Living in Bangkok these last few weeks has made me realise the extent to which rice is a food staple in this part of the world. Thais eat rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner; it’s so versatile, satiating, and it’s produced locally too.
Yet we in the West are complacent about the value of rice – so much so that, according to WRAP's Household Food and Drink Waste in the United Kingdom report, the UK wastes 40,000 tonnes of rice every year. Additionally, the US Department of Agriculture estimates that about a third of rice bought by consumers is chucked away.
And when one considers the environmental impact of wasting rice due to the amount of water used to grow it and then cook it, it’s truly tragic. Did you know that binning 1 kg of rice is equivalent to pouring away 2,497 litres of water?
I struggle to make the exact amount of rice for the dish I am making, and so often find myself with surplus rice. But, due to its versatility and wonderful way of soaking up moisture, cooked rice can be used in a number of interesting dishes. From rice pudding, to stuffed peppers, to arancini balls – it can even be used as a replacement for flour in cakes (see my recipe for my dairy & gluten-free Chocolate Leftover Rice Cupcakes), you’ll be crossing your fingers that there will be leftovers at the end of your meal :)
My favourite go-to dish to make with leftover rice is none other than the simple and delicious rice pudding. You can use dairy or dairy-free milk, add nuts, seeds, fruit, endless spices, or top it with jam, nut butter – you name it. You can tailor it to all dietary needs – it can be vegan and of course it’s gloriously gluten-free.
It can be served hot or cold, for breakfast or for dessert. And you can use any kind of cooked rice: brown or white, short grain or long grain. You just need equal parts of rice to milk, and whatever else you’d like to add in and then stir it over a gentle heat until it’s reached your desired consistency.
I love my coconut milk rice pudding with cinnamon & desiccated coconut. It’s wonderfully creamy and the desiccated coconut gives it a really interesting texture. Sweetened with honey to make it refined sugar-free, this can be whipped up in 20 minutes.
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup cooked rice
1 tbsp honey
½ tsp cinnamon
½ cup desiccated coconut
1. Place the rice and milk in a heavy-based pan and place over a gentle heat.
2. Stir constantly for about 15 minutes until the mixture starts to thicken, and then add the honey, desiccated coconut and cinnamon.
3. Stir for a further five minutes, then, once it has achieved your desired consistency, remove from the heat.
4. Either serve it piping hot (perfect for to warm up on a chilly day), or, once cooled, store in the fridge for up to 3 days.
5. Top with fresh or stewed fruit, or just eat it as is – Enjoy!
NB. Because coconut milk has a lot of good fats in, it will solidify in a very cold fridge. Before serving, make sure you remove it from the fridge about 5 minutes before serving. If you still find it a little dry, then just add a dash more fresh coconut milk.