The version of the rice cake proposed here is based on a traditional recipe from Emilia Romagna, the region of my sister-in-law’s family, which was apparently usually prepared for Easter. This torta is best accompanied by a Prosecco or Asti, heavier dessert wines do not convey quite as well when twinned with this relatively dense dessert.
1 litre milk
100g caster sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
250g risotto/arborio rice
A little melted butter to grease the tin
20g desiccated coconut
4 eggs, separate the yolks and whites
100g whole Almonds/Hazelnuts, finely chopped
100g candied peel
½ tsp of vanlla essence
sprinkling of pine nuts
pinch of salt
Icing sugar, to dust
1. Put the milk, caster sugar and half the lemon zest in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Bring the milk to the boil, then stir in the rice with a pinch of salt. Reduce the heat slightly and simmer for 25 minutes or until the rice is cooked and the milk absorbed. Remove from the heat and allow to cool, stirring the rice mixture occasionally.
2. Now preheat the oven to 180°C (gas mark 4) and grease a deep, 20-25cm springform tin with softened butter, then coat with the desiccated coconut.
3. In a large bowl, whip the egg whites to stiff but not dry peaks.
4. Stir the almonds, candied peel, yolks and remaining lemon zest into the rice mixture, then fold in the whipped egg whites, rum and vanilla essence.
5. Pour the mixture into the cake tin and then sprinkle over the pine nuts, now bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes or until set and golden, testing the centre with a skewer, if any mixture is stuck to the skewer the batter needs further baking. Cool in the tin slightly, then carefully remove and put on a wire rack.
6. Finally, serve slices of the torta warm or at room temperature, dusted with icing sugar and with a dollop of mascarpone or whipped cream.