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.
Making this recipe is pretty near a snap. It shouldn't require more than 15 minutes of your undivided attention. The rest of the time it'll just simmer away on its own. Unlike brown rice, forbidden rice cooks up in a relatively speedy 30 minutes. You will, however, need to pay close attention when you add the eggs, making sure they don't get so hot that they scramble.
Finally, I'd like to encourage you to top it all it off with some crystallized ginger, as suggested. It was one of my mom's favorite little treats and it provides the perfect finishing touch of chewy, spicy contrast to the creamy pudding.
Forbidden rice pudding
Start to finish: 3 hours 25 minutes (15 minutes active)
1/2 cup forbidden rice (Chinese black rice)
1 cup water
2 1/2 cups whole milk, divided
3 tablespoons sugar
1 large cinnamon stick
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger, to garnish (optional)
In a small saucepan over medium-high, combine the rice and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook, covered, for 30 minutes. Let stand for a few minutes, then pour through a mesh strainer to discard any excess water. Return the rice to the pot over medium-high heat. Add 2 cups of the milk, the sugar, the cinnamon stick and a hefty pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer and cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, for 40 minutes.
In a small bowl, beat the eggs with the remaining 1/2 cup milk. Whisk in a large spoonful of the hot rice mixture. Add the egg mixture to the rice and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the custard coats the back of a spoon, 4 to 5 minutes. Do not let the rice pudding boil or the eggs will scramble.
Remove the saucepan from the heat, stir in the vanilla and transfer the rice pudding to a bowl. Cover the pudding and chill until cold, at least 2 hours. The pudding will thicken as it chills. To serve, discard the cinnamon stick and divide the rice pudding among 4 bowls. Top each portion with some of the ginger.