Arborio takes its name from the Italian town in which it grows - it's a short grain rice with a higher starch content that makes it ideal for creating creamy risotto and puddings.
While risotto is the most well known dish to make, I've decided to make a dish that I think doesn't get the attention it deserves - the delightfully comforting Torta di Riso.
There are two ways to make this cake - it all depends if you prefer it rustic or a bit more upmarket - the only real difference is that one uses a sweet shortcrust case (pasta frolla) and the other doesn't.
Besides rice, the filling will also contain some type of dried fruit - usually sultanas soaked in spirit and nuts. I've put my own spin on the ingredients to include my favourites - slivered pistachio, white chocolate and amarena cherries.
If you can make rice pudding, you can most certainly make this.
Torta di Riso (Italian Rice Cake)
[Makes 1x22cm ring]
4 cups milk, approx
80 grams soft brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
200 grams arborio rice
50 grams slivered pistachio
50 grams white chocolate, roughly chopped
3 eggs, separated
Note: the milk quantity is guide - the age the rice will have an effect on how much it will absorb. If the milk has all been absorbed and the rice is still hard, just add more milk until the rice is at the right consistency.
Add the milk, sugar, vanilla and a couple of slices of orange peel into a pot and place over a medium-low heat - stir to dissolve the sugar and then bring it slowly to boiling point. Turn down the heat and add in the rice - stirring it well to make it doesn't clump together.
Let this mixture very slowly simmer, stirring every few minutes to ensure it doesn't stick to the base of the pot. This part of the process will most likely take at least 20 minutes - you need to be patient and stir often! The rice needs to absorb all the milk and soften.
Once it's reached the right texture, remove from the heat, scrap out into a large bowl and allow to it to cool before proceeding.
Beat the eggwhites until they reach firm peak stage - set to one side.
Beat the egg yolks until thick and creamy.
Pour the beaten yolks into the cooled rice mixture, stirring vigoursly to slacken - then add in the pistachios and white chocolate and stir to evenly distribute through the mix.
Add a large spoonful of beaten eggwhite and fold through - repeat the process two more times with the remaining eggwhite.
Butter a ring pan and scatter over with flaked almonds - I've used a ring pan as these denser types of cakes can be a bit hard to cook evenly - the difficulty is in getting the heat into the center of the cake and in a regular cake pan you can end up with an undercooked center and an overcooked exterior.
Pour in half the batter and then randomly dot in 6 amarena cherries - cover with the rest of the batter and then dot in another 4 cherries.
Bake in a preheated 160°C oven until golden and firm to the touch - around 60 minutes. Let it cool slightly in the pan before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely.
When cold, finish off with a dusting of icing sugar.
With all that rice you'd think it would be heavy and stodgy but it isn't - it's the type of cake that makes you crave for seconds. If you are gluten intolerant you'll also be very satisfied as this luscious cake is naturally gluten free.