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Food & Health

April 29, 2014

A forbidden take on a healthy rice pudding

Speaking as a mom and a chef, let me assure you — one of the nicest things you can do for Mom on Mother’s Day is cook for her. Something sweet is best. And my candidate? Comforting, traditional rice pudding.

Or maybe not so traditional. Classic rice puddings are made from plain white rice. The grains are very tender, the flavor is kind of bland, and the color is white. In my recipe, which is made using black forbidden rice, the grains are slightly chewy, the flavor is slightly nutty, and the color is deep purple.

Once upon a time forbidden rice was said to be literally forbidden. First cultivated in China, forbidden rice was so rare — and so nutritious — no one was allowed to eat it except for the emperor. Today, forbidden rice is considered a delicious and healthy whole grain we can all enjoy.

Like brown rice, forbidden rice is unpolished; the hull of the grain, a rich source of insoluble fiber, is left intact. It’s also a good source of iron and vitamin E, and a great source of the same antioxidants that put the blue in blueberries. I was first introduced to forbidden rice six years ago, when it was still rare. Thankfully, these days it’s readily available at most grocers.

In this recipe, the rice is cooked until tender, then combined with whole milk, sugar, cinnamon, eggs and vanilla. The whole milk — replacing the more traditional (and more caloric) heavy cream — does a great job of delivering the desired silkiness. The cinnamon stick and vanilla — which deliver big flavor — are the most important ingredients next to the rice. If you’ve been waiting for an occasion to use that extra-special Sri Lankan cinnamon or Tahitian vanilla you received as Christmas gifts, now’s the time to pull them off the shelf.

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