They say that sleep is necessary for cell renewal.Â I believe that.Â Because I haven’t been getting any, and on my last job I temporarily lost my mind.Â Which I put down to lack of cell renewal.Â There is a rule that you never put anything on a menu that you haven’t made before.Â It makes a lot of sense–it’s the kind of thing healthy brain cells would choose to do.Â I made a rice pudding that I invented as I went along, inspired by a recipe that had moved me because of the drama of where it came from–Normandy.
At the edge of the sea, invaded by the Vikings, witness to the trials of Joan of Arc, a massive invasion in World War Two, and to settle the soul, to soften the edges and smooth the senses, from Normandy comes rice pudding.Â I couldn’t resist and there was no time to test the waters first.Â It’s not that it failed–it was hands and weapons down the most beautiful rice pudding I have ever made–it’s just to live recklessly and without sleep is hell on the nerves in the moment.
Start with 4 cups of scalded whole milk.Â Add one tablespoon of sugar, 1/2 bay leaf, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 piece of lemon zest without the pith, 3/4 of a whole vanilla bean sliced down one side, and 1/2 cup of arborio rice. Simmer this gently until the rice is just tender.Â Add 3 more tablespoons of sugar.Â Let it sit for a few minutes to rest.Â Make a caramel using 1/2 cup sugar, and enough water to cover.Â Stir until the sugar is dissolved and then not one minute more.Â Keep at a rapid boil, moistening the inside edges of the pan to prevent the sugar from crystalizing, with a pastry brush dipped in water.Â As soon as the caramel is a deep, dark chestnut color pour into an oven proof mold.Â Lightly beat 3 large eggs.Â Remove 1 tablespoon of the egg, and stir into the rice mixture, by first stirring a little of the hot mixture into the eggs to temper them.Â Set the mold into a hot water bath and bake at 350 degrees until just set.
Serve with barely whipped cream and sides of candied ginger, dried apricots, and cubes of coconut.
To tip the scales set a bowl of rhubarb compote on the table.Â Finely diced fresh rhubarb, just enough water to cover, lemon zest with no pith, cinnamon stick, a piece of candied ginger, sugar to taste, salt and freshly ground pepper.