As much as I love comforting food, there are times where the gifts of this world may nourish the body but do little to nourish the soul.
It’s annoying, I know.
You know what I am talking about. The times you wish for anything but to be in your own skin, when your skin crawls and itches and all you want to do it to jump out of your body. These are the days that the last thing you want to do is sit with your own thoughts and be with yourself. So, you seek comfort elsewhere. Anything to not feel the annoyance! We run around buying things that hope to calm our restless souls and seek out foods to fill the lack within. Or maybe we look to friends or husbands to say the right words or offer comforts that just don’t seek to fill that void.
This doesn’t mean I am not going to enjoy this comforting dish and the latte that steams beside me but at the very least today I needed to acknowledge the ache. The ache that can only be filled without, not within.
Acknowledging the world as insatiable is at least a start.
Because the words of others are all the more profound that my own, the words of the French mystic Gaston Courtois come to mind.
If the world is insatiable, where do we turn to with our hunger?
“I hunger for you. I search throughout the world, but particularly in compassionate hearts wherewith to appease my hunger. The problem for Me is how I shall be able to nourish the weakened cells of My Mystical Body. In them I hunger; in them I thirst; in them I suffer.
I hunger with love to nourish the many souls who are fainting by the wayside. Give me acts of faith to permit me to enlighten those who doubt; acts of obedience to make them pliant, to make them docile to my voice; to purify them of their vices; acts of charity, above all, that I may show mercy to them and fill them with My love.”
We are all called to love and that love comes in the form of nourishing another, not just the self and turning to be filled by the eternal God who wishes to nourish us. That is the most whole form of nourishment. The one that stays.
Can we do this? Perhaps together we can all at least try.
Though it may not fill that deep cavernous void in the soul, can some days love come in the form of rice pudding to fill the hunger of the stomach? I should hope so.
There are many adornments that rice pudding may wear. My favorite by far includes the flavors of old Persia. Cardamom, raisins, saffron and a variety of nuts often grace kheer, the Southwest Asian version of this dish. Liquids like coconut milk and sugars like jaggery often add complexity in the region of Southern India and apricots and figs may be found in this dessert a hop, skip and a jump to the east. Overall, the flavors are unique and diverse but complement each other beautifully quite like the region itself.
The heady scent of orange blossom (also known as neroli in its oil form) was my initial inspiration for my Persian inspired version. Nothing is as intoxicating as the scent of the water of the bitter orange. I love to splash this musky honeyed scent on my wrists and let it linger in my hair. In this dish, it gives the rice pudding a slightly mysterious note that floats among the grounding scents of vanilla and of cardamom. This dessert gets its complexity from its slow, slow cooking with layers of flavor stirred in along the way.
It is optional if you cannot find it, the pudding is just as delicious. But don’t skimp on that syrup!
Comforting, silky, and sweet, rice pudding is a beautiful way to end a fall day. Add a cup of chamomile tea and settle in.
My recipe here I originally published over at The Dabblist if you wish to hop over there too.
Vanilla Orange Blossom Rice Pudding
Serves 4. Recipe inspired by Mark Bittman
1/2 cup organic white jasmine rice
4 cups whole milk
1/4 cup organic cane sugar
1 1/2 tsp orange zest
3/4 a vanilla bean, split and seeded
1 Tbsp orange blossom water
Heat your oven to 300°. Pour milk, rice, sugar and orange zest in an oven proof pan with a lid such as a dutch oven. Stir and cover, placing in oven. Check and stir every 30 minutes. After the first 30 minutes, add the vanilla seeds and stir. At the hour thirty mark add the orange blossom water. At each stage the rice pudding will begin to thicken slightly. Take out after about 1 hour 45 min and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Rice pudding should firm up nicely.
Honey Cardamom Syrup
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup water
9 green cardamom pods, crushed
Bring ingredients to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer for 4 minutes, lifting up saucepan and swirling syrup over the heat source keeping it simmering but keeping it from boiling or burning. Let the flavors infuse while the rice pudding cooks for an hour and thirty minutes. When rice pudding is almost done, strain out the cardamom pods and seeds. Reheat slightly until a bit more fluid. Pour over pudding.