Sugar & Spice: Sweet Spiced Risotto with Cherry Compote

Sweet Spiced Risotto (01) by MeetaK

I was lying at the doctor's, staring at the ceiling, with several needles stuck all over my body. The ones in my ear pinched the most. But it was all bearable - I just felt like a helpless porcupine lying on its back. Funny what people will do to "feel good". I do this on my own will - once every two years or so - simply to rejuvenate myself. Acupuncture is something I like to put myself through to relieve pain or to simply lift my spirits. My doctor introduced me to it a few years ago and ever since then I have become a believer.

I often have trouble with my neck, shoulder area. It's not excruciating pain, just simply the feeling of having the weight of the world lying on my shoulders. Do you know what I mean? I can't describe it any better than that. It's uncomfortable, hurts and gives me slight headaches every now and then.

In December I decided to start a new treatment. My last one was back in 2006 and last year was not the easiest for me. Especially after loosing my grandmother, things were in a bit of a turmoil. It took toll on the weakest part of my body - my neck and shoulder area. I consulted with my doctor and she also recommended to treat the blues I was having. In a treatment of 10 sessions over a period of 10 weeks, you get needles stuck to all types of points and meridians. Each point stimulates a different part of the body.

I had my last session today and although I knew the effect of what acupuncture had on physical pain, it was the first time I experienced how it helps with other issues, deeper in the mind, heart and soul. I was not in deep depression, I was just feeling uneasy, not eating or sleeping well, feeling drab and simply reflecting the time of year we were in - gray and dull. Most of my Europeans friends go to the solarium - some doctors and trainers recommend it as it has the same effect on us as sunlight does.

I am not the solarium type of person though. I take on a weird color and do not like the feeling of being trapped under all those tubes and volts. So, instead I prefer to have needles stuck into me and feel like a helpless porcupine. For 45 minutes I close my eyes and allow my thoughts to run free.

The consequences of these free, wild thoughts are often new food creations. I play with flavors and aromas in my head. Pairing ingredients and experimenting with different products. When I get home I write my thoughts down, then I take the theory into the the kitchen and put it into practice. One of the dishes that came to be was this lovely risotto.

Most of you know my affinity for risotto. I love the texture and the creaminess of the rice, tasting totally different each time depending on the ingredients it is paired with. What I wanted to do was try my hand at a sweet risotto. Pair it with spices and complement it with a fruity side. I used coconut milk to cook the rice in and spiced it with flavors of cinnamon, vanilla and star anise. The cherry compote also has the aromas of cinnamon and star anise - the secret ingredient in this dish.

Star Anise


Star Anise by MeetaK 


Star anise is a spice native to China and Vietnam. Today it is almost exclusively grown in southern China, Indo-China and Japan. As the name suggests, the star anise is star shaped, with about 5 to 10 segments and a deep brown rusty color. It is an unusual fruit of the Illicium verum, a small native evergreen tree of southwest China. The fruit is harvested between March and May and picked before it can ripen, it is then dried and sold either whole or as a powder.

Star Anise has a very distinct flavor very much like licorice. It is powerful, pungent and stronger then anise. Both get their distinctive licorice taste from a chemical compound called anethol, but both spices are not related with each other.

Purchasing, Storing & Preparation
When purchasing star anise, look for whole pieces that aren’t broken or wrinkled. Stored whole in airtight containers in a cool dark place, it keeps for well over a year. Discard once the flavor fades.

Whole stars can be added directly to the cooking dish. Pieces of star anise are referred to as segments, points or sections. These are discarded once the dish is ready. Whole stars can be grounded into a powder and used as required. Use small amounts, as the powdered form of the spice is powerful.


Monthly Mingle - One-Dish Dinners
Come on over with your casseroles, crockpots or baked dishes. I am looking for innovative and creative one-dish meals. Looking forward to having you all over.
Deadline: March 10th, 2008

Eat Fresh
Share your fresh produce with us. Show us your weekly bounty from the Farmer's Market, grocery stores or CSA box.
Deadline: March 31st, 2008

Printable version of recipe here.

Spiced Risotto Making of by MeetaK


For the risotto

200 - 250 g Arborio rice
600ml coconut milk - unsweetened
30-50g sugar - depending on the sweetness you like
1 vanilla bean - seeds scraped and reserved
1/2 cinnamon stick
2 whole star anise
50g butter

For the cherry compote

1 kg sour cherries - I used some of the cherries I had frozen from last summer
150 ml Port wine
300 ml red wine
6 tablespoons sugar
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
2-3 teaspoons cornstarch
1 lemon - juice and zest


Spiced Risotto (03) by MeetaK

For the risotto
Melt butter in a large pot. Add the rice and stir while it cooks and takes on a glassy color - approx. 1 minute. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the vanilla pod and seeds, the cinnamon and the star anise. Pour in a ladle full of the coconut milk and stir until the milk has incorporated into the rice. Add some of the sugar and stir until dissolved

Once the rice starts to get dry add more of the milk and sugar. Repeat this procedure and keep stirring at regular intervals. This "massages" the rice to release the creamy starch for a perfect consistency. This process should take about 15-20 minutes. The rice grains should be soft but still have a slight crunch to them.

For the cherry compote
Bring cherries, Port, wine, sugar, cinnamon stick, star anise and lemon zest to  a boil in a heavy saucepan over moderate heat.

Stir together cornstarch and lemon juice until smooth, then stir into boiling liquid. Boil for 1 minute the remove from heat and cover. Allow to rest for approx. 15 minutes. Serve warm.

Tip: You can make the compote 2 days ahead. Allow to cool completely then cover and chill in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before serving.


Spiced Risotto (04) by MeetaK

Tom who is not a huge fan of the regular "rice pudding", simply adored this. He found the flavors of the sweet, spiced rice perfect with the fruity, slightly tart note of the cherry compote. Soeren - well he is the biggest fan of such warm milk and rice dishes and the cherries always add a great color and touch to the dish. I love the subtle coconut flavor that one tasted in the distant. The licorice aroma of the star anise is certainly present but also perfectly subtle on the tongue. All in all this was a great sugar and spice dish and I certainly will experiment with different flavors - acupuncture or not!

You might enjoy theses creamy desserts too:

CocoMouse04x Coconut Mousse with Mango Coulis
Panna Cotta Sin Panna Cotta with Blackberries
StrawberryMascarponeMilleFeueille02 Strawberry Mascarpone Millie Feuille
VanillaBerryPud06 Tropicana Cream with Summer Berries


This creamy, sweet and spiced risotto is off to Sunita of Sunita's World, who hosts the lovely event Think Spice. This month the star spice is non other than the star anise.

All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2008 Meeta Khurana unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First

Continue »


  1. oh meeta, you've rendered me speechless. my mouth is watering sooo much!

  2. Ummm... arborio rice kheer...if only I could get my hands on that rice! ;-)

  3. wow meeta this is a fantastic desert! i'm really impressed by your creation!

  4. Yumm yumm delicious.
    Yeah i know what you mean by the pain in your shoulders, i too get that sometimes.

  5. This looks so inviting! Absolutely lovely! I love the rice pudding here in Peru, but this is taking things to a whole new level. Great idea!

  6. That looks great Meeta! I too made Plum Compote a few days back..they are such a nice way to preserve fruits right?!:)

  7. I am drooling gallons over this dish! Simply mind-blowing creation, Meeta! Sounds wonderful!!! :)

  8. Phew! Meeta, I cannot scroll down to read your posts. Amazing pics. The star anise jumps off the screen.

  9. That is an impressive take on rice pudding. Very nice work (and lol@bee's porcupine comment)--I never thought of risotto outside of the main course/side dish realm. :o The photos are also excellent

  10. I am a HUGE rice pudding fan! This looks delicious! And it was so interesting to read about your experience with acupuncture. Yesterday, I just made an appointment for my first session in a couple of weeks. Thank you for sharing Meeta!

  11. First of all, as an acupuncturist I want to thank you so much for your endorsement of this wonderful medicine! I've been practicing acupuncture for 17 years, and have never lost my love of it.

    And then there's the risotto. This is a fabulous idea! Italy meets Vietnam, is what it looks like to me. Reminds me of some of the wonderful coconut milk/rice desserts we had in Vietnam. I love, love, love the sound of this one, and, of course, your amazing photography!

  12. I just baked a risotto rice pie yesterday that I'll be posting on soon. Aren't these creamy rice desserts the essence of comfort food?

  13. Fabulous pics Meeta, very well illustrated and also lovely dish.

  14. this is like our narlya kheer or coconut kheer... looks yummy.

  15. yummy yummy one!!I wish i could taste this eyes are just stuck to it !!!

  16. I am a huge fan of rice pudding and this one is just gorgeous! I am a bit on edge with the star anise, sometimes I like it sometimes I don't...but I am not one to say no to such a beautiful dessert!

  17. what a gorgeous rice pudding. I love the compote. Will make it myself soon.

  18. What an unusual and amazing combination of flavors! I love risotto, too, but I never think to make it sweet. And I have a big bag of star anise in my pantry....

  19. Such a creative mix of flavors, Meeta. And the pictures are absolutely gorgeous!

  20. What a lovely blend of flavors Meeta... looks beautiful... And accupuncture... you are a brave girl... I can't imagine all those needles, I know it doesn't hurt, but the mental picture is too scary :)

  21. Thanks Meeta for always inspiring us to take that step into the unknown.

  22. Yes, acupuncture has worked wonders for my mom, as well - so glad to read that it's helped you too!

    Oh my goodness, that risotto looks FABULOUS!!

  23. Mmm, you never think of risotto as sweet...this is a great idea.

  24. Good ole rice pudding with my favorite cherry compote to make it more glorious. I'm impressed you're able to think while being poked with needles; all I manage when on the acupuncture table is to fall asleep for a half hour! Guess it shows I'm relaxed...

  25. We use to have it with jam. I really must try your compote version.
    Such mouthwatering pics!

  26. Sorry for the late reply. I really appreciate the comments. Flavors of this dessert are unbelievable. The star anise/licorice flavor is very subtly and mild as I only use whole spices. This gently flavors the rice pudding, just like the cinnamon stick does.
    Acupuncture is better than any medication and I find it relaxing and rejuvenating. For those who are thinking about it - I can only say go for it. You'll become believers too.

  27. I hope that you fell a lot better now =)

    Your cherry compote sounds really stunning, and of course your pictures are fantastic!

  28. what a smart idea of using star anise! And pairing with cherry compote, I am totally fasniated by the multi-layers of flavors. Meeta, I hope this treatment work for you.

  29. yum yum, I love creamy risotto or rice pudding with cherries. Match made in heaven I say!

  30. Meeta, this is amazing! Wonderful idea :)
    I think I should try acupuncture too.. I've heard too many times about how well it works, and I may need it for similar reasons to you.. thanks for reminding me! :)

  31. This is my kind of dessert, comforting and delicious.

  32. The risotto pictures are so beautiful! What a big contrast!

    When my daughter was a small girl, I used to get a lot of pain in my neck too... I guess I just suffered too much for everything and that got all on my neck and back. At that time, it helped me a lot to have 1 hour per week of massage therapy.
    I couldn't get all those needles on my body :/

  33. Ohhh yum that sounds divine. So creamy and comforting. i love add the flavours you have used in your rice, it sounds perfect. I know sweet risotto's as being called rice pudding but this is a far classier version.

    P.S. I think you are very brave with the acupuncture

  34. Acupuncture is not all that painful or terrible. Especially when one knows that it's going to help. Thanks for all the comments and for your feedback on the recipe.


Thank you for visiting What's For Lunch, Honey? and taking time to browse through my recipes, listen to my ramblings and enjoy my photographs. I appreciate all your comments, feedback and input. I will answer your questions to my best knowledge and respond to your comments as soon as possible.

In the meantime I hope you enjoy your stay here and that I was able to make this an experience for your senses.