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Rice pudding in stilettos

I’ve known how to make my Granny’s rice pudding forever. It was the first recipe I could recite by heart, not counting the Fried Bread Coated in Tomato Ketchup I created as a six year old to earn my Hostess Badge in the Brownies.

Granny hated being old enough to be called anything other than Peggy. So that’s how I always think of her. Peggy made a rice pudding most days, using a Pyrex bowl that was scoured and scratched with age, like a skating rink on a frenetic Friday night.

Into the misted bowl went 6 teaspoons of pudding rice, 6 teaspoons of sugar, 1 pint of full cream milk and a grating of nutmeg. The oven door was opened and the bowl filled with swirling white liquid disappeared inside. Two and a quarter hours later it emerged in triumph, a sweet, rich, creamy confection with the thinnest of brown, toasted tops. Rice pudding makes me think of home, steamed-up kitchen windows, laughing like a drain, dancing on the table and shocking pink lipstick … with a slightly mournful top note of past times.

Peggy’s recipe is still delicious and I often make it, but I’m going to give you a posher version in her honour. Peggy was glamorous, showy and full of fun. And she loved anything posh. She was a devotee of the eyebrow-pencil-down-the-back-of-the-legs alternative to unaffordable seamed nylon stockings. She had a collection of trompe-l’oeil polo neck jumpers that were nothing but a ribbed rollover neck, with a mini oblong flap attached front and back that she tucked into a patterned shirt – think prototype Versace. With so little to them, the fake jumpers were cheaper than their genuine rivals so she could afford to buy several colours.

To Peggy, the epitome of luxury was being able to do something ‘just for show’. So in her memory, here’s a rice pudding with glamour. A rice pudding in stilettos.

Posh Rice Pudding

Serves 4

6 teaspoons of pudding rice

6 teaspoons vanilla sugar

Half pint full cream milk

Half pint single cream

1 pinch saffron

Quarter cup sultanas soaked in quarter cup warm pudding wine or sweet sherry for an hour

Half cup unsalted pistachio nuts

Freshly grated nutmeg

Drain the sultanas and drink the sherry if you feel in the mood. Combine everything apart from the nutmeg and the nuts in an oven proof pudding bowl large enough to leave a one inch gap at the top.

Top with the finely grated nutmeg and then place in the oven for two and a quarter hours at 150 degrees C. The rice should be soft, but the mixture creamy rather than sticky.

As you serve it, finely grate another shower of nutmeg over each bowl and scatter a handful of crushed pistachio nuts on top.

Eat with your eyes closed while listening to Nat King Cole singing Unforgettable. This last part of the recipe is most important.

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