post eight: rice to riches puddin’

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Arroz con Leche

Before coming to Peru, rice never really did it for me. I labeled it as an unnecessary carbohydrate, bland in taste and aggravating when using chopsticks. How can anyone ever pick up those tiny grains with two sticks? Still beats me.

Yet, after a couple weeks south of the border, something taste-bud changing dawned on me: rice is wonderful…when accompanied by good ingredients. Here, a variety of sauces are poured over already-seasoned rice plates, lending to one savory bite after another. It’s not unusual to find a lunch where half the plate is made up of rice. The grain not only serves as a base for the platter’s flavoring, but also as a main source of energy for the diner. When you’re walking up to two hours every day, it’s a must!

Although I enjoy my rice at lunchtime, I fell in love with the creamy dessert that is rice pudding. Again, I was never much of a fan of this hallmark treat in the States but after making my own following a Peruvian recipe, I’ve converted into a rice pudding lover!

The Peruvians are doing something right with their desserts down here and I think I’ve caught on to the secret ingredient. Other than a whole lot of pure sugar (no high fructose corn syrup here!), condensed milk is a key ingredient in many of the cakes and baked goods. Even better than a can of sweetened condensed milk is making it yourself, which means adding as many spoonfuls of sugar as your sweet teeth desire. During my first cooking class here in Arequipa, I cooked and assembled a rice pudding with three other friends. This recipe calls for coconut, cinnamon, cloves, raisins and a sprinkle of pisco if you’re ready and willing. It was super easy to make and even easier to eat. I’ve attempted to translate the recipe below so give it a go! Served while it’s still hot, this pudding will inevitably sweeten up your day.

1 1/2 cups of Rice

1 can Evaporated Milk

1 can Condensed Milk

1 Lemon (must peel skin)

1 handful of Raisins

2 teaspoons Coconut

5 teaspoons Sugar

2 Cloves (complete)

2 teaspoons Cinnamon

In a sauce-pot, bring rice to a boil by adding 4 1/2 cups of water. While heating up, add one clove, the cinnamon and some of the lemon’s skin. In a bowl, mix the cans of evaporated and condensed milk along with the sugar. Once mixed, combine the milk and sugar with the contents of your pot and let simmer a bit longer on the stove. Transfer the mixture into a bowl to serve, add in the raisins, and decorate with ground cinnamon. If you want to, now’s the the time for that little sprinkle of pisco. Β‘Provecho!

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