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One thing for winter: seasonal fruit

Mike McEnearney's creamy rice pudding with rhubarb jam from his new Sydney restaurant No. 1 Bent St, Chef Mike McEnearney's creamy rice pudding with rhubarb jam.

Top Sydney chef Mike McEnearney shares his pick of the winter fruit crop, plus a recipe for creamy comforting rice pudding with rhubarb jam from his new CBD restaurant, No. 1 Bent Street, the follow-up to his cult eatery Kitchen By Mike.

I particularly enjoy cooking with winter orchard fruits at this time of year. There are so many wonderful varieties of apples and pears, but my all-time favourite is quince – I love baking them slowly in the oven overnight with honey, star anise, thyme and a splash of white wine. Then you wake up in the morning to rich purple slices of fruit, delicious with yoghurt for breakfast or add them to muffins.

Rhubarb is another favourite (though technically a vegetable). It’s one of those winter ingredients that brings back fond memories for me at this time of year. My grandmother used to cook it for us because it was never overly popular and it was cheap. I guess it’s because you have to cook it to take away some of its tartness. And don’t forget, only cook and eat the red or green stalks, as the leaves are toxic.

It doesn’t take much to make rhubarb sublime. I like to cut it into sticks the size of my pinky finger, toss it with sugar and leave it to bleed overnight.

The next day, I bake it in a medium oven or quickly simmer on the stove for a lovely soft compote or jam.

It’s perfect with a creamy, comforting rice pudding, which is how I’m serving it in the restaurant at the moment, with some housemade honeycomb for contrast.

Mike in his new Sydney CBD restaurant No. 1 Bent Street. Mike in his new Sydney CBD restaurant No. 1 Bent Street.

Creamy rice pudding with rhubarb jam
Serves 4
Begin this recipe a day ahead.

60g shortgrain rice (such as Arborio)
60g caster sugar
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
1 cinnamon quill
½ tsp freshly grated or ground nutmeg
360ml full-cream milk
90ml evaporated milk
90ml double cream

Rhubarb Jam
1kg Rhubarb stalks, cut into 5cm lengths
1kg caster sugar

For the rhubarb jam, place the rhubarb and sugar in a large bowl, toss together and leave to bleed overnight.

The next day, transfer the mixture to a large saucepan and bring to the boil, then simmer until it reaches 103-105°C on a sugar thermometer. Transfer the mixture to sterilised jars.

For the rice pudding, place the rice, sugar, grated nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla pod and seeds and full-cream milk in a saucepan over medium-low heat and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook, stirring frequently to prevent sticking, for 40 minutes until the rice is tender.

Add the evaporated milk and return to a simmer for a further 10 minutes until thickened.

Remove vanilla pod, then transfer to a bowl and allow cool.

Fold the cream through the cooled pudding, then leave to set in the fridge.

Serve the rice pudding with a generous dollop of rhubarb jam. You could also serve the pudding with the addition of honeycomb, as we do at No.1 Bent St. Simply crumble it over the pudding with the jam.

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