It took me a few attempts to memorize and consequently correctly pronounce risgrynsgröt. It’s a compound word that, translated literally, means “rice grain porridge”. That’s pretty much what it is, as risgrynsgröt is a rice porridge. Lightly sweetened and always dusted with cinnamon powder, risgrynsgröt is a Christmas food traditionally served in Sweden. Sometimes it may feature an almond, but I’ll explain the almond part later.
There are Swedish Christmas traditions that I happily made my own over the past few years, but eating risgrynsgröt was not one of them. It all started when moving to Sweden was not even in the plans. During our Polish years my boyfriend and I had visited Stockholm over advent and brought back a piece of smoked reindeer meat to have at the Christmas dinner. When we moved to Sweden and had easier access to such food we restored this tradition and there is no Christmas anymore without smoked reindeer/moose/rainbow trout on the Christmas table.
We picked up other traditional habits with time. One of my favourite ones is having a candlestick on the windowsill and a star hanging at the window during the darker months. Although people also use real candles, the most common candlesticks are electrical. Safer to keep on when you leave the house. I know an abundance of lights in the house means higher eletricity bills in December and January. But I just love lighting up my windows like the majority of other people do. Makes the dark winter months more bearable (and the increase on the electricity bill worth it).
Other habits included embracing various traditional foods connected with Advent and Christmas time. My very first attempt at Christmas baking delivered pepparkakor, the famour ginger thins. The following year I tried my hand at baking lussekatter, saffron buns sold this time of the year. Finally, last year I made my first batch of ischoklad, a melt-in-your-mouth chocolate praline. This Christmas season I decided to embrace the tradition of making and eating risgrynsgröt!
Rice porridge is made with round grain rice, which is a variety of rice very rich in amylopectin, the starch that makes certain types of rice sticky. This is the kind of rice that you want to use for sushi, for example. Cooked for a longer time, like when making porridge, this rice will have a wonderful creamy texture. For porridge you actualy cook rice in milk, and when it absorbs milk the pudding texture is guaranteed! I mentioned above that along with cinnamon powder, an almond is traditionally added to this rice pudding. It’s a whole almond, just one, hidden inside. There are various traditions around what happens to the lucky guest who finds the almond, the most popular being that he or she will get married within a year.
- 80 g round grain rice
- 150 ml water
- pinch of salt
- 300 ml milk
- 20 g butter
- 2 tbsp sugar
Add the water, rice and pinch of salt to a saucepan with a nicely thick bottom. I also used one that is fairly tall, as milk will bubble its way up to the top and you want to make sure the content of the pot will not erupt. Set the pot on medium heat and cook for about 10 minutes, lid on. In another pot warm up the milk. When the rice has been cooking for about 10 minutes and has absorbed almost all of the water, add 4/5 of the warm milk. I don’t recommend adding it all, as I prefer to have some warm milk aside in case I need to thin the porridge at the end. Lower the heat to minimum, give it a good stir and let cook covered, stirring from time to time. Cooking time varies but it should be around a half hour.
Never leave the pot alone: if the temperature is too high the milk will boil and might try to find its way out of the pot. Stir from time to time to prevent sticking to the bottom. After about 20 minutes my rice had absorbed all the milk and had started to stick to the bottom of the pan. When all the milk has been absorbed, add the sugar and the butter and stir until it’s all melted and combined. Pour in the milk leftovers and cover. Let the porridge simmer another 10 minutes or so, always on the smallest heat. Ideally it is done when thick but not so evaporated that it sticks to the bottom of the pan. If after 30 minutes it’s still too runny, let it cook a couple more minutes uncovered, always stirring to check the texture.
Serving the rice porridge
You may want to skip hiding the almond in, but if you don’t make sure to tell your guests to expect to find it. Alternatively, you can just use it for decoration like I did. You could also go totally fancy and use almond milk, in order to really infuse the porridge with some almond flavour! What you shouldn’t skip is the thin dusting of cinnamon on top. That is a must! This recipe yields about 2 portions if serving this as a dessert. I decided to have risgrynsgröt for lunch and had all of this alone. So if making this as a meal, then it’s for one person.
Swedish families traditionally leave a small portion of risgrynsgröt outside for the Christmas elf. I wonder if I should do the same, but I share the garden with other people. I’m not sure my neighbours would be too excited about the little visitors my bowl of rice porridge could attract. Plus, I don’t want to make the Christmas elf mad if a fox comes and steals his rice porridge. I guess I’ll just enjoy it alone this time. I will leave the tradition of sharing risgrynsgröt with the Christmas elf for a time when I’ll have my own garden. I’ll keep it as another tradition to embrace one future December.