Eating Ambrosia rice pudding straight out of the tin should not be viewed as a transgression. If anything I prefer it cold, just as I do custard. It might have something to do with nostalgia and all that, but we all know it’s better that way regardless, creamy and relaxing.
As with most things in life, irregular bouts of slovenly practises, however enriching, must be punctuated by effort, and a higher respect for pudding. This is a basic rule, just as it is true no good dessert has been invented since 1980(ish).
Fine rice pudding is special. It is nearly as simple as porridge and yet, made well, as satisfying as mashed potato covered in gravy. Flavoured only with vanilla and a dollop of jam, there is escapism to be found. All the more so if an oven has given it a crispy hat.
Then again, the dish benefits from complexity, and given pretty much every part of the world has a version, it would be rude to forego the likes of Indian kheer or Levantine moghli, both of which are cushioned by spices, fruits, nuts.
In Turkey, rice pudding is sütlaç, which is usually topped with cinnamon but often given any manner of flourishes. Oklava’s Selin Kiazim, the British chef of Turkish Cypriot heritage, serves hers with a sour cherry compote and a hazelnut crumble.
Sütlaç, serves 4-6
700ml whole milk
50g caster sugar
85g Arborio or pudding rice
1 Cinnamon stick
2 Star anise
1 Vanilla pod, split in half, seeds scraped out
75g Hazelnuts, toasted and blitzed fine
45g Unsalted butter, chilled and diced
65g Dark brown sugar
½ tsp Sumac
¼ tsp Salt
Sour cherry compote:
150g Sour cherries
45g Caster sugar
1 Orange, zested
700g Ripe cherries, pitted
180 Caster sugar
1 Lemon, juiced
To make the sorbet, blitz the cherries, sugar and lemon juice in a high-speed blender until smooth. Pass through a sieve and place into an ice-cream machine and churn to the manufacturer’s settings. Once churned, place in the freezer to chill.
Pre-heat oven to 180c fan.
For the crumble, place all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until a fine crumb is achieved. Tip out onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper and spread out into an even layer.
Place into the oven and bake for approx 20mins, stirring every five minutes. The crumble should end up a golden brown colour so if need be cook a little longer. Once cool, break up into large clumps.
For the compote, combine the water and sugar in a small pan and cook over a medium-high heat for approx 5-10mins or until a light syrup consistency is achieved. Add in the cherries and cook for a further minute. Turn the heat off and add in the orange zest.
To make the rice pudding, combine the milk, sugar, spices and vanilla with seeds and pod and gently bring up to a simmer. Turn the heat off and cover the pan with a lid. Leave the milk to infuse for 30 minutes.
Strain the milk off into a fresh pot and add in the rice. Cook the rice whisking occasionally on a low heat for approx 30 minutes or until the rice is cooked through and is soft and unctuous.
To serve, place a spoonful of compote at the bottom of each bowl and top with a serving of rice pudding. Sprinkle over the crumble followed by a spoonful of sorbet. Finally, finish by zesting over the lime.