Place the rice and 1 cup (250 ml) of the milk in a heavy saucepan.
Over low heat, gradually bring the milk to a boil. To keep the milk from boiling over, place a metal spoon in the pan as the milk is heating. Remove the metal spoon, and stirring the rice, gradually add the remaining milk.
After all the milk has been incorporated, gradually add the water, about 1/2 cup (125 ml) at a time, stirring constantly.
The rice should be very tender after about 20 to 25 minutes.
Season it with salt and pepper.
Stir in the butter and, if desired, the cheese and serve.
At this point, if desired, the rice can be spread in a buttered flameproof baking dish and topped with the bread crumbs.
Just before serving, place the dish under a broiler to brown the top lightly.