Medieval Rice Pudding

Reading through the recipe simply titled 'Rys' in the Fifteenth-Century Cookbook tenderly known to the world as MS 279, I discovered that Medieval people sweetened their rice and served it with almond milk and spices. Which sounded like a good idea. 

Here's the text, from the cookbook, thought to have been written in around 1430: 

'Take a porcyoun of Rys, and pyke hem clene, and sethe hem welle, and late hem kele; then take gode Milke of Almaundys and do there-to, and sethe and stere hem wyl; and do there-to Sugre an hony, and serve forth. '

Fifteenth-century texts take a bit of translating, but what I managed to glean from the original writing was this: 

'Take a portion of rice and pick it clean. Boil well and strain. Heat and stir in almond milk and add sugar and hony. Serve forth.'

What we do know, as the original author put feathered quill to, presumably almond-milk-spattered parchment, is that the nine-year old Henry VI was currently on the throne in England, the Hundred-Years War causing chaos around him as he prepared to be crowned King of France, after negotiations carried out by his father Henry V before he died. In this year too, Joan of Arc was captured and imprisoned and would face being burned at the stake in the following year. 

I think if I was making this recipe again, not knowing exactly what kind of rice they enjoyed in Medieval England, I would choose a starchier type - and maybe try it with a plumper pudding rice or Arborio risotto rice. I used long grain rice because that's all I had - and the result was sweet and comforting enough, but I just felt the grains stayed too separate and I'd have preferred that creaminess only risotto or pudding rice delivers. 

You could also use this recipe to use up any leftover rice you have in the fridge. 

Another note: saffron wasn't in the original recipe above, but, having seen saffron being used at this time in other milky puddings, batters and pastries, I couldn't resist adding it. I still feel it's totally authentic and gives a subtle richness. I loved it. 

Oh. And the penny in the photo is a real-life half groat from the time of Edward III in the 1300s. I bought it years ago in an antique shop when it glinted and caught my eye. 

Hope you enjoy the recipe! 

Medieval Rice Pudding
Serves 1
Half a mugful of cooked rice (I used long grain, you could try arborio or pudding rice, see above)
150ml almond milk
1 heaped teaspoon of runny honey
a pinch of saffron

Place your cooked rice in a small pan and pour over the almond milk. Heat gently, stirring, until the rice is fully reheated and the almond milk has slightly thickened. Once simmering gently, add the honey and the pinch of saffron strands and continue to stir. The rice - and the sauce - should take on a slight golden colour from the saffron. 

Serve in bowls, adding more honey if you need. 

Have you made this recipe? Let me know what you think? And take a photo and tag me on Instagram - I'd love to see it! 

Interested in Medieval history? I explore the stories of women involved in the Wars of the Roses conflict of the fifteenth century in my book Forgotten Women of the Wars of the Roses, published by Pen and Sword. Order your copy here. 

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