Recipe: White chocolate rice pudding with lime and chilli

PUBLISHED: 09:27 24 December 2015

White chocolate and lime rice pudding. Picture: Tom Bissell

White chocolate and lime rice pudding. Picture: Tom Bissell

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Frances Bissell offers some last minute tips for Christmas and New Year cooking, before sharing her delicious dessert idea.

“Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house…” Writing a cookery column for the 24th is cutting it a bit fine, if you ask me. If we’re not ready now, we never will be. So just a few timely hints for the big day, and some thoughts for New Year’s Eve based on many years experience.

The carver in chief will thank you for removing the wish bone from the bird before you roast it. This makes for a much neater and more elegant operation in order to achieve long, thin, even slices. But what makes for an even tastier morsel is to remove each side of the breast from the breastbone and slice it quite thickly across the grain. This produces juicy, tender collops of meat, a trick I learned many years ago from Ken Hom when we shared the cooking at one of Paul Levy’s legendary Christmas lunches. My husband, Tom, also learned there is no easy way to open ten dozen oysters; you have to start early, when the others are getting stuck into the champagne.

Our Christmas on Gozo will start with coddled eggs with sea urchins, before the traditional Maltese Christmas milk-fed lamb and new potatoes. The full Maltese Christmas dinner starts with a festive (and filling) timpana, pasta mixed with pigs kidney, brains, meatballs, sausage, fresh tomato sauce and other good things, all baked under a golden pastry dome.

I shall also use the ingredients of the traditional imbuljuta in a Christmas dessert. Imbuljuta is hot chocolate, thickened with chestnut flour and flavoured with dried mandarin peel, and served after midnight mass on Christmas Eve. The combination of chocolate, orange and chestnut is a winner, whether in its traditional version or in numerous guises. Try a chestnut soufflé with chocolate sauce and mandarin sorbet. Or a chocolate tart, chestnut ice cream and mandarin sorbet. Mine will probably be chocolate-dipped candied mandarin segments accompanying a mont blanc, - meringue heaped with sweetened chestnut purée and topped with a pile of snowy whipped cream.

What about a white dinner for New Year’s Eve? You might start with a carpaccio of sea bass and fennel, or a crab and ginger salad, crab and ginger rillettes, chilled green olive and cucumber soup, with goat’s cheese foam, a white pizza or seafood ravioli with truffle cream. Or perhaps a velouté of Jerusalem artichoke with roasted langoustine. Little bags of boudin blanc and apple, in a bundle of filo pastry, baked for 10 mins at 200 C would provide a traditional note. A whole roasted sea bass would be a perfect main course centre piece. If you have turkey left over, especially a small uncooked turkey joint, such as leg, a creamy turkey and oyster stew is delicious, as is a fricassee of white turkey meat surrounded by ‘pulled turkey’, which is the thigh or drumstick meat, shredded and fried until lightly crisped.

For dessert consider a vanilla and coconut panna cotta. Or a white chocolate bread and butter pudding, with vanilla custard, rum-soaked sultanas, diced white chocolate layered with the bread, and white chocolate and cream sauce? 
Perhaps snow balls – scoops of favourite ‘white’ ice cream shaped into balls, frozen then dipped in whipped cream and rolled in mixture of crushed meringue, marron and toasted walnut, served with a sauce of dulce de leche and rum. My white chocolate rice pudding can be made a few hours in advance and chilled 
until required, but bring it close to room temperature before serving. Above all, don’t forget to put out the mince pies tonight. And have a very happy Christmas and peaceful New Year.

White chocolate rice pudding with lime and chilli

(Serves 6)

6 tablespoons pudding rice

900 ml semi-skimmed milk + extra for mixing

Zest of 1 or 2 limes

100 g bar white chocolate

1 dessertspoon lime juice

Pinch of chilli - optional

Put the rice and milk in a heavy-based saucepan and cook very gently, on the stove top with a heat diffuser, or in a low oven, until the rice has absorbed all the milk and is completely soft. Add the lime zest while the rice is still hot to extract all the fragrance. If the rice remains sticky, stir in a little more milk. Break up the chocolate and stir into the rice. When completely melted and blended, stir in the lime juice. Spoon the rice pudding into one large dish or individual serving dishes and when cool garnish with curls of white chocolate and grated lime zest.

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