Remember that wonderful new cookbook I raved about a while back, Modern Spice? Source of the nearly-miraculous Ginger and Honey Marinade? Recently the author, Monica Bhide, announced that there was a virtual potluck dinner in the works, in which participating food bloggers would each prepare one recipe from the book and blog about it on the same day. I jumped at the chance; I’ve always been a fan of potluck dinners, and I love the thought of sampling so much of one book across dozens of blogs.
My dish: Rice Pudding and Mango Parfait. It appeared to be exquisitely simple, with just a few ingredients, all of which I had on hand (well, except the milk. The recipe calls for whole, which Harry drinks, but I couldn’t bring myself to use it so lavishly for something Stephen and I would be eating. Monica and I negotiated, and settled on 2%). I set the recipe aside, knowing that whenever I wanted to make it, all I needed to do was run to the bodega.
A few days later, the whim struck. I was ready to go.
I measured out the milk and the sweetened condensed milk (which I also used in a low-fat version) and set it over the flame, as directed. Humming to myself, I gave it a stir and realized that I hadn’t yet seeded the cardamom pods. The recipe says to stir the milk constantly, but I know from experience I can get away with a series of short breaks. Just enough time to seed those pods.
I went to the spice cabinet. I knew the pods were there—I was so sure I hadn’t bothered to check beforehand. Uh, wrong. No pods, just some ground cardamom. And cardamom pods aren’t exactly the kind of thing you’ll find in the greater Williamsburg/Greenpoint area; if I’d run out of kielbasa or ironic t-shirts, I could’ve just run out and bought some.
Since a quick purchase wasn’t an option, I asked myself: WWMD? (What Would Monica Do, for those playing at home.) Monica wouldn’t be in this pickle, I’m quite sure, but that’s another story. I ran into my office and sent a quick email, but the milk was close to boiling… I decided to guesstimate. The recipe called for a teaspoon of cardamom seeds, so I used half a teaspoon of ground. As soon as I added it to the pot, my kitchen smelled like Indian dessert. It was heavenly.
Alas, subbing ground cardamom isn’t a perfect solution. The recipe calls for frequent stirring, and as I stirred I kept seeing what looked like brown beans popping in and out of the milky mixture. At first I thought they were bubbles; maybe I was stirring too vigorously. As the milk and rice thickened, though, the beans became more prominent, and I realized what they were: clumps of ground cardamom! That wouldn’t be terribly pleasant to bite into, now would it? And again, I asked myself: WWMD? I chased those little clumps around the pot with my wooden spoon, and crushed each one with the back of a teaspoon. Time consuming, but worth it.
Once the hard-to-resist goop was off the heat and cooling down, I checked my email. Monica had responded! Ooops. I should’ve used a quarter-teaspoon. Afraid I’d ruined her lovely dessert, I fessed up and quickly got a reassuring response: “No problem. It will taste fine. Indian is a very forgiving cuisine.”
The final dish is quite a looker with those pretty nuggets of yellow peeking out from the speckled pudding, and it tastes like India by way of your grandma: slightly exotic yet deeply comforting.
If you’d like to see what the rest of the potluck participants brought to the party, Monica will be putting links up on her own site.
One note: The recipe says it serves 6, and at first I had a hard time believing it would stretch that far—it’s only ¼ cup of rice. But after eating some of what turned out to be a much-too-generous portion, I reconsidered. Especially after a meal, a little of this goes a long way. Rather than filling up a red wine glass, as I did, serve it in a champagne flute.
Rice Pudding and Mango Parfait
This recipe uses cardamom seeds. To obtain them, open a green cardamom pod and use your fingers to coax the tiny seeds out. Pound them gently using a mortar and pestle or put them in a heavy-duty plastic bag and pound them with a hammer.
Prep/Cook time: 1 1/2 hours, mostly unattended, plus 1 hour to chill
3 cups whole milk [I used 2%]
2 to 4 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk (see Note)
1⁄4 cup white basmati rice, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds, crushed
1 ripe mango, peeled and diced
In a deep saucepan, bring the whole milk and condensed milk to a boil over medium heat. Stir constantly to prevent scorching.
Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the rice and cardamom and mix well. Continue to cook for about 50 minutes, until the milk has reduced by half and you obtain a creamy consistency [mine was done in about 35 minutes]. Stir frequently while cooking.
Remove from the heat and allow to come to room temperature.
Refrigerate, covered, for at least an hour.
When ready to serve, spoon some pudding into a wine glass, layer with some mango, and add another layer of rice pudding. Serve immediately.
Note: Use 4 tablespoons of condensed milk if you like your rice pudding really sweet. With 2 tablespoons, it is sweet but not overwhelmingly so. [I used 4, of low-fat condensed milk, and it was indeed quite sweet.]
Note: If you have a mango that is firm, peel it and then use a vegetable peeler to create thin mango slices. Arrange the slices on a plate and place a scoop of the rice pudding in the center of the mango “carpaccio.”