When I look back it seems all my strongest childhood memories are of the food my parents cooked.
We lived close to my primary school, so every week some friends and I would to run back to mine straight after school for tea. My mum was always prepared; most evenings she would cook one of her all-time favourite Mauritian dishes – where both my parents originally come from. As a kid I was in love with chicken macaroni, comforting daube stews, sweet potato cakes, pancakes or wholesome desserts such as rice pudding.
In Mauritius they traditionally serve rice pudding scooped up in fresh hot puris (unleavened deep-fried breads) at weddings, but at home in the UK my mum would make a pot of warm, creamy, sweet rice flavoured with vanilla, cinnamon, cardamom and sultanas. It would be dished out in smaller bowls, topped with a little extra milk to swirl into it, and it was great to eat it warm.
I think my love of cooking came from memories like watching and helping mum in the kitchen, and still to this day I cook with my mum, although normally she is helping me out now. When I start a family I want to create moments like the ones I had, because it’s so important to teach kids about food – from where produce comes from to cooking and eating healthily.
Here is my mum’s recipe for rice pudding, which uses Indian spices such as cardamom and cinnamon. Any leftover rice pudding can be kept in the fridge for another day, and it can be eaten hot or cold. Let the kids top their puddings with other healthy treats like fresh berries, flaked almonds or jams as a fun interactive dessert. Enjoy!
Vanilla rice pudding recipe
- 120g pudding rice or Arborio risotto rice
- 1.2 litres semi-skimmed milk
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/2 tsp cardamom seeds, finely ground (can be found in Asian supermarkets)
- 1 vanilla pod
- 1 tbsp sultanas
- 2 heaped tablespoons of sugar, extra to taste
Place the rice, milk, cinnamon and cardamom in a deep pot and heat gently over a medium heat. Score the vanilla pod lengthways, scrape the seeds out, and add both to the pot. Stir this well.
When the rice comes to a boil, turn it down and simmer gently for around 25-30 minutes. Stir every now and then until all the liquid is nearly absorbed and rice is just cooked.
Add the sugar and sultanas and give it another stir. If the rice starts to dry out or stick, add a little more milk to loosen it. Once you have the consistency you want, scoop out and discard the vanilla, cinnamon stick and cardamom pods.
Spoon the cooked rice pudding into pudding bowls to serve. Top with a little extra milk if you wish, or anything else you can think of!