There are two realities that I’m currently living right now.
The first one, which I frankly prefer, is that of me traipsing the cobbled streets of Rome in the warm mid-summer sun; or suntanning on huge flat rocks along the Amalfi Coast, the salty sea air and light breeze tangling up my hair. The sun sets at half-past eight, and as it slowly disappears into the horizon, I breathe in deeply and fill my lungs with deliciously sweet air.
In this same reality, I also see myself on an impossible mission to try all gelato flavors available in the boot-shaped country, where I hope to practice my non-existent Italian as well as eat as much pasta and pizza humanly possible.
The second reality, one I honestly wish would just morph into the first, are these currently harsh winter days in Argentina – the past weekend has been hard on someone who fears the cold as much as I do. I leave the comfort of my well-heated apartment wrapped up in as many layers as an onion, my coat buttoned all the way up to my neck, with my scarf stuffed into my coat to trap as much warmth as I can.
It’s incredibly uncomfortable to wear such insane amounts of layers – I miss walking the streets in a sundress and sandals, as I would in Singapore – and having to peel off one layer after another is quite a chore. It gets dark before six in the evening, and the night seems way too long.
Unfortunately, for the next two weeks at least, the second reality is my truth, after which I can indulge in the first for a short, but sweet vacation.
In between staying indoors as much as possible, drinking steaming cups of tea one after another; and wrapping myself in ridiculous amount of clothes, it is also time for thick, warm food.
In winter, more than any other season, my body craves comfort in the form of rice.
This is nothing surprisingly since I’m Asian and always will be – and I toggle between risottos, porridge, fried rice and now, milk rice pudding (or “arroz con leche” as they call it here).
The last is a smooth, creamy pudding of milk and rice that is formed after about an hour of being slowly heated with lemon peel on the stove.
As the hour passes, you’ll have to be sure to constantly stir and scrape the bottom of the pot to prevent the pudding from sticking, and the pudding transforms from being very liquid to thick and rich, perfumed with the smell of citric lemon. Add in some sugar towards the end, stir some more, and then it is ready.
At this time, all that’s left to do is to scoop up a generous helping of warm pudding into a large bowl, sprinkle some ground cinnamon on top, and dig in, letting the pudding warm your stomach and your soul.
ARROZ CON LECHE
1) 200g of uncooked rice for risotto
2) 2 litres of milk (I used dairy milk, but you can also use almond milk or other milk you prefer)
3) Peel of 1 lemon
4) 200g (2 cups) of granulated white sugar
5) Ground cinnamon, for sprinkling on top (optional)
1) Combine the uncooked rice, lemon peel and milk in a large pot and place over medium-low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon every once in a while during 50 minutes (make sure you stir more often towards the end so the rice doesn’t stick to pot)
2) Once rice is more of less cooked, add in the sugar and stir constantly for the next 10 – 15 minutes, scrapping the bottom of the pot to ensure rice doesn’t stick
3) Once rice is fully cooked, serve hot in bowls and sprinkle with ground cinnamon