Food in Unusual Colours

I love food that comes in unusual colours; particularly bold, startling hues.
I was enamoured with Black Sesame Seeds when I first saw them used, on a fellow food bloggers site, many months ago. I also love the contrast, the pop-art confliction of black with yellow.
I fell in love with yet another Rick Stein recipe over the weekend. It wasn’t for purely aesthetic reasons that I was hypnotised by the recipe, but I won’t lie: looks played a huge role in it.
There are certain puddings that are like big, warm, enveloping blankets of love and comfort. They kiss you on your forehead at night with vanilla scented lips and tuck you in with creamy, gentle hands.

In particular, to me, Rice Pudding will always be that dish. My mother has made Rice Pudding for as long as I can remember and no one makes it quite as well as she. She doesn’t use Vanilla or cream or fancy sugars. Just milk, pudding rice and granulated sugar. I always stir in a rosy dollop of strawberry jam into my bowlful and pour extra milk over it, to cool it off so I can eat it quicker. And then, later on, I eat the cold leftovers straight from the dish using the serving spoon.
I have made several variations on the Rice Pudding theme: Nigella Lawsons Stovetop Rice Pudding, which is like a sweet Risotto and perfect for quick-fixers, chocolate Rice Pudding which really does live up to its name, and now this: Black Rice Pudding with Mango Sorbet.

I know. It seems like a startling digression from the nursery Rice Pudding I so love, and it is. However, I had a bag of Nanjing Black Rice that had just the right amount left in it, a couple of Mangos that were refusing to ripen and a powerful craving for something sweet but different.
I made the Sorbet on Sunday morning. It was incredibly simple, much more so than a custard based ice cream which requires patience and a small degree of dexterity on the part of the cook. Sorbet merely requires the boiling up of some sugar syrup which is then cooled and mixed together with the fruit of your choice. Freeze and poke the forming Sorbet around every hour or so to stop the dreaded ice crystals forming.

Unfortunately, my Mango sorbet was not as canary yellow as I would have hoped, due in no small part to the unripeness of it. However, it was full of flavour and very sweet. You could use tinned mango puree too.

The Rice Pudding I made for dessert yesterday. It is as simple to make as a regular rice pud: milk, rice, sugar and long, gentle cooking. The only slight difference was the addition of some finely chopped fresh ginger. According to Rick Stein, this is a ‘Fusion’ style pudding, invented in Australia, the pioneers of this terribly trendy type of food. A drizzle of cold coconut milk is poured over the hot rice when it is cooked, and it is then topped with an almost fluorescent (or, in my case, not) globe of the Mango Sorbet.

But that rice! Nanjing Black Rice, from the Coastal region of China, is unmilled rice. Only the outer ‘husk’ is black, not the grain itself, which is why it immediately turns any liquid it is cooked in a rich, dark aubergine colour. When it cooks, the grain splits and it resembles overcooked easy cook rice (except black), but instead of having a mushy texture, it has a delicious nutty bite and a rich, Basmati-like flavour. It does not take as long as Wild Rice to cook, and it is great served hot or cold. In the US it is also known as Chinese Black Rice or Forbidden Rice.

Served this way, as a sweet, it is very dense and requires a necessary drizzle of cream or coconut milk (but what good Rice Pudding doesn’t?) to moisten it, and quite a large amount of sugar to compliment the strong rice flavour without masking it under a veil of saccharine. Brown Sugar or Demerara is perfect.

Of course, the Mango Sorbet is entirely optional. Vanilla Ice Cream would be great, as would a tart, fruity Ice Cream like Raspberry. You could just serve it with some freshly chopped exotic fruits. Just don’t forget the cream!

If you want to stun your guests and/or your taste buds, here’s the recipe:
(taken from Rick Steins More Food Heroes)
300g Nanjing Black Rice
1.5 Pints Milk (the recipe requested full fat but I used skimmed)
2.5 pints Water (but I found this to be a little too much so I recommend using maybe only 2 pints and adding more if necessary)
10g Finely Chopped Fresh Ginger
5g Butter - optional
250g Brown Sugar
Some Cream or Coconut Milk to Serve
Place the milk, water, ginger and rice in a large saucepan. Bring to the boil and turn down to a low heat. Simmer for an hour and a half.
Ten minutes before the cooking time is up, add the sugar. Stir well to dissolve and taste. Does it need more sugar?
Serve in large bowls with cream or coconut milk poured over.
Mango Puree is purely optional but really yummy.
Note: this picture doesn't show the cream. At this point Paul said "no, no cream" so we omitted that until we tried it. Then it was "yes, yes cream".


Lydia said...

My goodness, that black rice is dramatic! I don't think I've ever tasted it, but now I want to add some to my pantry. Ooh, and the mango sorbet sounds yummy, too.

Claudia said...

Whoo Hoo Black Rice Pudding!!! We eat it (it's packaged as Forbidden Rice here - too cool) all the time, but I never thought of making rice pudding with it. Nice.

Quellia said...

Oooh very pretty!

ros said...

I also like unusual coloured foods and I think the black and orange there look very good together.

I managed to find some black potatoes the other day so I'll be dealing with some odd coloured foods of my own soon.

Brilynn said...

I love the visual contract! Rice pudding has never been something I've craved, I like it, it's just not a staple comfort food for me.

Kristen said...

I am with you... the colors and contrast on this dish are amazing!

s'kat said...

I'm a huge fan of rice pudding, but have never actually come across any using black rice. Sounds wonderful!

Oh, and I love this line: "They kiss you on your forehead at night with vanilla scented lips and tuck you in with creamy, gentle hands. "

Kelly-Jane said...

I've cooked black rice for a couple of savoury recipes. It looks great in the sweet pudding with the colour contrast :)


Julia said...

Wow, that does look good.

Is your email address under your 'Get in touch' link, as I keep getting a delivery failure?

Drop me an email via my blog and I'll send you an invite to the UK Food Blogger's Association

Joyce said...

Black Gold - once reserved for emperors only! I love it.
A quick basic rendition is to cook a cup of black rice with 3 cups of water and a little salt for about 45 will still be wet but then add 1/2 cup of sugar and a half can of coconut milk and bring to a boil, reduce to low and simmer until thick. Serve with the remaining half can of coconut milk poured over. Great for breakfast! But the addition of the mango ice is brilliant!

pistachio said...

That looks amazing. Unfortunately, I've never seen black rice here but am so looking forward to the day I can get some.

Joyce, I like the sound of your recipe too, although I must say I like the idea of adding ginger for some extra zing.

pi xxx

Sara said...

Very striking picture. I don't think I've ever seen black rice in the stores here, but I'll have to take another look.

Callipygia said...

In thai cooking, using black sticky (glutinous) rice is popular for dessert, it is basically steamed and then mixed in with coconut milk, palm sugar and pandan extract. Fresh mangoes are then served with it- this is a neat twist and I am with you on the color thing.

Sig said...

beautiful dish, I love the visual effects in food too, and the black and yellow adds a very dramatic touch... I would eat anything if it is visually appealing. I've never cooked black rice at home, though I've had it at restaurants.. I can imagine the mango taste with the rice... yummmmmmmmmm...

T.W. Barritt said...

What an impressive dish! The idea of color is so fascinating -- we often take it for granted, because there are so many options, but an artistic eye for color and dramatic contrasts can mean everything to the enjoyment of a dish.

Lucy said...

That dark aubergine colour is so luscious!

Coconut cream for me please and always with thin slices of ripe mango sitting on top.

Yours looks beautiful.

Passionate Eater said...

It took me such a long time before I got accustomed to black rice (it has only been recently that I've started eating it) and it does stain my teeth, so I don't like eating it when I have guests. However, I think I'll make an exception for this recipe! I agree, it is a "startling" way to serve dessert, but it looks and sounds fantastic!

sandi @ the whistlestop cafe said...

I don't think I've ever seen black rice. It makes me wonder if you made black beans and black rice...
Hmmmm it's a thought

Kathryn said...

I've never cooked with black rice! I love the visual impact of that dessert and it sounds really delicious too!

Gattina said...

Freya, you love the food in black =) I had tried something similar yours, but my rice took forever to get soften. And love your idea of mango puree, bravo!

valentinA said...

Hi Freya,
your black rice pudding reminds me of a time I went to a Thai restaurant. It was served practically the same way & I enjoyed it lots!
The yes yes cream bit is really funny, & I agree that it does make it yummier when you'e added cream cream cream;)

Melting Wok said...

my goddd, you reminded me of my late grandma's fav. dessert. She cooks this black glutinous rice with coconut milk and red beans, aahh, memories :) thx, guys !:)