Saffron rice pudding with caramel blood oranges

Saffron rice pudding with caramel blood oranges

New Middle Eastern Food
Mark Roper

Chilled rice puddings are popular all around the Eastern Mediterranean. Some are exotically flavoured with mastic, others with orange-flower water or rosewater. Some have currants, pine nuts or pistachios lurking in their creamy depths, and some are served with the top browned under the griller to form a dark, burnt layer. This saffron-scented version from Persia is ethereal, delicate and creamy — the antithesis of gluggy anglo-style rice puddings. Ruby-hued blood oranges make a lovely colour contrast, but you can, of course, use normal oranges — or any sweet citrus — instead.


Quantity Ingredient
1.2 litres full-cream milk
120g caster sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
1 small cinnamon stick
1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1 tablespoon Saffron chelow, (liquid)
160g short-grain rice
1 free-range egg yolk
200ml cream

Caramel blood oranges

Quantity Ingredient
4 small blood oranges, peeled and pith removed
100g caster sugar
100ml orange juice
1 tablespoon orange-flower water


  1. To make the caramel blood oranges, use a very sharp knife to slice the orange segments out of their skin casings (make sure there’s not a trace of pith or membrane).
  2. Combine the sugar and orange juice in a small saucepan over a low heat until the sugar dissolves, swirling the pan occasionally. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 8–10 minutes or until a deep golden brown. Remove from the heat straight away and stir in the orange-flower water and orange segments (be careful, the caramel will spit). Stir gently and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  3. To make the rice pudding, combine the milk, sugar, zest, cinnamon stick, vanilla bean and seeds and saffron liquid in a large, heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. Bring to the boil, then stir in the rice and boil briskly for a minute, stirring. Lower the heat and simmer very gently for 50 minutes, or until the rice is creamy and the milk has been absorbed. If you have a heat-diffuser, this is the time to use it. You don’t need to stir constantly, especially during the first 20 minutes or so, but you do need to keep an eye on it to make sure the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolk with a few tablespoons of the cream, then whisk this into the rice. Leave to cool completely — you can speed this up by scraping the mixture into a bowl set in cold water. Remove the vanilla bean and cinnamon stick.
  5. Whip the rest of the cream to stiff peaks. Fold it into the cold rice, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled.
  6. Serve the rice in pretty bowls, accompanied by caramelised oranges and a drizzle of caramel.
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