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~ Rich, Toasted Indian Basmati Rice Pudding (Kheer) ~

IMG_2650When it comes to worldly or exotic recipes, I always do my research and my best to keep them as close to authentic as I can.  When it comes to Indian food, I always reply upon the advice of my four Indian girlfriends, and the woman who owns Krishan, Happy Valley's Indian grocery store, because you're all such good cooks.  That said, when it comes to kheer, a delicately-spiced addictively-rich rice pudding dessert, if you're one of my Indian girlfriends, you might find yourself wincing in one or two spots while reading my recipe.  Why?  While the flavors in my recipe are authentic enough and the end result divine, I've strayed off the beaten path a bit in terms of the method, because you, my Indian girlfriends, all have a slightly-different way of making it. 

IMG_2656Kheer, also called payasam (which means "milk" in Sanskrit), is one of the oldest desserts in the world, having been made in Indian and neighboring cultures for over 2000 years.  It's a pudding made by boiling ghee-toasted rice, broken wheat, tapioca or vermicelli with cardamom-and-saffron-spiced milk and white sugar, and, it's additionally flavored with plumped raisins and toasted nuts (almonds, cashews and/or pistachios).  Some cooks add cream to the milk for added richness, and, in some regions of India, they use coconut milk to make kheer.  It's perfect at the end of a spicy meal.  In India, kheer is served at festivals, temple, weddings and all special occasions.  Kheer is believed to have come from the city of Puri.  Legend says:  A man who had loaned money and rice to a poor king, took pity on the king when he couldn't repay him in time. The lender requested that the king use whatever he had and make offerings to Krishna, instead of paying him back.  In many temples today, kheer is cooked daily, as an offering to the gods.

It's time to add this American girl's kheer recipe to the internet: 

IMG_26051/2  cup basmati rice

1/4  cup golden raisins

1/4  cup nuts (slivered almonds, chopped cashews &/or chopped pistachios)

2  tablespoons salted butter

3 1/2  cups whole milk, plus 1/2-1 cup additional milk, if necessary, to control consistency

1/2  cup sugar

IMG_26071/2  teaspoon cardamom powder, or, the seeds from 2-3 green cardamom pods, processed to a powder in a spice grinder or pulverized in a mortar and pestle

(Note:  Cardamom powder is traditionally used in kheer.  That said, I am not the biggest fan of the flavor of green or black cardamom -- and if you use too much, your recipe will taste like medicine rather than food.  I have found ginger powder to be a delightful substitution.)

pinch of saffron threads, crushed

additional lightly-toasted nuts (almonds, cashews &/or pistachios), for garnish

IMG_2610 IMG_2613 IMG_2615 IMG_2618~Step 1.  In a 10" nonstick skillet, melt butter over low heat.  Add rice, raisins and nuts of choice. Increase heat to medium-high and sauté, stirring constantly (like a stir-fry), until rice is lightly-toasted, raisins are plump and nuts are fragrant.  Remove from heat and set aside.

IMG_2620 IMG_2623 IMG_2627Step 2.  In a 4-quart saucepan, place the milk, sugar, cardamom or ginger powder.  Pick up a pinch of saffron threads, whatever you can pick up in your fingertips, and crush it into the milk too.  Take a moment to stir the mixture, to dissolve the sugar.  Over medium heat, bring milk to a boil, stirring frequently.  When boiling milk, it's important to keep an eye on it as it can and will boil over quickly.  Adjust heat to simmer for 15 minutes, to allow milk to reduce by 1/4, thicken a bit, and allow the spices to work their magic.  I started out with 1" of milk in this 4-quart saucepan and now have 3/4".

IMG_2633 IMG_2636~Step 3.  Add all of the toasted rice mixture to the simmering milk mixture and give it a good stir. When the mixture returns to a simmer, continue to cook, uncovered and stirring almost constantly, until rice is very tender and mixture is nicely-thickened, but still a bit soupy, about 30-35 minutes.  If, for any reason, the rice is not very tender, add an additional 1/2 cup of milk and simmer another 5-10 minutes.  Remove from heat, cover and set aside about 10-15 minutes, to thicken up a bit more, prior to serving warm.

Note:  Kheer can be served chilled, or it can be chilled overnight and reheated the next day.  To reheat, place 1/2 cup additional milk in a 1-quart saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.  Stir kheer to the simmering milk and gently reheat, stirring constantly, 1-2 minutes.

Serve kheer warm or chilled -- your choice:

IMG_2661Rich, Toasted Indian Basmati Rice Pudding (Kheer):  Recipe yields 2 cups/4, 1/2 cup servings.

Special Equipment List:  10" skillet; large slotted spoon; 4-quart saucepan

IMG_0354Cook's Note:  I don't profess to be an expert at cooking Indian food, but, thanks to my girlfriends, what I do cook is very, very good.  For another "American girl's take on an Indian classic", I think you'll enjoy my recipe for ~ Easy Indian Curry in a Hurry w/No Worry ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017) 


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