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As a big fan of beetroot and all things plant-based, I was at first planning on trying one of the beetroot recipes from The Art of Living in Australia. Alas, none of the four beetroot dishes listed in the book attracted my interest. There is a recipe for beetroot and macaroni salad, two for some form of beetroot stew and mashed potatoes, and finally one for beetroot in white sauce. They all sounded somewhat bland, though they were probably quite exotic to the original audience of The Art of Living in Australia. Philip Muskett complains in the book about

the crude cookery which is bestowed on the ordinary vegetables at present in daily use. That there is any monotony in an endless recurrence of boiled potatoes, boiled cabbage, boiled this and boiled that, never seems to occur to the vast majority of people in this country, who seem incapable of understanding that these different vegetables are worthy of being served in an infinite number of ways. (pp.102–3)

Indeed, many ways of serving vegetables are listed in the book among the fifty recipes for soups, fifty recipes for vegetables and another fifty for salads and sauces.

Apart from vegetables, Muskett is also very passionate about fruit:

It is undoubtedly a most fortunate thing for us in Australia that fruit is so abundant, and that it is easily within the reach of all. There is something wonderfully attractive about it; its colouring in particular appeals so to the eye that a good show of well-assorted fruit is always certain to ensure attention. Many fruits, moreover, have a magnificent fragrance which lends to their agreeable taste. It is somewhat of a pity that fruit is not more ordinarily eaten at meals, particularly with the breakfast. There is an old proverb that fruit is gold in the morning, silver at noon, and lead at night; and it is undoubtedly a fact that it is especially beneficial when eaten early in the day. (p.52)

Many of the fifty recipes for sweets use fruit as the basis and this is where I have come across the recipe for ‘Apples and rice’, which reminded me of a dish my mum used to make when I was a child: rice pudding with a layer of grated apples mixed with some sultanas, cinnamon and sugar. I haven’t had it for years and I was curious about trying the 1893 version of this dessert, which was written by Mrs Wicken, lecturer in cookery for the Technical College, Sydney, especially for The Art of Living in Australia.

I saw the lack of cinnamon as a serious omission, but we agreed that we would try to follow the 1893 recipes as closely as possible. Hence the use of cinnamon was not an option. I had all the ingredients on hand, so it wasn’t difficult to get started.

Ingredients

Apples and rice

INGREDIENTS:
3 large apples
2 oz. rice
2 oz. sugar
1 tablespoonful jam
1 egg
½ pint milk
Time—half an hour.

METHOD:
Peel the apples and scoop out the core and fill in with jam; put into a pie-dish and bake till the apples are soft. While they are baking, boil the rice and milk together till the rice is soft and the milk absorbed. Beat in the egg and sugar, pour over the apples; brush over with milk, and bake till a nice colour. Serve either hot or cold.

Apples ready for baking

The apples took much longer to bake then Mrs Wicken suggests, but this is more likely to be the issue with the apples I used rather than the recipe itself. Some types of apples take less time to cook than others. I once ended up with crunchy fruit in an apple crumble, so I should have known better.

Baked apples

In contrast to the apples, the rice pudding took exactly half an hour. It does require constant stirring to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pot, and burning. It turned out as expected. It cooled down nicely while I was intermittently though incessantly poking the apples with a fork to check if they were soft enough.

Rice pudding


The moment the apples were just starting to soften, after an hour in the oven (I knew they would get extra baking time later so I wasn’t too concerned about them remaining on the firm side), I added the egg, sugar and vanilla mixture to the rice pudding and spooned it over the baked apples in their ramekins. Back into the oven and the final stage just took care of itself.

Baked apples and rice final

In the end, the dessert turned out to be far too sweet for my taste. As I am notorious for making biscuits and cakes that are not sweet enough for others, this is certainly a case of personal preference. I would make it again, but I would cut down on sugar, and maybe even leave the jam out. I also think the recipe would work better with a few sultanas or dried cranberries, and some cinnamon thrown in. Or perhaps I would be just better off making my mum’s recipe? I highly recommend it.

Mum’s baked apples with rice

INGREDIENTS:
200 g Arborio rice
500 ml milk (can be plant-based)
6 tbs sugar
4 tbs butter + more for the pie dish
a small pinch of salt
1 vanilla pod or 3 tsp vanilla extract
1 kg cooking apples such as Granny Smith or Golden Delicious
3 tsp cinnamon
1 tbs lemon juice
50 g sultanas (or dried currants or cranberries)
Greek yoghurt to serve (optional)

METHOD:
Mix the rice with milk in the pot and bring to boil. Add 3 tablespoons of sugar, 2 tablespoons of butter, vanilla, and a small pinch of salt, and cook under cover for about 15–20 minutes until the rice is soft. In the meantime, stir 1–2 times and, if necessary, add more milk.

In the meantime, peel, core, cut into quarters and coarsely grate the apples. In a saucepan or large frying pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter, add 3 tablespoons of sugar and then the grated apples. Add the lemon juice and keep stirring for about 10 minutes until the apples soften. Add 2 teaspoon of cinnamon and sultanas or cranberries, and mix.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease an oven-proof dish with butter, lay half the rice, then lay all the apples and sultana mixture, cover with the rest of the rice, and dot with the rest of the butter.

Cover with aluminium foil or lid and bake for 25 minutes. Once baked, dust with the rest of the cinnamon, serve with Greek yoghurt and enjoy.

Leftovers can be eaten for breakfast to increase one’s fruit intake, as Philip Muskett recommends!

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