A couple of weeks ago we skipped town (or in our case country) for our first proper holiday in quite some time. And it was quite something. With my three siblings, their families and my parents, we swapped freezing NSW for tropical Vanuatu and a week of swimming, paddling over crystal clear lagoons, reading and doing very little. It was perfect timing for us, a much needed circuit-breaker and a huge treat.
We loved picking up fresh produce from the market that runs 24 hours a day in the capital Port Vila, loved drinking the juice from freshly husked coconuts, swimming under pounding waterfalls then through fresh water pools that were almost too perfect and beautiful to be real. Loved snorkeling over reefs bright with rainbow fish, meeting and playing soccer with the kids at Pele Island school (still learning in tents while they wait for classrooms to be rebuilt after Cyclone Pam’s horrendous visit last March) and loved the smell of wood smoke that drifts from humble kitchens all over the island. But now we are home and we love that too.
In 24 hours we went from wallowing in warm, waters on white sandy beaches to tobogganing down the hills of our farm all covered in 15 centimetres of snow. And this morning seems particularly cold. No matter how much wood I pile onto the fire, our house just can’t seem to shake the chill. So today, I’m using food to take us back to Vanuatu. Bolstered by vanilla pods and coconut nectar purchased at the Port Vila market, and inspired by the citrus we saw there, I made a big pot of warm, vanilla and almond rice pudding (recipe below). And tonight for pudding, we’ll have it by the fire, smelling the wood smoke and dreaming of the tropics.
Vanilla and almond rice pudding
1 cup brown rice
5 cups almond milk (or whole milk), recipe below
1/4 cup panela or other unrefined brown sugar
1 vanilla pod (split)
1/2 cup chia seeds
Oranges and grapefruit, coconut nectar and cacao nibs; to serve.
Combine rice, almond milk, sugar and vanilla pod in a large saucepan, bring mixture to the boil then reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the brown rice is tender, about 45 minutes. Stir regularly to stop mixture from sticking to the base of the pan.
Add chia seeds for the last 10 minutes of cooking and add a little more milk if necessary.
Serve rice pudding with citrus segments, cacao nibs if you have them and a drizzle of coconut nectar (or syrup or honey of your choice!)
I’d never made almond milk before discovering the wonderful blog and book My Darling Lemon Thyme. Author Emma Galloway’s recipes are all healthy, clever and delicious and though our house isn’t dairy free, I fell in love with homemade almond milk after making a batch to use in Emma’s almond milk puddings (Recipe in her book). Thank you for all the inspiration! Makes about two litres.
2 cup natural almonds, soaked overnight
8 dates, pitted
1/2 tsp sea salt
Drain the almonds then place in your blender with two cup of water, the dates and sea salt. Blitz until you have a paste then add six more cups of water and blitz again. You may want to do this in batches depending on how big or powerful your blender is! Now line a sieve with four pieces of muslin and place over a bowl. Pour the almond milk through this, in batches if necessary and squeeze out as much milk as possible. Give the pulp to the chooks or use in compost! Keep almond milk in the fridge for a few days and shake before use.