It seems I have something very particular in common with Fanny Cradock's husband, Johnnie. It's not that I am browbeaten at home, or in the kitchen. It's not that I quiver whenever my partner barks an order at me. It's not that I am shy, retiring or in any way intimidated or fearful of daring to contradict anyone where I feel it necessary. Even Fanny. It's not even that I am partial to a monocle, cravat and a sturdy glass of port to see me through the evening. No, it's something that others find strange, often won't believe at all and quite simply cannot comprehend. I, and Johnnie, hate Rice Pudding.
For me, I still wince at the thought of the un-tearable, thick, black, leathery, tarpaulin skin that was always atop the Rice Puddings that emerged from the oven at home. I. Couldn't. Bear. To. Look. Never mind eat it. I once sat all night at the kitchen table when my Dad said I 'couldn't leave' until I'd eaten it. I won. Everyone I have ever met in life since (almost) thinks I am missing out. I always felt I was alone. There didn't appear to be a suitable support group for me to join. I just had to remain silent and get on with life. Until now. Johnnie is my saviour.
Fanny's version of Rice Pudding, is, as expected, slightly different to all others. It's an Olde English recipe which she, naturally, found in France labelled subtly as Une Recette Familiale Anglaise. It does not looks like a Rice Pudding. Good. It does not taste like a Rice Pudding. Smashing. It is made with all the same ingredients as a Rice Pudding. Oh. The key is, it is made in a totally different way. No oven. No Black tent-of-death. No sitting at the table all night. Maybe.
Fanny makes her Rice Pudding in a double-boiler on the stove-top. She uses Patna pudding rice, which I don't have. The only Rice I can find in my cupboard is Risotto. Which happens to have some Wild Black Rice mixed through it. Feel the Fear. Fanny adds milk, in stages, and a vanilla pod, while it heats. Stirring occasionally, cooking slowly, it seems just like a Risotto to me. Which is soothing. And it turns out that Black Rice is really Red Rice, and turns the whole mixture pink. Added bonus. Once all the milk is absorbed, Fanny adds in two egg yolks one at time, and continues to heat and beat gently before flinging in a little sugar, to taste, and some stiffly whipped cream.
To tempt Johnnie (and me) even further, Fanny moulds the Rice Pudding and leaves it to cool in the fridge. It's hard to resist a bit of moulding. Fanny disguises it primarily to replace Johnnie's terrible memories. Decorated with seasonal fruit, I have cherries. Seemingly, when she visited him once during World War Two in the Royal Masonic Hospital where he was recovering from tonsillitis (which, Fanny notes is very serious in a grown man) she discovered Johnnie out of his bed, in his pyjamas (thankfully) pushing something down the wash basin that he didn't want the Matron to see. It was English Rice Pudding. Not Fanny's 'fantastic' French Rice Pudding, which he would never say no to. He would never say 'no' to Fanny full stop. Would you?