Rice cakes


These cakes are on my list of popular desserts. They were made only after 8th December and were a regular feature of Christmas and New Year meals. They would have been made by my paternal grandmother and were not much more of a memory for my father after her premature passing. Later, after marrying, my mother came across these cakes in my father’s family home and my aunt Delmina gave her the recipe, which I will now try to reproduce. As an adult, I remember often seeing them in several homes at Christmas time.

Sometimes, we would fancy them, and my mother, ever cheerful, would make them for us, even when it wasn’t yuletide. Whatever your appetite, these cakes are very much associated with cold weather.

Rice cakes were also called "seven in the bag" because it was said that only after eating the seventh did a person get a real taste for them!

First we need a cup of carolino rice (short, plump grain) and two and a half cups of water. Boil the rice with a cinnamon stick and lemon or orange peel. When the rice is cooked, remove from heat and allow to cool. Remove the peel and cinnamon stick.

Add two whole eggs and one cup of sugar to the rice and stir well, trying not to crush the rice. Add a little flour to thicken and a teaspoon of baking powder, which is the tricky part for those who need to know specific quantities. Once you get your hands in there, you’ll soon see how much flour is needed.

Once everything is well mixed together, heat a frying pan with oil or olive oil. When the oil is very hot, and with the help of two tablespoons, mould the cakes (just like cod fritters or quenelles) and fry them. After frying, place them briefly on kitchen paper and then in a deep dish. Cover with the sugar syrup I describe next.

For the syrup, you need sugar, port or sherry, water, orange peel and a cinnamon stick. Bring all the ingredients to the boil, stirring gently until the syrup thickens. Remove from heat and pour over the cakes. They taste better after being covered in the syrup for two or three days.

These cakes were not served as a dessert. They were a treat for after dessert or a sweet snack between meals. In my house, they were eaten with coffee or tea, and the most daring enjoyed them with port.

Rice cakes

© Virgílio Nogueiro Gomes

November 2011

The cakes in the photo were made by my sister Lina.