful of boiling water, and flavor with essence of lemon.
German Rice Pudding.
Stew two ounces of rice in one pint of milk till tender. Set this in a bowl: add two ounces of breadcrumbs, three ounces of Demarara sugar, one ounce of butter, one ounce of shredded candied peel, the grated rind of a lemon, and three well-beaten eggs. Butter the mold, sift sugar over it, place in the oven, and bake till set.
English-language recipe sources seem to contain a rice-pudding variation named for every country of Europe. Here is ‘Italian Rice Pudding’ from the Albert Lea Enterprise (Minnesota) of March 16, 1887
Italian Rice Pudding
A teacupful of rice, the yolks of four eggs, the whites of three beaten separately, two ounces pounded sugar, two ounces raisins, one-quarter pound suet, chopped very fine; flavoring of ratafia or vanilla; put these ingredients into a mold and boil an hour and a half. Serve with brandy or sweet sauce.
Enjoy your pudding, whatever the style. It cant be long before it becomes trendy again.