The Not-so-Arabic Rice Pudding Recipe

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Savoir Flair’s Contributing Food Editor Leen Al Zaben, of Culeenary.com fame, tackles traditional Arabic dishes and updates them for the modern day.

Rice pudding is one of the most versatile dishes in the Middle Eastern cuisine repertoire and, depending on the country and region, it can vary greatly in terms of both consistency and taste. I’ve recently become a self-proclaimed rice pudding expert, having made over 150 batches of it in the last year alone. Formerly one of my least favorite dishes, I’ve grown accustomed to it, liking it more and more each time. After 150 batches, it’s pretty safe to say that I now love it.

In this feature, I’m sharing my grandmother’s recipe, but adding my own personal twist to it. The beauty of this recipe is that you can make it as “healthy” or as decadent as you like; you can use skimmed, semi-skimmed, or, if you’re up for it, full-fat milk. Typically, Middle Eastern rice pudding is made with orange blossom water, just the way my grandmother and every other grandmother likes it, but I’ve decided to replace the orange blossom with vanilla. You too can get as creative as you like, and can even change the texture by adding nuts and dried fruits.

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Serves eight Prep time: 10 minutes, Cooking time: 40 minutes
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    • 5 cups and 3 tbsp whole milk
    • 1/3 cup medium grain rice
    • 3 tbsp cornstarch
    • ¼ tsp salt
    • ½ cup sugar
    • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • Step 1

    In a saucepan, place five cups of milk and the vanilla bean. Over medium heat, bring the milk to a gentle boil.

    Add the rice, reduce the heat, and let simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

    Step 1
  • Step 2

    Remove the vanilla bean.

    In a small bowl, whisk the three tablespoons of milk, salt, sugar, and cornstarch until smooth.

    Step 2
  • Step 3

    Pour this mixture into the rice mixture, stirring constantly. Simmer until thickened (about four minutes).

    Step 3
  • Step 4

    Pour the pudding into small cups and refrigerate for six hours to set.

    Step 4
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