Comfort food: my favourite rice pudding

I was suffering for most of this week with an awful cold. Red, raw nose, pounding head and sinuses, aching joints and scratchy throat. It lasted for days and it wasn’t much fun. Strange as it sounds though, I actually love the rituals of illness. I enjoy slowing down, not having to get out of my PJs or put on makeup or leave the house, the obligation to do nothing. When else can you feel virtuous for slobbing out all day in front of a Frasier box set?

For me, being sick always involves:
a duvet and pillows on the couch
hot baths
mindless daytime television
endless cups of tea with honey and lemon
buttered toast
chicken noodle soup, garlic soup and ramen noodles with lots of chilli.
The soup is especially important. I have an unfounded but immutable belief that the key to restoring health lies in chilli and garlic by way of clear broth, so I tend to lunch and sup on said soups until I’ve chased away my sniffles. With their warmth and heat they say health to me, and also comfort.

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By day three of this cold, however, with garlic oozing from every pore, I was ready for a bit of variety in my diet. Just like my soups, I wanted something that would be easy to prepare, that would provide comfort, that would wrap me up in a hug and say, you’re ill and I’ll make you feel better. And there’s no better food for doing that than my favourite stovetop rice pudding.

Redolent of old fashionedness and nostalgia, this pudding is so easy to prepare that even a person who’s a little under the weather can manage it. It’s also so tasty that once your health is restored you’ll want to make it again. You’d be crazy to confine this stuff to the sickroom.

Old Fashioned Rice Pudding

For a lighter version, omit the butter and egg yolks. The result is still creamy and delicious!

4 3/4 cups whole or semi skimmed milk
2/3 cup shortgrain rice (such as Arborio or Carnaroli)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
pinch of salt
1/3 cup raisins
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 egg yolks

In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, combine 4 cups of the milk with the rice, sugar, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Simmer for about 30 to 40 minutes, stirring often, until most of the milk has been absorbed into the rice and the mixture is very creamy and thick. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and raisins.

Heat the remaining milk in a small saucepan over low heat, then whisk in the egg yolks. Continue to whisk for about 2 minutes, until the mixture is thick, then pour it back into the pudding and stir to combine. Serve warm, or cover and refrigerate.