This is autumn and winter fuel at its comforting best – creamy rice flavoured with aged apple brandy, warmed prunes and cat’s tongues to give texture and act as a useful spade for digging into this moreish pudding.
For the cat’s tongues
■ 60g (21⁄2oz) unsalted butter
■ 60g (21⁄2oz) caster sugar
■ 70g (23⁄4oz) soft white flour
■ Pinch ground cinnamon
■ 45g (13⁄4oz) egg white, lightly whisked to form peaks
For the boozy prunes
■ 150ml (5fl oz) caster sugar
■ 50ml (2fl oz) cooking brandy
■ 12 pitted Agen prunes
For the rice pudding
■ 250g (9oz) Arborio risotto rice
■ 1⁄2 fresh vanilla pod with the seeds scraped out
■ 1 tsp vanilla extract
■ 1 tsp ground mixed spice
■ 50ml (2fl oz) Ampleforth Cider Brandy
■ Pinch grated nutmeg
■ 500ml (171⁄2fl oz) full-fat milk
■ 250ml (9fl oz) double cream
■ 10g (1⁄2oz) demerara sugar, for caramelising
To make the biscuits, first preheat the oven to 210°C/410°F/Gas Mark 61⁄2. Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and light. Fold in the flour and cinnamon, and gently add the whisked egg white. Lightly grease a baking tray and, using a 6mm (2½in) tube, pipe the mixture into 8cm (3in) lengths; allow enough space for them to spread in cooking. Bake for about four minutes, until the edges are tinted a light golden-brown. When ready, remove from the oven and shape while still warm. Cool on a baking wire.
To prepare the prunes, bring all the ingredients except the prunes to the boil and reduce by half. Add the prunes and warm through. Use as required.
To make the rice pudding, heat all the ingredients except the milk, cream and sugar in a thick-bottomed pan, stir for two to three minutes to coat the rice, and add the milk. Simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, until the rice grains are soft and tender. Remove from the heat and add the cream. Spoon into small copper pans or other heatproof serving vessels, sprinkle with demerara sugar and caramelise with a blowtorch or under a very hot grill. Serve immediately on warm plates, each arranged with three prunes and the biscuits leaning against the little pans.