By Cat, Feb 2008 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)
The Greek version of rice pudding is one of the oldest, as rice reached Greece from the Middle East before moving on to the other European countries. (1)
This is a very simple recipe, and therein lies its greatness: creamy, honey-sweetened, and flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg and orange zest. Portland, where I used to live, has a good-size Greek community; my old neighborhood is home to 3 Greek restaurants! It was in one of these that I first tried rizógalo. Mmm; right up there with baklava, even though they are very different treats.
Compared with other grains, rice contains no gluten, and is relatively low in phytic acid, so does not require overnight soaking. Brown rice is highest of all grains in B Vitamins, and also contains iron, vitamin E and some protein. Short-grain rice is preferred for puddings, because it is starchier than long grain rice.
Traditionally, this pudding is made with whole milk, or milk and cream. Although you could use diluted coconut milk (not lite coconut milk) or homemade almond milk for all or part of the milk/cream mixture, it would not be authentically Greek. I would not use commercial almond milk because it has many undesirable additives.
I prefer mostly raw milk with a bit of added cream for a higher fat content, which is a good balance for the sugary grains and honey (to curb insulin spikes). Also for the calcium and other minerals in raw milk.
Greek Baked Rice Pudding (Rizógalo)
This recipe is adapted from A Passion for Vegetables, by Vera Gewanter (1). It makes a lot of pudding, to serve 4 – 8.
Ingredients and Equipment
- ¾ cup white rice
- 9 cups local milk, or 8 cups milk plus 1 cup cream
- zest of 2 fresh oranges
- ½ cup raw, local honey (or more, to taste)
- about 2 tsp powdered cinnamon (to taste)
- ¼ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
- saucepan (for scaling milk)
- heavy casserole dish with lid (or cover with foil)
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Warm the casserole dish in the oven for a few minute.
- Meanwhile, scald milk (heat over medium-high heat just until steam begins to gather at the surface, about 180°F. Remove from heat.
- Remove warmed casserole from oven, add the rice, and pour the scalded milk on the rice. Cover the casserole and place in oven for 20 minutes.
- Remove the casserole and close oven door to maintain heat. Stir orange zest and honey into the rice; taste for sweetness, adjusting as needed. Cover the casserole again and place back in oven for another 25 – 30 minutes, until the milk has been absorbed.
- Serve in a large bowl or individual bowls, sprinkled with the cinnamon and nutmeg. Best served warm but not hot, or at room temperature.
- Raw cream (poured from an elegant pitcher)
- A dollop of whipped cream
- Chopped pecans or pistachios
- Fresh berries
- A Passion for Vegetables, by Vera Gewanter. See Beloved Cookbooks for more about this book.