In the heatwave we had here this summer in the UK, I was reading Nigel Slater’s Eating for England on my commute to and from work

and it gave me a powerful urge to eat some rice pudding. 

I’m sure it was partly to do with the sudden changes of season we get here in London.  One minute we are all complaining about the heat and have a plug-in fans going full blast propped up on the flour jar in the kitchen, and the next minute it’s pyjamas, double duvets, and soups rather than salads.

Rice pudding is something that I have fond childhood memories of.  Out of a tin, maybe heated up a bit in a saucepan, it was so deliciously AMBROSIAL! 

I used to love it as a kid.  As an adult though, I remember eating it only once.  At my friend Heather’s place when we were in our mid-20s.  Heather does not like to cook. 

I have many stories about her legendary aversion to cooking, but this one is my favourite.  She once invited me round for dinner.  We started drinking quite early on and got pretty drunk.  She disappeared into the kitchen and was gone for ages, eventually re-emerging brandishing a bowl each.  These bowls contained hot rice pudding from a tin with a chunk of chocolate melting in the middle of each.  That, my friends, was dinner.

I’m not sure how much sense Nigel’s book would make to anyone not from the UK or younger than 30, but it made absolute sense to me.  He discussed the merits or otherwise of Oxo cubes, chocolate eclairs, mint cracknels and a LOT of classic British biscuits (Rich Tea anyone?). 

Everything he wrote about was part of my childhood and it really made me want to eat it all over again.  My only gripe was the non-mention of Heinz Spaghetti Hoops.  Surely a BRITISH thing, even though made by the American Heinz company? Would any Italian in their right mind do this on a rainy Bank Holiday Sunday? I doubt it, but I did though!

It was utterly delicious of course and prompted by this classic scene in The Mighty Boosh.
Do you like Spaghetti ‘Oops? Yeah, de are good ain’t de?

Anyhow, all of this is a massive preamble to alert you to the fact that a delicious Christmas rice pudding recipe courtesy of David Niven is now on the Bibelot blog.  I made a vegan version for Bibelot, but if you are not vegan you can, of course, make this with butter and cow’s milk which is what Mr. Niven would have done I should think.

Photo by the lovely Chloe Owens of Bibelot Magazine

David Niven’s Julgrot (Christmas rice pudding)

  • 1 cup long-grain rice
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup water
  • 5 & 1/2 cups milk
  • Two pieces of cinnamon stick, each about 1.5 inches long
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Scant tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 almond
  1. Scald rice with boiling water. Melt half the amount of butter, add to rice and water. Boil for 15 minutes (or until water is absorbed.)
  2. Add milk and the cinnamon stick, cook slowly for about 45 minutes (or until rice is tender and milk has been absorbed) stir often to avoid scorching.
  3. Season and add remaining butter. Pour the porridge into deep dish and serve with cold milk and sugar.
  4. Traditionally, the family cook adds a single almond to the rice. Tradition rules that the one who gets the almond is to be the next one married in the coming year.

Serves 6

This rice pudding is bloody lovely, I heartily recommend it, not just for Christmas either!  I like it for breakfast.  With a chunk of chocolate melting in it in of course.

This is my twist on Heather’s serving suggestion… David Niven’s Christmas Rice Pudding with a chunk of chocolate and a sprinkling of cinnamon. Yum, yum!!

If you want to know more about what Mr Niven liked at Christmastime, there is a great article here – and David Niven’s Julglögg (Christmas Wine) is recipe of the month.


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