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Coconut rice pudding with palm sugar & cinnamon-poached pear

In desserts, gluten free, puddings, winter on 31 August, 2011 at 7:59 am

Like I said before, winter’s fast drawing to a close whether we like it or not. I know this because I’m sitting in bed typing out a blog post and I’m not wearing multiple layers of wool tights, fluffy socks, pajama pants, merino thermals, thick wool jumpers (the answer to “but didn’t you get uncomfortably hot in the night?” is yes).

And like I said last time, I’m not so reluctant to let go of winter anymore. It’s the sunshine, the flowering trees heavy with anticipatory buds, that wonderful feeling we take for granted the rest of the year of leaving the house and coming home from work while it’s still light out. And I’m getting so excited for asparagus.

But the nights are still chilly (ish) and there are still plenty of pears on supermarket shelves and I’m sure we’ll be hit with one last polar blast before we can truly say spring is here. So, okay, we’re cautiously watching the ebb of the bleak, cold signs of winter. But we can still enjoy comforting puddings like this one.

Rice pudding is one of those polarising desserts that people seem to love or hate: maybe it’s the texture, or having had too many stodgy, mealy rice puddings as a child. I remember my parents eating it when I was growing up, though I was never interested: to me, rice was something you eat along with Asian food, a savoury thing, a staple food, not something that would be good in a dessert. But I came around eventually, which is good, because rice pudding can be So Good – creamy, silky, sweet and comforting – and can take on so many different flavour variations.

So I was excited to see a slew of different rice pudding recipes while browsing through the June/July issue of Donna Hay, enough that I was convinced to buy the magazine and try out some of the variations. This was probably my favourite: the rice is cooked in coconut milk rather than cow’s milk, and drizzled with a syrup made from poaching pears in palm sugar syrup. YES.

In the end I made some changes to the recipe, mostly based on what I had in my cupboards, but found it turned out beautifully: I used a combination of half-milk, half-coconut milk (because I only had about 2 cups of coconut milk) and 2 pears instead of 4 (I only had 2 pears in the fruit bowl). It was still nice and coconutty even with less coconut milk, and I found that half a pear for each serving was just fine. Feel free to use all coconut milk if you like (as the original recipe had it) – this would be especially good for people who are trying to avoid dairy. I imagine it would work well with half-coconut milk, half-almond milk as well.

I have a feeling the coconut rice pudding would work really well with fresh strawberries, mangoes, pineapple, peach – so there’s definitely potential to keep this recipe around beyond the end of winter (today!).

(adapted from Donna Hay #57, Jun/Jul 2011)

Peel 2 rather firm pears, slice in half and remove the cores. In a saucepan big enough to fit 4 pear halves, place 2 cinnamon sticks1 cup (270g) grated palm sugar and 4 cups water. Heat, stirring, over high heat until all the sugar is dissolved, then bring the heat down to low. Place the pear halves into the simmering liquid, cover and poach until tender.  This should take about 10-15 minutes. Once the pears are done, remove from the liquid and bring the heat back up to high; reduce the liquid until it starts to get all syrupy and amazing-looking. Also, your kitchen should smell beautiful right about now.

Meanwhile, bring 1 cup arborio rice, 1 litre coconut milk (or 2 cups coconut milk + 2 cups milk) and 1/2 cup caster sugar to the boil in a saucepan placed over high heat. Give it a good stir and reduce the heat to low, cover and let simmer for about 25-30 minutes. Stir occasionally. Once it’s ready the rice will be tender and the liquid will have thickened somewhat so that it’s silky in texture.

Serve hot, topped with a poached pear half and plenty of syrup. Amazing.

Serves 4.

  1. am firmly in the love camp and adore poached pears. amazing!

  2. You know, I’ve never actually poached a pear before. Better get in quick while they’re good. I love coconut so much, so the idea of making a whole rice pudding with coconut milk appeals to me hugely.

    Not to be pessimistic, but I’m sure there’ll be plenty of opportunities for wintery cooking yet – this is Wellington after all! The weekend was so deliciously warm though, I’m sure we’ll be seeing asparagus soon (can’t wait!)

  3. I am guilty of buying pears for the sole purpose of admiring their gorgeous curves and colours… to the point of not wanting to cut them open and eat them. Too many things end up in my kitchen and garden just for their looks.

  4. Gorgeous! Love poached pears, and have never heard of using palm sugar for it, that would be pretty special :)

  5. In the five years of being in New Zealand we’ve only recently found pudding rice. I tried arborio once and it just didn’t cut it. Pity winter is now over and I have to start thinking about lighter brighter puddings. Although personally I’m happy eating cold rice pudding. This sounds gorgeous and perfect way to enjoy those pears.

  6. When I first read your post I got a bit confused – it’s not winter yet! Then I realized you’re in New Zealand and that made a lot more sense ;) lovely place, I want to go back again – haven’t been to Auckland for more than four years now, I believe. I love coconut, I love rice pudding and I love pear – so thank you for this gorgeous recipe!

  7. […] Coconut Rice Pudding with Palm Sugar & Cinnamon Poached Pear. Yum. I bought Alexa Johnston’s new book, What’s For Pudding?, this week (keep an eye […]

  8. delaney: me too! so much love for this dish.

    hungryandfrozen: I usually end up eating the fruit that’s sitting around before I poach it or do anything with it, but it’s definitely worth setting aside a few pears while they’re still around… poached pears are beautiful.

    Five Course Garden: ha ha… I do know what you mean about those beautiful curves though!

    timeforalittlesomething: palm sugar is delicious and goes super well with the coconut, makes it just a bit different! But also very sweet ;)

    Domestic Executive: this is going to show my ignorance of rice pudding (or perhaps un-Britishness) but I didn’t know there was such a thing as pudding rice! Where do you find it? I’m happy eating cold rice pudding too, had this cold for breakfast the next morning – beautiful :)

    The Dinner Belle: haha yes, we’re still easing out of winter down here, looking very much forward to summer! Glad you enjoyed New Zealand, come back anytime :)

  9. Everything about this combination spells beautiful comfort to me! Believe it or not, we’ve had a few wintry days in Auckland over the last few days so I think there will be occasion to make this even up here :P

  10. I love rice pudding and with coconut this just takes it to another level, yum

  11. Yum, I’ve had the idea of making one very similar to yours with coconut milk and coconut palm sugar! Great minds think alike… You, me and Donna that is ;-)

  12. Mel: yes, there’s still definitely potential for warm comforting puddings on those cool spring nights :)

    Peasepudding: :)

    Emma: indeed ;) would love to see your version!

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