Finland Food: Rice porridge

It's the first advent Sunday, so for me it means the start of the Christmas time. Shops have long been selling Christmas stuff, but somehow I try to avoid it during November. Rice porridge is a traditional Christmas dish in Finland. In my family we eat it around noon on Christmas Eve when the old capital of Finland, Turku, announces "Christmas peace". It's an old tradition: if a crime was made during it, the offender was given a harsher punishment.

I love rice porridge and usually eat it also on other times than just Christmas. But what makes a rice porridge a Christmas porridge, is the almond. A blanched almond is hidden in the porridge and whoever gets it, is granted to make a wish while biting the almond. I remember that somehow it was usually my father who got it (maybe he just ate the porridge more than the rest of us...) If you get the almond, don't tell anyone what you wished for as then your wish won't become true ;)

If you have some left-over porridge, you can make rice pudding from it by adding some sugar and whipped cream once it's cooled.

Riisipuuro - Rice porridge (serves 3-4)

300 ml water
130 g (~1.5 dl) "porridge rice" (puuroriisi) (or risotto rice or Japanese rice)
700 ml milk (preferably full-fat, semi-skimmed is acceptable, though it will stick more)
0.5-1 tsp salt
1 blanched almond, optional

to serve:
cinnamon and sugar
(or butter, if you like it my way)

(Optional: Warm up the milk). Bring the water to boil, add the rice and let cook on medium high heat until water is absorbed to the rice. Add the milk (if you warmed it up, the porridge will cook quicker). Stir the porridge constantly until it starts to bubble (be careful: it sticks very easily to the bottom of the pot. Teflon-coated would be best.) Lower the heat to low medium and continue stirring. I've noticed that the sticking happens mostly within the first few minutes, when the boiling starts. Once the situation is "stabilized" you don't have to stir all the time (but probably you need to "burn" a couple batches before you learn when you can stop the constant stirring).

Simmer for about 40 minutes stirring first quite often or until the milk has absorbed to the rice and the grains are soft. Add salt (and don't forget the almond!) when the porridge is done.

If the porridge sticks to the bottom, the best thing to do is to NOT scrape it as then the burned brown parts will dot the beautiful white porridge. You can either change the pot leaving the burned bottom out or then just carefully stir "on top" of the burned part.

Or, if you have a double boiler, you could skip almost the whole stirring part: after the porridge starts to boil, move it to the double boiler. It takes extra time but on the other hand you'll have to stir it only occasionally. You could also use a rice cooker, but it will probably need some experimenting. I used okayu -setting when I had a rice cooker and it was the easiest way I've experimented to make rice porridge.

Peaceful and nostalgic advent time for everyone 🌟

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