Saturday, September 13, 2014

Rice Kollyva

In many Orthodox Christian countries - primarily in Eastern Europe and parts of the Middle East - kollyva is made following the death of a loved one to be blessed at the funeral and at the memorials held over the first forty days following the death, at the 6 and 12-month anniversary memorials, and thereafter at the memorials held on the yearly anniversaries of the death. There are certain other holidays and events it is prepared for, but in our culture it is generally associated with funerals and the dead, a bittersweet reminder that when "a grain of wheat falls into the ground and produces much grain" (John 12:24).

I have been making kollyva for a while now, but now that I've changed out North America for East Asia I'm finding it harder to find certain key ingredients for the kollyva recipe I normally use, and so this is my first try at kollyva made with rice. (Which is readily available here, and then some!) I personally have a great love for Romanian-style kollyva, which has an almost pudding-like quality,
My first batch of rice kollyva!
and so when I was deciding what direction to go with the rice I chose to aim more for rice pudding than for chewy rice with sugar and raisins.

This first batch was necessitated by the death of a dear friend who was really a light in the darkness when I was a child, and so I ask you to pray for Judy, that she may find rest she deserves. It was also the 25th anniversary of my maternal grandfather David's passing this past Thursday, so I ask you to pray for him also. "Give rest, O Lord, to the souls of Your servants and settle them in paradise, where the choirs of the saints shine like the stars of heaven..."

Rice Kollyva

1 1/2 cups of white rice (uncooked)
1 medium-sized can of coconut milk (as needed)
1 can of water (as needed)
1/4 cup of sugar or honey
1/2 cup of golden raisins
1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
Lemon zest (if desired)
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1/2 cup of crushed digestives* (as needed)
1/2 cup of powdered sugar (as needed)
Almonds (roasted or plain)
Sweet red wine (if desired)

*I would normally use finely crushed graham crackers, but digestives are all I could find locally.

1) Lord, bless!
2) Combine the rice, coconut milk, water, and regular sugar in in a medium-sized saucepan and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to low and simmer the mixture - covered - for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the mixture thickens before the rice has cooked add more water or coconut milk.
3) A minute or two before the rice has finished cooking add the raisins, lemon zest, and spices and combine thoroughly.
5) After the rice is done remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
6) Place the kollyva in a nice bowl, smooth the surface, and allow it to cool in the fridge.
7) Once the kollyva has chilled remove it from the fridge - preferably not too long before leaving for church - and sprinkle the finely crushed digestives over the top of the kollyva to create a dry base for the powdered sugar. (You don't want to overdo it, but you don't want to see any of the rice either.)
8) Sift enough powdered sugar over the crushed digestives to make a pretty white backdrop for your decorations.
9) Using the almonds (or other desired decorative) adorn the top of the kollyva with a cross or crosses, the initials of your departed loved one, "memory eternal," et cetera, as desired. I'm not creative, so I usually do a tree of life cross (with the ends 'sprouting') and the initials of my loved one or "В" and "П" for "вечная память" ("memory eternal" in Russian). (The kollyva pictured was in a fairly small bowl, so I went with the "В" and "П.")
10) Take the kollyva to church with a bottle of sweet red wine (if desired) to be blessed following the memorial or funeral.
11) Following the memorial mix everything together (with a good splash of wine if your priest forgot to pour some in at the end of the memorial), divvy up the kollyva and remaining wine, and enjoy! (The kollyva is an offering in memory of your loved ones, so it's good for as many people as possible to share in it so that they will benefit from the offering and, in their kindness, remember to pray for your loved ones.)

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