Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Follow the River Home" by Corran Harrington, Served with Salmon and Asparagus with Green Tomatillo Sauce

Is it Friday yet?! It's been a crazy week needing a little bit of calm, like reading a beautifully written book and enjoying a lovely meal that takes no time to put together. Today's TLC Book stop takes us to New Mexico and the banks of the Rio Grande with Follow the River Home by Corran Harrington. Accompanying my review is a Rick Bayless recipe for Grilled Salmon and Asparagus with Green Tomatillo Sauce, inspired by the book.

Publisher's Blurb:

Daniel Arroyo has suffered a lifetime of guilt over the sudden death of his infant sister, who died when he was eight years old. He now lives his middle years between that guilt and worsening episodes of PTSD from a Vietnam he left thirty years ago. When a violent encounter on a dusty highway forces Daniel to face what haunts him, he finds himself pulled back to the neighborhood of his youth, where old houses hold tired secrets. What really happened on that steamy August afternoon? The answer comes spilling from the old neighborhood, and Daniel begins to find his way home. 

Corran Harrington takes the reader along the Rio Grande, from its headwaters to the sea.

Paperback: 220 pages
Publisher: Arbor Farm Press (April 14, 2016)

My Review:

It is difficult to describe Follow the River Home well and do its beauty justice. It's a short 200-ish pages, but there is so much going on with shifting time frames and multiple perspectives from Daniel, as well as the people, and sometimes even objects that he comes into contact with--or that are in a degree of separation or two from him. Does that sound slightly strange and confusing? Yes, occasionally there are times that the book becomes a bit like a section of choppy rapids that spin you around and make you a little dizzy, looking to reorient yourself, but then things calm down and it meanders along with a smoother flow--much like the river of its setting might. It is vivid, lyrical even, and although there is much guilt, sorrow and loneliness found in the pages, there is also hope, beauty and grace mixed in. The author's descriptions of the river and its banks make the area come to life, I could almost smell the wild asparagus growing, feel the winds, and hear the sounds of the Rio Grande, giving me a clear picture of a place I have never been. This book and Daniel's story in particular touched me. Follow the River Home pulls you in from the striking, softly-painted cover to the gorgeous words within and is a novella to curl up and savor in quiet moments. Lovely.

Author Notes: Corran Harrington is a Pushcart Prize nominee, a Santa Fe Writers Project finalist, a Hidden River Arts Eludia Award finalist, a Bosque Fiction Contest finalist, and a New Millennium Writings Award semi-finalist whose short fiction has appeared in numerous literary journals. A former lawyer, Harrington also has a background in cultural and linguistic anthropology. She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Connect with Corran on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.


I would definitely not call Follow the River Home a foodie book, but there is food mentioned. Throughout the book there is mention of the sight and sweet scent of the wild asparagus that grew on the banks of the irrigation ditch in Daniel's neighborhood. In addition to being somewhat of a place of refuge for Daniel, the ditch and its banks are where several key and life-altering moments happen for him.

"The ditch. That magic place he discovered as soon as he was old enough to walk around the corner. It ran only during irrigation season, March through October. It was lined  with old cottonwoods, just like the one in his front yard, an you could sit on its banks and dangle your bare feet in the water that went muddy every time a bullfrog broke its surface. Box turtles slept on old wood, while blue dragonflies darted among the cattails. And the wild asparagus that grew there--Daniel's mother could always tell he had been at the ditch by the sweet smell of the wild asparagus on his jeans.

There are also mentions of enchiladas, bizcochitos, fresh baked bread and chocolate cookies, Doritos, French fries, fresh fish barbecue, warm tea and a can of soup, black bean soup, scrambled eggs, fish and chips, corn, peppers and squash, bologna sandwiches, Boston brown bread and sliced apples, butternut squash soup and warm rolls, dry roasted peanuts, tamales at Christmas, and cherry pie. 

Ultimately I knew my book inspired-dish needed to include asparagus because of the numerous mentions throughout the book--mostly the wild asparagus of the ditch bank of course, but there was mention of Daniel's daughter rearranging the asparagus "into an accusatory arrow on her plate" and a dinner of baked halibut and steamed asparagus. I have no wild asparagus near me, but there is still plenty of local asparagus to be had. I wanted to include salmon. mainly because of a wonderful thing that Daniel does for Emily, his best friend's younger sister, who is now homeless and has mental issues. Her only remaining relative at that point in the story is her sister, who tries to give Emily money and get her to stay with her--especially in the winter months. Daniel brings Emily home with him, offering to cook her dinner, and she asks for salmon. This grace and kindness and the resulting dinners and warm place to stay at night that he provided Emily until he could build trust and get her to go stay with her sister, are just some of what made Daniel such a great character. So salmon and asparagus were my starting points. 

I wanted something with a southwest, Mexican feel, so I went to Rick Bayless, online where I found a couple of asparagus recipes that would work. I will not lie, it has been a crazy week which is why his recipe for Golden Halibut and Asparagus with Spring Green Tomatillo Sauce grabbed me. It looked amazingly quick and uses his Frontera brand Tomatillo Salsa, which I happened to have in my pantry as they sell it at Safeway. The dish does have a spring feel but the grilling, frozen sweet peas and still readily available local asparagus made it an easy pick, just subbing in wild King salmon (from my freezer) for the halibut. The salmon is integral to the book as it is what Emily asked for. (If you are worried about my local fish consumption, check out my last couple of fish posts featuring monchong and ahi!) ;-)

The dinner Daniel cooks for her is simple grilled salmon and a salad of arugula and mixed greens which Emily left mostly untouched. So I made a salad but didn't put much time or thought into it--simply dressing local baby arugula with a touch of olive oil, lemon and sea salt and topping it with toasted pumpkin seeds, a variation also on the grilled salmon and arugula salad that Emily thinks about, served at a local cafe, with slivered almonds atop. 

Salmon and Asparagus with Green Tomatillo Sauce
Adapted from Rick Bayless via  
(Serves 2 to 3)

2 or 3 fresh fish fillets, 6 to 8 ounces each (I used salmon)
salt, freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch medium-size asparagus, ends trimmed

extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup shelled fresh or frozen green peas
1 cup Frontera Tomatillo Salsa (or salsa verde of choice)

1/2 firm-ripe avocado, diced
1 tsp thinly sliced fresh mint leaves

fresh mint or parsley sprigs for garnish
Toasted pumpkin seeds, optional for garnish

Pat fish dry; season with salt and pepper.

Heat a well-seasoned grill pan or nonstick skillet until hot. Add asparagus, a little oil and sprinkling of salt. Cook, turning often, until asparagus are golden and tender, about 3 to 4 minutes, or more or less time depending on asparagus thickness. Set aside.

Drop peas into a small pot of boiling salted water; cook 1 minute. Drain well. Return peas to pot and add salsa; heat just until warm. Remove from heat, stir in avocado and sliced mint. Season with salt.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. When hot, add enough oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. Once oil is hot, add fish flesh side down, in a single uncrowded layer. Cook, without turning, until nicely browned, about 7 minutes--depending on preference and thickness of fillet. Carefully flip over fish and cook just long enough to crisp up the skin, about 1 to 1 ½ minutes.

Arrange asparagus on warm serving plates. Top with fish. Gently ladle sauce over fish. Serve right away garnished with mint sprigs and pumpkin seeds if desired.  

Notes/Results: Really easy, really delicious. the tangy salsa sauce with it's sweet peas, cool mint and creamy avocado works so well with the rich salmon and tender but firm asparagus. It goes together in a snap--toast the pumpkin seeds, grill the asparagus, heat the peas and salsa and stir in the avocado and mint, and grill the salmon. You can get it ready in about 20 minutes. If you can't find Frontera salsa, any salsa verde will work. (Shh... don't tell Rick!) I liked the richness of the salmon here but halibut or a local fish like opah or monchong would work equally well. Quick, simple, tasty and healthy, you can't beat that! I will happily make it again. 

I am linking this post up to I Heart Cooking Clubs where it is Potluck week. The time to make any recipe from our current featured chef or any of the previous IHCC chefs (like Rick Bayless). You can see what everyone made by following the picture links on the post. 

I'm also linking up this review and recipe to the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post

Note: A review copy of "Follow the River Home" was provided to me by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Grilled Eggplant and Ratatouille with Sun-Dried Tomato and Elderflower Cashew Creme for Food 'N Flix June: "I Am Love"

Our Food 'N Flix pick for June (hosted by the amazing Evelyne of CulturEatz--see her announcement post here) is the 2009 Italian drama, I Am Love, starring the always fascinating to watch Tilda Swinton. I saw this movie when it hit Netflix, but I didn't remember that much about it. I did notice that I gave it a 3-star rating--which generally means I liked it, but didn't really like or love it. Still, it's always fun to re-watch a movie with food goggles on, so I put it back in my queue and finally got around to watching it last weekend. (Subtitles always mean scheduling time when I can fully pay attention--especially when on the lookout for food inspiration!

If you have not seen this movie, I am not going to go into a lot of plot detail--suffice it to say "wealthy textile manufacturing in Italy, Russian woman (Swinton) loses her identity and passion after many years of marriage and two grown children, and finds passion and love with a younger hot chef friend of her son, causing much upset." Wikipedia has a great and detailed summary here, but I recommend not reading the last 3 paragraphs before seeing the movie so as not to spoil the ending. It is a visually-stunning film about family, love, passion, pain and of-course food. It is not at a a feel-good movie, there are some truly sad moments--particularity near the end but, if you like a somewhat dark Italian film with beautiful scenery, unique food, and Tilda Swinton (she never fails to mesmerize me when she is on screen), you will likely find it absorbing.

It's not always easy to catch the food, or at least the details in the film. Some things I saw and wrote down: a cake, eggplant with elderflower, Leghorn cod, Russian salad (that seemed to be wrapped and a torch taken to it), small tarts of some sort, luncheon dishes of egg yolk, pea cream and zucchini flowers,  prawns with ratatouille and sweet and sour sauce (apparently orgasmic!), mixed fish with crunchy vegetables, Ukha--a Russian soup with a clear saffron broth (very integral to the story and mentioned a few times), a mention of 'Ligurian dishes,' raspberries, lots of fresh vegetables and fruit sitting around, a garden with what looked like berries/currents?, clover, and grapes--or at least grape leaves, coffee drinks and what looked like a box of macarons. There was probably much more that I didn't catch in there.

My inspiration actually is a mashup of several scenes and dishes--it is, I confess, a bit ADHD in nature and also a bit unwieldy to eat, but boy did it end up surprising and delighting me with the taste! So, inspirations--the eggplant and elderflower for sure, the leghorn-style cod--mainly its pinkish-red cloud of mousse-like foam that I decided must have tomato in it since research showed tomatoes to be a key ingredient in the dish, named for Livorno--Leghorn in English, a port city on the Ligurian sea on the Western coast of Tuscany. There was the ratatouille that was served with the shrimp and sweet and sour sauce, but appeared to be not quite as stewed as a typical ratatouille (see center photo of collage), and the over-arching theme of Ligurian dishes which seem to be all about fresh and local produce. Whew, right?!

So, have... Grilled Eggplant and Ratatouille with Sun-Dried Tomato & Elderflower Cashew Creme 

Since I don't have access to readily available elderflower, and I have a large bottle of the
liqueur that I am working through, I decided to put it into a sun-dried tomato cashew creme sauce (a vegan nod to the mousse/foam with the cod), brightened with lemon juice and layer it with stacks of eggplant slices. Since it's summer and grilling in on the mind, I decided to grill the eggplant slices and ratatouille vegetables (mostly locally-grown) in garlic-infused oil and place it all on a bed of greens--in this case I came across some locally-grown sorrel that I don't come across often and have not used much and I thought its lemony tang would be nice. I was going to add fresh basil but forgot to get some, so I just used thinly-sliced sorrel leaves for a garnish. 

Grilled Eggplant and Ratatouille
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 2)

1 medium eggplant
1 medium zucchini
1 small sweet onion
1 red bell pepper
2 Roma tomatoes
1/2 cup garlic-infused oil (I used garlic macadamia nut oil) + more as needed
sea salt and black pepper to taste

For Plating:
1 small bunch baby arugula, lettuce, or other micro green, and/or sorrel or basil leaves (I used sorrel) + additional sorrel or basil, cut into long thin strips (chiffonade) for garnish.
Sun-Dried Tomato & Elderflower Cashew Creme (recipe below)
Make Ahead Prep: Slice eggplant into 3/4-inch slices--you should hopefully get about 8 total. Sprinkle both sides of each slice with salt and place in a colander over a plate or bowl and let sit for at least 30 minutes while you grill the other veggies. Discard any liquid, lightly rinse slices and pat dry--gently pressing any excess water out. Brush both slides of slices generously with olive oil and sprinkle with a bit of salt. Set aside until ready to grill. 

Grilling Ratatouille Vegetables: Slice zucchini vertically into 1/2-3/4-inch planks, peel and slice thickly slice onion, stem, seed and slice bell pepper into thick strips (as flat as you can get), and slice Roma tomatoes in half. 

Place a large grill pan over medium-high heat and allow to get hot. Place cut veggies on a plate or shallow bowl and drizzle remaining garlic-infused oil over them, gently tossing to coat and seasoning with sea salt.  

Place the vegetables in a single layer on the hot grill pan (you may have to do this in batches and cook for about 5 to 6 minutes, turning over once midway through cooking time. (Note; Vegetables should be almost cooked through, with grill/char marks but not burned, so keep an eye on them. I find it easiest to do the same veggies together. Tomatoes will likely be done the fastest at about 4 minutes but use your judgment.) Place grilled veggies on a plate, lined with a paper towel and allow to cool slightly.

On a cutting board, coarsely chop veggies into small bite-sized pieces and place into a bowl. When chopping tomatoes, lightly squeeze them over the bowl to capture any juices. Lightly toss, taste for seasoning, adding more salt and a sprinkle of pepper if desired, and set aside. You can add a drizzle of extra garlic-infused oil or chopped herbs if desired or if not using the cashew creme sauce. 

Wipe out grill pan if needed and reheat over medium-high.  

Grilling Eggplant: Once pan is re-heated and hot, add prepared eggplant slices in a single layer (cook in batches if needed). Cook until lightly-browned with grill marks (you can turn the slices slightly mid way through each side to get a cross-hatch pattern of grill marks), about 4 minutes per side. Eggplant should be lightly-browned cooked through-- tender but not mushy. Sprinkle slices with additional salt and a bit of pepper if desired. Place on a covered plate to serve warm.

To Plate: Place a thin layer of greens on two plates. Divide the grilled ratatouille on top of the greens and level out to as flat a surface as possible. Center an eggplant slice on each plate and top (you can pipe with a pastry bag or use a spoon) with a thin layer of the Sun-Dried Tomato & Elderflower Cashew Creme. Repeat, dividing the slices between the two plates, making a stack of 3 to 4 slices per plate. After the final slice, top with a dollop of the cashew creme and sprinkle with fresh basil or sorrel. Serve immediately with a knife and fork.

Sun-Dried Tomato & Elderflower Cashew Creme
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes about 1 1/2 cups)

1 heaping cup raw cashews, whole or pieces
1/2 cup dry-packed sun-dried tomatoes (not in oil), re-hydrated, water reserved
1 oz elderflower liqueur (I used St. Germain)
juice of one lemon (about 3 Tbsp), or to taste
sea salt and white pepper to taste (I used about 1/2 tsp sea salt & 1/4 tsp white pepper)

Plan Ahead Prep: Put the cashews in a bowl and add cold water to cover them. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate 4 to 6 hours or overnight. Place sun-dried tomatoes in a small bowl and pour 1/2 cup boiling water over them. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes--drain and reserve tomato water.

To make sauce: Drain the cashews and rinse under cold water. Put them in a (preferably high-speed) blender with the re-hydrated tomatoes, elderflower, lemon juice and 1/2 cup of the reserved tomato water to start. Blend on high for a minute or two, until smooth--adding extra tomato water (or plain water) as needed until mixture blends easily but is still thick and creamy. Add about 1/2 tsp sea salt and 1/4 tsp white pepper and blend for another 30 seconds. Taste and add additional salt, pepper, or lemon juice as desired. If you don't have a high-speed blender and mixture is not smooth, you can strain it to remove any remaining bits of cashew.

Store refrigerated creme for 2-3 days, tightly covered in the refrigerator.

Notes/Results: OK, the stack has a slight lean and is not the easiest thing to eat neatly (maybe I'd try just three slices next time!) but the flavors here are spot-on and it makes a vegan dish that is unique and delicious enough that I doubt any meat and cream would be missed! After some simple prep (mainly soaking the cashews and sun-dried tomatoes and chopping veggies) it actually goes together pretty quickly so don't be afraid of the ultra-long recipe. It literally took me three times as long to type up the recipes than it did to make them! You could also just grill the eggplant slices along with the other veggies, chop and add them to the ratatouille, and then drizzle the cashew creme on top for a faster and easier-to-eat presentation. The eggplant slices pretty easily when you cut it--it's just a tad messy with the layers and creme. I was really happy with the Sun-Dried Tomato & Elderflower Cashew Creme as I was worried about the elderflower liqueur either being hidden or overwhelming the sauce, but it actually was present with a slightly floral sweetness, while the lemon and sun-dried tomatoes balanced it out nicely. All in all, a delicious dish that I will definitely make again--especially the grilled ratatouille and the cashew creme--even if I don't want to bother with an eggplant tower. ;-)

Because procrastination is my middle name, today is the deadline for I Am Love and Evelyne will be rounding up the posts on her blog shortly. If you missed this round and love food, moivies, and food in movies, join us for the July film, Popeye, hosted by Elizabeth at The Lawyer’s Cookbook

Happy viewing, cooking, and eating!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Book Tour Stops Here: Review of "The Royal Nanny" by Karen Harper, Served with Nigel Slater's Quick Rice-Pudding Topped with Strawberry-Plum (Chia) Jam

Happy Tuesday! On today's TLC Book Tour we are journeying to Britain and into the nursery of the the British royal family with The Royal Nanny by Karen Harper. Along my review of this (fascinating for Anglophiles and royal watchers) historical novel, I sharing some book-inspired, nursery-style comfort food with a bit of a modern spin, creamy (and vegan) Rice Pudding topped with sweet and tangy Strawberry-Plum Chia Seed Jam.

Publisher's Blurb:

April, 1897: A young nanny arrives at Sandringham, ancestral estate of the Duke and Duchess of York. She is excited, exhausted—and about to meet royalty. . . .

So begins the unforgettable story of Charlotte Bill, who would care for a generation of royals as their parents never could. Neither Charlotte—Lala, as her charges dub her—nor anyone else can predict that eldest sons David and Bertie will each one day be king. Lala knows only that these children, and the four who swiftly follow, need her steadfast loyalty and unconditional affection.

But the greatest impact on Charlotte’s life is made by a mere bud on the family tree: a misunderstood soul who will one day be known as the Lost Prince. Young Prince John needs all of Lala’s love, the kind of love his parents won’t—or can’t—show him.

Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (June 21, 2016)

My Review:

I am a bit of an Anglophile and have long found the British Royal Family fascinating so I had a feeling that I would love The Royal Nanny and I did. I was not acquainted with Charlotte Bill, who was a real person and the much loved Lala of the children of the Royal Family from 1897-1919. The story that Harper tells about her is an absorbing one--a young woman dedicates her life and makes personal sacrifices for service, duty and a great love for the children in her care. There is romance in this historical novel, Charlotte turns down a proposal from Chad, the gamekeeper of Sandringham, as she felt her duty was to the children and a nursemaid or nanny was not allowed the distraction of a "follower at the door." But really the love story here is about Lala and her charges, especially the youngest child, Prince John (called Johnny by the family) and whom she bonded with as a sickly baby and cared for him throughout his life, fighting to keep him with her and the family as he developed epilepsy and it grew in severity. His epilepsy and his often unusual behavior, which would likely be diagnosed as some form of autism today, were misunderstood and feared at the time and for a Royal Family struggling with their image in troubled times, cause for shame and secrecy. One has to credit Lala, both the real person and the book version for her devotion to Johnnie and to the other five royal children including those that the world knows better--David (who became King Edward VIII, before abdicating the throne for Wallis Simpson--something that greatly angered Lala, along with his treatment of Johnny) and Bertie (who later became King George VI, father of the current Queen and who will ever be Colin Firth in my mind after The King's Speech). The book focuses mostly on Lala's years of service, but there is an epilogue that tells us what Charlotte did after (which I would have loved even more of and would root for a sequel).

The Royal Nanny is my first book from Karen Harper, author of many contemporary suspense and historical novels, but I am confident that it won't be my last. Her vivid descriptions of the times and life in a royal household brought me fully into the story and characters. I couldn't help but love Lala and reading her perspective about the family, The Great War, the Romanov family, and other famous people and events was absorbing and turned what might be a quiet close to 400 pages into a bit of a page-turner. Keeping track of all of the royals and their many names, both given and chosen, is an effort and I longed for a family tree before finally finding a list of the names and titles of the main characters in the back of the book. (Next time I will check there first before Googling!) ;-) Unless you are a true expert, you will likely learn something new about the Royal Family and the time period, and be inspired to look further (the author gives plenty of suggestions for further reading and viewing in her afterword) which to me is always the mark of a good historical novel. Definitely recommended.  


Author Notes: New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Karen Harper is a former Ohio State University instructor and high school English teacher. Published since 1982, she writes contemporary suspense and historical novels about real British women. Two of her recent Tudor-era books were bestsellers in the UK and Russia. Harper won the Mary Higgins Clark Award for Dark Angel, and her novel Shattered Secrets was judged one of the best books of the year by Suspense Magazine.
Find out more about Karen at her website, and connect with her on Facebook.


Food Inspiration: 

Although not completely food-filled, there is food to be found in The Royal Nanny between the nursery, teas, and dinners with the Royal Family. There is plenty of tea of course, biscuits, grapes, muffins with jam and milk, porridge, little sponge cakes, cherry tarts, scones like raspberry, apple cinnamon, currnt and blackberry, and Lala's favorite-scones with strawberries and clotted cream, roast goose, plum pudding, and slabs of bread with honey. There was a luncheon of cold salmon pâté, pigeon pie, tomato salad, haricots verts, Russian salad, jellies, tortes and cakes, pineapple ice cream, and raspberry sorbet and another ladies lunch with cold meats, asparagus tips, cucumber-egg sandwiches, cheese canapés with pickles, a salmagundi salad with spring flowers round its rim (a salmagundi is sort an old-school chef salad), and sponge cake with lemon sauce. There was Queen Alexandra's sixty-fifth birthday cake--six tiers with crystal bowls of goldfish next to the pillars between each layer, and an eight-course menu including; oysters and stewed trout, green pea or grouse soup, poached salmon with cucumber and mousseline sauce, mutton, roast ducking, parmentier potatoes, roast partridge squab, pâté de foie gras, cheese tarts and peaches in chartreuse jelly.

I was intrigued with the mention of Prince George's daily lunch--a fish dish intriguingly called Bombay Duck, but it was not duck and instead was a "crisp-fried and highly-seasoned fish imported from India." But what called to me the most was rice pudding which the children found to be a treat. Once Lala discovers the head nanny's mental illness and her mistreatment of the boys, she reports it and the head nanny is removed and Lala and her hungry charges have it for tea while waiting for their baby sister to be born.

"Less than an hour later, I sat with David and Bertie in the day nursery eating our generous tea of biscuits, jam, porridge, milk--tea for me--and, to the delight of the boys, rice pudding." 
-Charlotte Bill, The Royal Nanny by Karen Harper

I did not like rice pudding as a child but have developed a fondness for it the past few years. (There are eight recipes for it if you look at the tab on my side bar!) ;-) It's warm, comforting and seems like the perfect thing for two little boys, seeking love and acceptance and finding it with their loving and protective nanny.

There was not a description of the rice pudding enjoyed by Lala, David and Bertie. I suspect it may have been a classic baked style but I decided to consult with one of the masters of British nursery food, Nigel Slater and found several recipes. Being that it is summer--his 20-Minute Rice Pudding, made on the stove and being relatively quick--without a lot of fuss, appealed to me the most. I switched out the milk, cream, and butter for non-dairy versions (making this a vegan version) and reduced the sugar because coconut milk has it own sweetness, and I planned to top the pudding with a sweet and tangy summery jam. (My changes to the recipe are in red below.)  

My favorite part of rice pudding is stirring things into it--like fresh or dried fruit, or nuts, so jam, often accompanying biscuits and scones in the British nursery, seemed like a fun choice. Another modernization, I make chia seed jam because of the ease and the nutritional benefits the chia seeds add (I have also made and posted a few other chia seed jams--blackberry, cinnamon-peach, and plum if you want to see other versions), and since I had both fresh strawberries and black plums on hand, I thought mixing them would be tasty.

20-Minute Rice Pudding
Adapted from Nigel Slater via
(Serves 4)

8 heaped Tbsp arborio rice
300ml (about 10 oz) milk (I used coconut milk)
300ml (about 10 oz) double cream (I used coconut milk + coconut creamer)
vanilla pod, split in half lengthways or 1 tsp vanilla extract (I used 2 tsp vanilla paste)
6 Tbsps water
large knob of butter (I used non-dairy butter)
4 Tbsps caster sugar (I used 1 Tbsp coconut sugar)

Put the rice in a medium-sized, heavy-based pan, then pour in the milk, cream, vanilla pod or extract and water. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, then turn down the flame until the milk is bubbling gently. 

 Let it cook for 15-20 minutes. Add the butter, no more than an ounce, whip out the vanilla pod, and stir in the sugar. When the sugar has dissolved, the pudding is ready.

Strawberry-Plum Chia Seed Jam
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes about 3 1/2 cups of jam)  

2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered
4 medium plums, peeled, pitted and chopped (I used black plums)
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp fresh orange juice
1 tsp vanilla extract 
 1 tsp cinnamon 
2 Tbsp maple syrup, or to taste depending on the sweetness of your fruit & preferences
1/3 cup chia seeds

Place chopped strawberries and plums, maple syrup, lemon juice, orange juice, vanilla extract and cinnamon into a medium-large saucepan and heat over medium-high heat, stirring as fruit begins to liquefy and mixture comes to a gentle boil. Taste and add maple syrup, to your desired sweetness level (I added about 2 Tbsp). 

Reduce heat to medium-low and allow fruit to simmer for 20-25 minutes until it breaks down and starts to get saucy, breaking up the chinks with a wooden spoon or potato masher as preferred. (Note--I like a chunkier jam so I cook it about 20 minutes and mostly leave the small chunks that are left. If you like a smoother consistency, cook jam about 30 minutes and break up the chunks with a fork or potato masher.) Taste for sweetness and add more maple syrup if desired.

Reduce heat to low and slowly stir in chia seeds--making sure the seeds are mixed thoroughly into the fruit mixture and don't clump. Cook for another 4-5 minutes. Jam will begin to thicken (and it will thicken much more as it cools) but if it seems too thin, you can add additional chia seeds. 

Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the jam to thicken and cool to room temperature. When cooled, place in jar(s) and place in the fridge. Jam will keep tightly-covered in the refrigerator for a few weeks and in the freezer for a few months--if it lasts that long. 

Notes/Results: Yum! This is the second time I have used risotto rice in rice pudding (the first being Ellie Krieger's version) and it certainly makes a quicker and creamier pudding. I still love the chewiness and extra bit of fiber from brown rice pudding--however, arborio rice does make a wonderful occasional indulgence. The milk and cream in this version (coconut milk and creamer in my case) certainly add to the luxuriousness of the texture and a small portion is very satisfying. For a humble dish, it does feel like a treat. The jam was a nice contrast of sweetness from the strawberries and a little bit of tangy from the plums. I like my jams chunky as a rule and knowing I was going to use this one as rice pudding topping, I left it a little extra chunky, with lots of small fruit pieces. You could of course break the fruit down even more (I like to use a potato masher) but finding the fruit bites in the pudding is always enjoyable. I would happily make both of these recipe again. 

I am linking this post up to I Heart Cooking Clubs where it is Potluck week. The time to make any recipe from our current featured chef or any of the previous IHCC chefs (like Nigel Slater). You can see what everyone made by following the picture links on the post. 

I'm also linking up this review and recipe to the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post

Note: A review copy of "The Royal Nanny" was provided to me by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.