A bowl of Rice Pudding & other small Delights
It arrived wrapped in a textured, hand-painted piece of wallpaper - an offcut from a farmyard scene that lines the walls of their mudroom. I've always liked the idea of a mudroom - a place to hang rain-soaked jackets. De-shoe out of the weather. An in-between area sheltered from the elements of nature before entering the comforts of home, telling the story of any given day, a day that will no doubt have provided many of those small joys we so often overlook in our busy lives; the shift in seasons when my nose picks up the scent of spring after a long, cold winter. The knowing smile between two weary mothers. Getting all the green lights when running late. Receiving a handwritten letter. Sinking my teeth into the tender curve of a blushing, sweet pear. A moment of pause.
In order to really feel, hear or see these small pockets of wonder, joy or delight one must be open to receiving them. Once this happens a whole world of daily miracles awaits. A bowl of creamy, vanilla-infused rice pudding sits in front of me. The whirls of steam mesmerise. My spoon sinks effortlessly into the glistening poached pear which is laced with warming spices and brandy. The flavours dance on my tongue. I feel comforted. I feel happy. I feel love. If a single bowl of rice pudding can invoke these feelings imagine the abundance of other small delights that are eager to be felt, heard and seen.
As Ross Gay writes in his book, The Book of Delights, "Holding open doors. Offering elbows at crosswalks. Letting someone else go first. Helping with the heavy bags. This caretaking is our default mode..." So, here I am, caretaking and sharing one of my small delights with you - the recipe for my rice pudding with brandy-poached pears. So you too can be mesmerised by whirls of steam.
How many small delights must that parcel have witnessed as it travelled from one salty-sea aired province to another salty-sea-infused town, on opposite sides of the world? Many, I am certain. But none more delightful than the moment I peeled away that textured farmyard wallpaper scene to reveal a gift that keeps on giving. As I prop myself up against my pillow, becoming immersed in the words on the pages of Ross Gay's The book of Delights, I am comforted by the thoughts, actions and feelings that are shared and it makes me even more aware that small delights are in fact, everywhere.
Rice pudding with poached pears
serves 4-6 depending on serving size
3 pears, cored and quartered (I used Rico pears)
a thumb-sized piece of ginger, sliced
peel of 1 small lemon
3 cardamom pods, bruised
1/2 cup brandy
1/2 cup water
Chopped walnuts or pecans and chocolate (optional) For serving
In a medium-sized baking tray, toss together all the ingredients. Cover tightly with a piece of foil. Pop into a preheated 180c (fan-forced) oven for about 40 minutes. The pears should feel tender when a knife is inserted into the thickest part. Uncover and pop back into the oven for a further 20-25 minutes. Set aside.
1 cup arborio rice
1-litre full cream milk
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
While the pears are in the oven combine the rice, milk, ginger, sugar and vanilla in a medium saucepan. I like to use my cast iron pot for this. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover and cook, stirring occasionally for 25-30 minutes, or until the rice is tender.
Place large spoonfuls of pudding into warmed bowls. Place desired amount of pears, a little of the syrup, a scattering of chopped nuts and a fine grating of dark chocolate over the top if one feels so inclined.