For my latest column in The Knockturnal, I wrote about my vegan twist on Lebanese rice pudding, made with almond milk instead of the dairy variety and topped with roasted, slightly sweetened, cinnamon-and-salt-infused almonds.
I came across the original recipe for rooz ib haleeb, as the pudding is called in Arabic, while flipping through The Ellis Island Immigrant Cookbook, a collection of family recipes and stories passed down by immigrants who arrived in New York Harbor over a century ago. See the photo below for the wonderfully simple original recipe and the sweet story accompanying it, and scroll down for my almond-cinnamon variation.
Note: I halved the original recipe, which serves 8, but feel free to use the original quantities.
Almond Cinnamon Rice Pudding
1 quart (4 cups) almond milk
Heaping ⅓ cup raw rice
¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch, dissolved in a small amount of water
¼ teaspoon almond extract
Crunchy Almond Topping
½ cup almonds, coarsely chopped
½ teaspoon vegetable oil, for coating
½ teaspoon cinnamon, plus more for sprinkling
½ to 1 teaspoon honey or sugar (use less or more depending on desired sweetness)
Generous pinch of sea salt
Prepare the pudding: In a large saucepan, bring almond milk to a boil. Add rice and cook, uncovered, on medium-high heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add sugar and dissolved cornstarch, and stir until well combined. Cook for another 15-20 minutes, until rice is soft and pudding thickens. Pour in a storage container or directly into serving bowls, and let cool to room temperature.
Prepare the topping: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine almonds, vegetable oil, cinnamon, honey or sugar, and sea salt (sprinkle very liberally) in a small mixing bowl. Transfer to baking sheet or pan, and toast for 5-10 minutes, until golden and fragrant, keeping an eye on the almonds to make sure they don’t burn. Set aside to cool.
Assemble, Serve, and Store: Sprinkle almond topping over pudding when ready to serve, along with an additional, generous pinch of cinnamon and sea salt. Refrigerate leftover pudding, and store almond mixture at room temperature in an airtight container.
Yields 4 (large) servings.