Ris à la Mande

I still remember – it was a hot and sunny day when I still lived in Miami. I was over at Sun’s house and met Mary, a friend of hers from Denmark. Naturally, we started talking about food and specialties from our home countries and this is when I first learned about a typical Danish dish: Ris à la Mande.

Despite the pseudo-French name (intended to mean "Rice with almonds" - it's also sometimes spelled Ris à l'amande or Risalamande), this dessert is a 100% Danish recipe. For well over a century, it has been a Danish Christmas tradition, frequently consumed during December - and it is invariably served as dessert on Christmas Eve. Among the customs that surround this Christmas tradition is the mandelgave (Danish: "almond gift"): The host or hostess, who prepares the dish, adds one whole almond to the bowl, and stirs it in. Whoever finds the almond in his helping is then rewarded with a small gift, usually candy or the like. If adults and young children are mixed at the table, it is traditional for an adult who gets it to attempt to surreptitiously slip the almond to the nearest child.

Back then, in sweltry Miami, making this dish just didn’t feel right. But now that it is getting cold and chilly here in Switzerland (and Christmas is just around the corner), I finally had to try this recipe. It takes a bit of time, but is well worth the effort.


½ cup (125 g) short grain rice
4 cups (1 l) milk
a pinch of salt
⅔ cups (150-180 g) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups (1/2 l) whipped cream
1 or 2 handful of almonds, blanched and chopped into slivers(except for one almond, which is added whole)
cherry sauce (optional, but highly recommended)
1 small present (optional, but highly recommended)

1. Bring the milk to boiling carefully, in a thick-bottomed pot. Add the rice, and simmer for about 1 hour, stirring frequently to keep the porridge from burning. Add a pinch of salt.

Note: If you stop at this point, you have risengrød ("rice porridge"), another Danish winter dish. You can serve this up sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, as is, or keep going to make ris à la mande. This, by the way, is also a typical German dish (Milchreis). My extra tip: first sprinkle sugar and cinnamon, then drizzle a tablespoon of hot, melted butter over the rice. Or serve with apple sauce.

2. Stir in the sugar and the vanilla extract and set the finished rice pudding in a cool place (by an open window, or in the refrigerator) until it's chilled.

3. Just before serving, add the whipped cream and the almonds, stirring them in carefully. The whole almond should be carefully added, and its position randomized, to allow for fair play in the mandelgave ritual.

4. Serve chilled with warm cherry sauce. Some people prefer cold cherry sauce, though.


From our partner: LO+JUNE

From our partner: LO+JUNE
Artisanal French products in our Swiss fine food boutique