Nigella Lawson's Rice Pudding Cake

Nigella Lawson's Rice Pudding Cake, as seen on the BBC2 series Cook, Eat, Repeat, is a comforting, British take on the Italian classic, torta di riso.

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Introduction

This is every bit as wonderful as it sounds: an Italian torta di riso, refracted through the prism of someone who loves a bowl of very British rice pudding. The Italians like to stud their rice cake with candied peel, bake it in a tin lined with breadcrumbs or crushed amaretti, and eat it cold; I sprinkle mine with nutmeg, and serve it warm, most frequently with a jewel-bright jam sauce made by heating 200g of seedless raspberry jam with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. And you might well consider adding a splosh of Chambord, too. But I love it equally paired with a rhubarb compote (see p.127 of Cook, Eat, Repeat) or drizzled with the blood orange syrup that drips brightly over the pavlova on p.242.

The rice pudding cake itself is time-consuming to make, but not difficult – the one is often confused for the other – and it more than repays the hour or so spent in the kitchen, and the number of bowls you’ll get through.

You could make it with pudding rice, but I prefer not to: the larger grains of Arborio lend it a far better texture.

I’m very happy to eat leftovers cold, should I be lucky enough to get them (very much recommended for breakfast) but first time out, I feel, it must be warm, by which I mean to indicate a gentle warmth, rather nearer room temperature than hot. This means the cake is still quite tender, so I should caution you against trying to remove it from its base. I’m afraid this is not always advice I take myself: aesthetic considerations lead me to risk ruination by slipping my comedy cake lifter – which is like a ping-pong bat fashioned into a kitchen utensil – under it so that I can it transfer it to a serving plate with nothing to mar its simple beauty.

Gives 8-12 slices
Cook time: 45 min

Ingredients

150g Arborio rice
700ml full-fat milk
¼ tsp fine sea salt
1 lemon
75g soft unsalted butter, plus more for greasing tin
3 large eggs, at room temperature
75g caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
Nutmeg, for grating

Essential kit

You will need : a 20cm springform cake tin.

Instructions

1. Put the rice, milk and salt into a heavy-based saucepan – I use one of 18cm diameter – and finely grate the zest of the lemon into it. Over high heat, and stirring regularly, bring to the point where it looks like it’s just about to boil, though do not let it actually boil. Turn the heat down to low, and continue to cook the milk and rice for about 30 minutes, stirring every now and then, until the rice is cooked and the milk is absorbed. Keep an eye on it, as you don’t want the milk to start boiling, nor do you want the rice to stick to the bottom of the pan.

2. Take the pan off the heat, and stir in the 75g of butter until melted. Scrape the contents of the pan into a bowl large enough to take all the remaining ingredients. Leave for about 1 hour to cool. Once it’s at room temperature, you can move on, so heat the oven to 160ºC/140ºC Fan, and butter a 20cm springform cake tin.

3. Separate the eggs, letting the whites fall into a large grease-free bowl (which could be the bowl of a freestanding mixer) and drop the yolks into a wide measuring jug (or a bowl). Whisk the whites until stiff, and set aside for a moment. Add the sugar to the yolks, and whisk – I use a balloon whisk with vigour, rather than an electric one here – until pale and moussy.

4. Add the vanilla extract and 2 teaspoons of juice from the zested lemon to the yolks and sugar, and then pour gradually into the cooled rice, folding it in well as you go.

5. Dollop a large spoonful of the stiffly whisked whites into the rice bowl and stir briskly to lighten the mixture, and then fold in a third of the remaining whites gently but thoroughly, then another third, and when that’s incorporated, fold in the rest. Pour and scrape this mixture gently into the prepared tin.

6. Grate nutmeg over generously and bake for 45 minutes; by then the top will have set, with no hint of wobble underneath.

7. Sit on a wire rack for about 1 hour, until it’s just slightly warm. To ease the unmoulding, slip a small spatula all around the edges, unclip the tin, and transfer the cake, still on its base (unless, like me, you don’t mind risking damage trying to remove it), to a flat plate.

8. Serve each slice drizzled with a little of the glistening sauce mentioned in the recipe intro, or with the rhubarb compote on p.127 of Cook, Eat, Repeat when in season.

Store: Refrigerate leftovers, covered, for up to 3 days. Must be refrigerated within 2 hours of baking. Eat cold.

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