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Arroz kon Leche (Rice Pudding)
Serves 6

1 cup (200 g) Italian risotto or short-grain round rice
1 1/2 cups (350 mL) water
4 cups (1 liter) milk
3/4 cup (175 g) sugar or to taste

Put the rice in a large pot with the water. Bring to boil and
simmer, covered, for about 6 minutes, or until the water is absorbed,
watching and stirring so that the rice does not dry up and stick
to the bottom of the pan. Add the milk, bring to the boil, and
simmer on very low heat for 30-45 minutes, or until the rice is
very soft and the milk almost absorbed (there should be some liquid
left), stirring occasionally so that the rice does not stick. Stir
in the sugar and one of the following flavorings and cook for a
few minutes longer. Serve hot or cold, accompanied if you like
with fruit compote.

FLAVORING VARIATIONS:

For a Judeo-Spanish version, flavor with a vanilla bean at the
start of the cooking, or with a few drops of vanilla extract towards
the end, and serve sprinkled with cinnamon. (Some people also add
the zest of 1/2 lemon).

An Arab version known as "roz bi halib" (rice with milk) is flavored
with 1 tablespoon rose water and 1/2 teaspoon ground mastic stirred
in at the very end. Mastic is a resin from a tree which you can
buy in small grains or crystals in Greek or Oriental stores. You
have to pound it yourself to a powder with a pestle and mortar, or
wrap it in a piece of paper and cruch it with a hammer. It gives
a marvelous flavor which Oriental Sephardim are very fond of, but
you must use very little, for otherwise the taste becomes unpleasant.

For a splendid Iranian version called "shirberenj," add 1 teaspoon
ground cardamom and 1/2 teaspoon saffron powder or crushed saffron
pistils.

Use 1/2 cup (90 mL) honey instead of sugar.

For a baked version, pour into an oven dish and let it cool, then
pour over the top 1 beaten egg mixed with 1/2 cup (125 mL) milk.
Bake in a 425oF (220oC) oven for 20 minutes, or until a brown crust
forms.

For a caramel version, heat 4 tablespoons sugar until brown, add
1 tablespoon water, and let it bubble, then pour over the pudding,
making circular lines. Bake for 30 minutes and serve hot or cold.
(In this case, use 4 tablespoons less sugar at the start, or you
might find it too sweet).

In Jewish Aleppo (Syria), a very thick, sticky rice pudding, made
thicker by using less milk, was cooked with honey instead of sugar
and eaten in bowls with milk poured over. It was called "brekhito".

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