When I first went to university in the UK I stayed at the halls of residence and the food was notoriously bad. So one day I was delighted when I saw there was rice pudding for dessert. Little did I know it was nothing like the rice pudding I was accustomed to! I was even horrified to see a dollop of jam in the bowl. Arroz con leche is the Spanish version of rice pudding, it is creamy, sweet and unlike the (bland) British counterpart, it is flavoured with lemon rind and cinnamon, a match made in heaven and so typical of many Spanish sweets. Even though this is usually considered a basic home dessert, it still requires some skill as it can easily burn and needs quite a lot of stirring, although nothing too strenuous! In Gibraltar this is also very typical especially at Easter time, and it is usually served cold, straight from the refrigerator. It does take a long time to cook, but it is so worth it, and for me it is proper comfort food. It is also customary to sprinkle some ground cinnamon on top just before serving. It is also perfectly possible to make a vegan arroz con leche using dairy free milks.
- 250g round rice (paella rice or pudding rice)
- 2 large (or 3 small) sticks of cinnamon
- 1 tbsp cinnamon powder
- peel of 1 lemon
- 250ml of water (1 cup)
- 1.5 litres of whole milk (6 cups)
- 227g evaporated milk
- 400g granulated sugar
- Peel the lemon in large chunks trying to avoid having any of the pith (white part), as this will be bitter. It is best to try and have large sections of peel as this will make it easier to remove at a later stage.
- Put the rice in a large deep pan with the peel of lemon, the cinnamon sticks and half the sugar.
- Add enough water to cover the rice by about 2cm (a bit less than 1 inch).
Note: The original recipe calls for ‘1 finger’ or as they say in Spanish ‘un dedo‘, which is rather vague as the measurement will depend on how big the pan is. However about 1 cup should suffice.
- Start cooking on a low to medium heat until the water starts reducing by the rice absorbing it and the rice starts to become a bit tender. This can take about 15 minutes from when it starts to simmer.
- Add the rest of the sugar and start adding the milk a little bit (about half a litre, or 2 cups) at a time and stir non stop so that it does not stick to the bottom of the pan as it will taste of burnt milk if it does.
- Once the rice is soft and cooked and the mixture is creamy add the tin of evaporated milk, still stirring constantly and once it starts to simmer take off the heat.
- Remove the lemon rind but leave the cinnamon sticks in.
- Cover and allow to cool completely so that the rice absorbs the rest of the milk equally. Once cold decant into a large bowl or glass tray and sprinkle ground cinnamon on top.