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Rice Pudding Navarra

One day shortly after the publication of my first cookbook, a dear member of our family called to tell me that she had made Arroz con Leche, following my recipe to the letter. “The rice,” said Bettie, “is as stubborn as it can be.  It just refuses to soften.  What am I doing wrong?!”

I calmly asked her what type of rice she had used. She said, "Uncle Ben's."  

Short-grain rice must be used in the recipe to make it work. Converted rice will cook to a certain point, but not beyond.   Bettie now knows this to be a fact. No es verdad, Bettie?


  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup cognac
  • 1/2 cup short grain uncooked rice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 2-inch cinnamon stick
  • Zest of one lemon, in a long strip
  • 2-1/2 cups 2% milk
  • 4 tablespoons half-and-half
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar plus 2 tablespoons
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • 1 cup granulated sugar


Put raisins and cognac into a bowl to soak; set aside.

In the top pot of a double boiler, combine rice, water, salt, cinnamon stick and lemon zest. Bring to a boil, cover, lower heat and cook until rice totally absorbs water. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Stir in milk, half-and-half, sugar and nutmeg; mix well, stirring until pudding boils and sugar dissolves.

Lower heat and cook, stirring frequently, until rice thickens and has absorbed most of the liquid. Place pan over simmering water; cover and cook, until creamy thick and smooth, stirring occasionally. When rice is en su punto (thick and creamy -- it could take more than an hour -- add raisins and whatever remains of the cognac. Once raisins are added, cook two minutes longer. Stir in the butter until it disappears completely.

Pour creamed rice into a shallow, heat-resistant oven pan measuring 13 X 9 X 2 inches. Cool, dust lightly with ground cinnamon. Cover and refrigerate for an hour or more. Scatter sugar atop creamed rice generously, and slide beneath broiler until it browns nicely into caramel; but watch carefully to avoid burning.

Remove from oven. The pudding will now have a caramelized topping that is magnifico! Again, like in Crema Catalana, if you wish to serve the pudding chilled, omit the caramelizing. Cover and refrigerate 3 hours or overnight; remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before caramelizing.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

Copyright Joyce LaFray. All Rights Reserved.