Rys. A 15th Century Rice Pudding
Remember the Almond Milk from the previous post?
Well, I didn’t make the almond milk for its own sake, I made it so that I could use it for a rice pudding, Rys, recipe from the second volume of Take a Thousand Eggs or More. The original recipe comes from a 15th century series of manuscripts called Herleian, specifically manuscript no. 279. The recipe, as transcribed by Cindy Renfrow, reads:
“lxxxvj. Rice. Take a portion of Rice, & pick them clean, & seethe them well, & let them cool; then take good Milk of Almonds & put thereto, & seethe & stir them well; & put thereto Sugar and honey, & serve f[orth].” 
The recipe instructs the cook to take a portion of rice, pick it clean and boil it for a long time, then let it cool. Add a large amount of almond milk to the rice, boiling and stirring, also for a long time, add sugar and honey and serve. Pretty straight forward…maybe.
As usual, there is a host of questions that come to mind when reading this recipe. First and foremost, what type of rice would they have been talking about? Research ensued. As it turns out, there is no clear cut evidence of what type of rice was available and used in medieval Europe but there is circumstantial information that indicates that they were probably using short grain white rice. . This was great news as in most places short grain white rice is used for rice pudding, namely Valencia or even Arborio rice, because its higher amount of amylopectins makes a for a creamy final dish. This is also why short grain rice is used for risotto. For information on sugar, see my previous posts.
The other questions were regarding times, amounts, etc. all of which I could sort of answer with my knowledge of modern rice pudding. The one urge I had to resist was that of using the modern method of cooking rice pudding, where you cook the rice already in the milk, instead of in water and then adding milk as the recipe calls for doing. I am not sure why they did it this way but my best educated guess is that, this way, they needed less milk. The rice needs a large quantity of cooking liquid, whatever it may be, and by using water as the cooking medium no large amount of almond milk was needed, thus using less of the more expensive ingredients. Based on this, I came up with a preliminary recipe to use as a guide and got to cooking. Some things did change as I went but I was expecting that. I stuck to the ingredients listed on the medieval recipe as I wanted the taste to be as per the recipe, this means I did not add spices like cinnamon, which is quite common in modern rice pudding and was certainly available in the 15th century.
I was pleased with the result as it was, but it truly did taste better after I sprinkled some ground cinnamon on top. Some rice puddings made with milk, or cream, can be quite heavy, but this one felt light in the mouth. I’m going to call it a success.
Here is my final recipe:
Almond Rice Pudding