Pumpkin & date brown rice porridge

I’m a 5-year-old again. In my mother’s kitchen. The waft of ground cardamom fills my nostrils. It’s Diwali, and my mum is making Indian sweets.

That’s the place I go to whenever I smell freshly ground cardamom. I love it. And I think of my mum every single time I grind this spice.

It’s funny how certain aromas take you back to yesteryear — to a time and place that you think of fondly (or, perhaps, not so fondly, whatever the case may be). It just shows you how complex the human brain is, with our senses and memories fusing together to play a notable part in our food behaviours and cravings.

Being from Fiji, and with parents who have a penchant for growing and cooking their own food, I was rather lucky in the food stakes. Much of my cravings stem from my mum’s curries, with staples like dhal, rice and fresh tomato chutney — which translate into comfort and security.

This rice porridge certainly fits the bill of comfort, security and fond memories too. It’s my take on the Indian rice pudding, kheer. Except that it’s healthy enough to eat for breakfast.


brown-rice-porridgeServes 4–6

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds (pepita)
  • 1/3 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup packed grated pumpkin
  • 3 medjool dates, seeded & finely chopped
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ground cardamom (or grind seeds of 6 cardamom pods)
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 ½ cups cashew milk (or any other milk)
  • ¼ cup maple syrup

In a large bowl, soak brown rice and seeds in water overnight. Add a tablespoon of something acidic like lemon juice or apple cider vinegar in the soaking water.

Next day rinse and drain the soaked rice and nuts, and pour into to a large, heavy-based pot. To the pot add the grated pumpkin, spices, dates, coconut oil and water.

Bring to a boil then turn down the heat to a gentle simmer. Simmer for ~ 40 minutes, until the rice is cooked. Stir continually to avoid the porridge from sticking to the bottom of the pot. A heat diffuser helps.

Add milk and maple syrup. Continue to simmer on low heat for another 30 minutes or so (until the rice is as soft as you’d like it and the porridge is thick and creamy). Stir often.

When ready, serve with extra milk, and top with natural yoghurt and freshly sliced fruit. Or perhaps some shredded coconut, goji berries, walnuts and cinnamon.

Make a batch over the weekend for the week ahead (double the quantities to make a bigger batch). Extras will keep in the fridge for 3–4 days. Or you can freeze in batches. Reheat with some milk or water.