October 2012, photo by Juta Kübarsepp for the December issue of Kodu ja Aed, 2012
From the recipe archives (originally posted in January 2007)
At the tender age of 18 I moved to Denmark for a year as an exchange student. Wide-eyed and over-excited, I enjoyed the experience a lot. It was quite a life-changing experience. I didn't see my friends and family for almost a year, so I had to adjust to the new environment, make new friends and generally grow up quickly. At the age of 18, this was definitely something to cherish.
A new country meant lots of new foods, too (and over 10 kg extra weight upon return, sadly). Usually, the Danes would try to impress the exchange students by introducing them to 'typical' Danish items of kartofler med frikadeller (potatoes with meat balls) and rugbrød og leverpostej (rye bread and liver pate). Although delicious, these didn't impress me as such, as they're staple foods in in Estonia, too. But I had my first quiche, my first hotdog, my first spring roll and my first lasagne while in Denmark.
Whereas I broadened my international culinary horizons during that year, I also fell in love with one particularly Danish dish. You see, the Danes have the most delicious pudding for Christmas - risalamande or enriched rice pudding served with warm cherry compote. Risalamande contains either chopped or flaked almonds, and one whole almond is hidden in one of the bowls. The person who finds the almond will receive a special gift. You need to eat this pudding carefully, as you need to tell a whole almond from a chopped one by gently 'testing it' on your tongue. I guess you'll lose the gift if you can't show a whole almond, you see?!
I distinctly remember that when my host-mother 'mor Kirsten' served risalamande for the Christmas meal, every single child at the table found a whole almond in their pudding and none of the adults did.
What a coincidence, eh??
[PS Fancy a rice pudding and some chocolate? Try Pierre Hermé's Chocolate Rice Pudding (Feb 2006)]
1 litre of full milk (2.5% or 3.5% fat)
150 grams short-grain porridge rice
1 vanilla pod
To enrich the porridge:
500 ml whipping cream (35%)
100 grams of almond flakes (or blanched and chopped almonds)
1 whole almond (blanched or not; you may need more if you've got children eating)
2 to 3 Tbsp sugar
a large jar of stoneless cherries in syrup (370/680 grams)
1 heaped Tbsp cornflour/corn starch/Maizena
2 Tbsp cold water
First, make the rice porridge. Slowly bring the milk to a boil. Rinse the rice in cold running water, drain and add to the boiling milk together with the vanilla pod. Stir gently until the milk comes to the boil again, then reduce heat, cover and simmer gently for 45-60 minutes, until the rice has absorbed all the milk and become soft. Cool completely.
Whisk the cream and sugar, and fold into cooled porridge together with almonds. Add more sugar, if you wish.
To make the cherry compote, bring the cherries and syrup to the boil in a small saucepan. Mix the cornstarch with cold water, stir into the cherry compote and simmer for a few minutes, until the sauce thickens a little.
Serve the cold rice and almond porridge with a warm cherry compote. And remember the extra gift to the lucky one with a whole almond in their pudding!