I have never been a fan of aniseed.
I'd only eat fennel under sufferance, licorice can suck it, black jelly beans are actually the devil, and I always thought any dish that contained star anise would have been just as good, if not better, had the star anise been left out. I'm not sure what's happened to me lately, but I've been willingly purchasing fennel to roast and day-dreaming up dishes that all seem to contain star anise...I blame having a baby. It obviously shocked my body into forgetting what tastes nice and what doesn't. Despite my initial hesitation to cook with star anise I just couldn't get this combo out of my head, so decided to run with it. And you know what? It's freaking delicious. I decided it needed to be combined with something warm, creamy and comforting (because everyone who knows me or reads this blog knows I hate winter...) and so coconut rice pudding with star anise strawberries was born.
I've been thinking about rice pudding a lot lately - 1) because I love carbs and 2) because I am incapable of judging the correct amount of rice for three people and so always have leftover cooked rice in the fridge. By using low GI white rice, unrefined sweetener and coconut milk it creates a more balanced dish than regular rice puddings, and once topped with vibrant, lightly-spiced fruit and toasty, crunchy almonds it's the sort of dish that makes an impressive but not over-the-top, sickening dessert. Or in my case breakfast, because when you've been up at night with a three week old baby and then stumble across an extra serve of this in the fridge the next morning it screams "balanced and totally acceptable breakfast".
You can use dairy milk if that's your thing or almond milk (or other dairy alternative) to make the dish dairy-free and vegan. I've also made the strawberry component using frozen strawberries and they worked a treat, so don't stress if it's not berry season (cough, like now. Stupid winter...). The almonds are optional but anyone who's also embarrassingly addicted to watching Masterchef knows that every dish needs a bloody "crunch element". Mostly - toasted almonds are super tasty and I had some in the cupboard; they're not integral but they are highly recommended.
It's not an everyday dish for sure, but it's a perfect winter sweet treat that's actually still good for you. You could experiment with other grains to up the nutrition factor even more, or top with greek yoghurt for some extra protein. The strawberries are so good you might just end up eating them on their own, or else you could use them on cereal, with yoghurt or even blended up into a smoothie. I'll definitely be making this one again.
Coconut Rice Pudding with Star Anise Strawberries
1 & 1/2 cups cooked rice
200ml coconut milk (half a large can)
1/2 cup milk (dairy or alternative)
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 tbsp maple syrup
Flaked almonds, toasted, to serve
For the stewed strawberries:
250g strawberries, hulled and halved
2 star anise
2 tbsp coconut sugar or sweetener of choice
1/4 cup water
1) Combine all ingredients for rice pudding in a small saucepan and stir well.
2) Bring to the boil then simmer over low heat until the liquid has been absorbed and the pudding is thick and creamy.
3) Meanwhile, place all ingredients for stewed strawberries in another small saucepan.
4) Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the berries are soft and the liquid is thick and syrupy.
5) Divide rice pudding between serving dishes, then top with strawberries and toasted almonds. Serve warm or chilled.
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