Ris A La Mande or risalamande is a type of rice pudding dessert. Ris A La Mande is a traditional Danish Christmas dessert that can be made from leftover Risengrød and is mainly topped with a cherry sauce and whipped cream. The traditional Danish Christmas rice pudding dessert translates to “rice with almonds” and is usually served during Christmas eve.
The main point behind serving the dessert is to see who wins the mandelgave (almond present) by finding the hidden whole almond first. At least that is the point for the children, and it somehow always seems to be in the children’s bowls the whole almond is found.
The rice pudding dessert can be enjoyed either hot or cold and is prepared in large quantities the night before Christmas Eve. Like many Danish desserts, this sweet rice pudding has its fair share of history behind it.
History of Ris A La Mande
The traditional Danish dessert is said to be named after the French dish riz à l’amande but the dessert itself has no French origins. It was around the 19th century that the dessert grew in popularity due to rice becoming less of an exclusive commodity. When the dish raised in popularity, it became a “savings dessert” and received variations over time. In addition to the variations in the recipe, mainly the sauce, there are also variations in the tradition of finding the hidden whole almond.
Ris A La Mande – Danish Christmas Rice Pudding Recipe
- ½ stick vanilla
- 50 g porridge rice
- ½ l whole milk
- 50 g almonds
- 2 tbsp. sugar
- 4 dl full-fat whipping cream – nothing with any substitute products to lower the fat percentage
- Scrape the vanilla beans out of the half vanilla bean.
- Boil vanilla beans, barley, rice and milk for a porridge – it takes approx. ½ hours time. Remember to stir regularly so that the porridge does not sting or settle to the bottom.
- Slip the almonds and chop them roughly. Remember to save a whole almond for the almond gift. Because it is probably still a tradition that whoever gets the almond should have the almond gift.
- Remove the vanilla bean and stir the almonds and sugar into the porridge when it is cooked through.
- Cool the porridge – it must be completely cold. Therefore, it may be a good idea to make point 1-5 the day before.
- Whip the cream to a froth and turn it into the porridge when it is completely cold.
- Serve with cherry sauce or dessert cherries.
The Almond Tradition
The actual tradition of hiding an almond in the dessert stemmed from a French 16th-century tradition involving a bean hidden in an epiphany cake. Once the almond tradition became popular during the 20th century for ris a la mande where it is hidden somewhere in the pudding, it initially had the winner get the prize of kissing someone of the opposite sex. After some time, the prize morphed into a gift for the winner.
Some traditional gifts that would be given to the winner included a marzipan pig or sweets. Today there is almost always one whole almond in every child’s bowl and a gift for that. Few families are still strict in the tradition that it is the luck, that defines who is the winner, and some families do so the children all get their almonds and presents, and then there is one extra whole almond for the adults to find.
Variations in the Risalamande Recipe
While ris a la mande or risalamande is basically rice pudding served with almonds and a cherry sauce on top, there are variations that can be made with the recipe, mainly the sauce. If you want to have an extra kick to your cherry sauce, you have the option to add a sweet and sour liquor known as Cherry Heering. You can also try other alcohol such as rum in the sauce if you want to experiment with flavors.
Outside of trying different sauce mixes, there may be times that you’re left with some leftover ris a la mande during the off-season, or maybe your craving some for a treat. When this happens and there is no cherry sauce around, you can have jam as an alternative topping for the rice pudding dessert.
If the variations in the recipe don’t interest you, you may find interest in the different ways other countries enjoy a similar dish to ris a la mande. For example, in Sweden, there is a similar dish called ris à la Malta and it is served with pickled mandarin oranges.