A forbidden take on healthy rice pudding

Classic rice puddings are made from plain white rice. The grains are very tender, the flavor is kind of bland, and the color is white. In my recipe, which is made using black forbidden rice, the grains are slightly chewy, the flavor is slightly nutty, and the color is deep purple.

Once upon a time, forbidden rice was said to be literally forbidden. First cultivated in China, forbidden rice was so rare — and so nutritious — no one was allowed to eat it except for the emperor. Today, forbidden rice is considered a delicious and healthy whole grain we can all enjoy.

Like brown rice, forbidden rice is unpolished; the hull of the grain, a rich source of insoluble fiber, is left intact. It’s also a good source of iron and vitamin E, and a great source of the same antioxidants that put the blue in blueberries.

In this recipe, the rice is cooked until tender, then combined with whole milk, sugar, cinnamon, eggs and vanilla. The whole milk — replacing the more traditional (and more caloric) heavy cream — does a great job of delivering the desired silkiness. The cinnamon stick and vanilla — which deliver big flavor — are the most important ingredients next to the rice.

Unlike brown rice, forbidden rice cooks up in a relatively speedy 30 minutes. You will, however, need to pay close attention when you add the eggs, making sure they don’t get so hot that they scramble.

Sara Moulton was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years, and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows. She stars in public television’s “Sara’s Weeknight Meals” and has written three cookbooks, including “Sara Moulton’s Everyday Family Dinners.”

Forbidden Rice Pudding

Serves 4. Recipe is by Sara Moulton.

1/2 cup forbidden rice (Chinese black rice)

1 cup water

21/2 cups whole milk, divided

3 tbls. sugar

1 large cinnamon stick

Salt

2 large eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger, to garnish (optional)

1. In a small saucepan over medium-high, combine the rice and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, covered, for 30 minutes. Let stand for a few minutes, then pour through a mesh strainer. Return the rice to the pot over medium-high heat. Add 2 cups milk, sugar, cinnamon stick and a hefty pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, for 40 minutes.

2. In a small bowl, beat eggs with the remaining milk. Whisk in a large spoonful of the hot rice mixture. Add the egg mixture to the rice and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the custard coats the back of a spoon, 4 to 5 minutes. Do not let the rice pudding boil or the eggs will scramble.

3. Remove the saucepan from the heat, stir in the vanilla and transfer the rice pudding to a bowl. Cover the pudding and chill until cold, at least 2 hours. The pudding will thicken as it chills.

4. To serve, discard the cinnamon stick and divide the rice pudding among 4 bowls. Top each portion with ginger.

Nutrition information per serving: 280 calories (70 calories from fat = 25 percent of total calories); 8 grams fat (3.5 grams saturated; 0 grams trans fats); 105 milligrams cholesterol; 42 grams carbohydrate (0 grams fiber; 17 grams sugar); 10 grams protein; 160 milligrams sodium.