Rice pudding is loved by everyone, and it's one of my favorite desserts. Proper feel-good food, it's gorgeous served on its own or with whatever fruit you've got knocking around. For me, though, the best way of eating it, especially in the summer, is really cold with hot strawberry jam. As an alternative, you can broil or roast peaches and plums to serve with it. Beautiful!
I used to make jam with my mum when I was a kid. For a lovely fresh strawberry taste, I now use less sugar and I don't cook it for quite as long as my mum used to. Any leftover jam will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks if you store it in a jar rinsed with boiling water, but you'll probably find it gets eaten way before that! It's great served as a sauce alongside a tart, drizzled over ice cream or simply spread on a piece of toast or fresh bread.
Place the strawberries in a wide, stainless steel pan and sprinkle the sugar over the top. Scrunch the strawberries up with your hands, really pushing them between your fingers to pulp them up - the mixture will start to look like jam at this point. You want all the sugar to dissolve in the strawberry juice before you put the pan on the heat and bring it to the boil. Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes on a medium heat, and every 5 minutes or so come back to your jam to skim off the foam. Don't worry if it's still a bit liquid - it needs to be so you can swirl it into your rice pudding. Remove the pan from the heat and put aside. There you have it - beautiful, quintessential strawberry jam!
Meanwhile, place the milk, rice and vanilla sugar in a deep saucepan. Bring to a medium simmer and put on the lid. Cook for half an hour, stirring occasionally, until the rice pudding is thick, creamy, oozy and moist. If it ends up being a bit too thick, you can thin it down by adding a little more milk.
To serve, divide the rice pudding between your bowls. Spoon over a big dollop of your beautiful strawberry jam, then slowly swirl it in so it marbles and ripples through the rice pudding. Sprinkle over the meringue pieces and scatter with a few wild strawberries, if you like.
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