When I first heard about kheer I was intrigued. What was this dessert that sounded so much like an aptly named English rice pudding, but was much more indulgent and appealing to the eye?
It turns out that kheer, much like English rice pudding, is one of the most popular desserts all the way throughout India. It is a staple at festivals, and sometimes eaten in its less extravagant forms as an after-meal dessert. I can easily see why it’s so loved – simple and no required cooking skills, yet spectacular in taste and worthy of a special occasion; to be served up to guests, or offered during worship.
Kheer is a silky smooth, creamy mixture of flavoursome, aromatic rice which is cooked and sweetened with sugar and milk, combined with a delicious combination of cardamon, saffron, and in my case, rose water. It can be garnished with nuts of your choice (usually cashews, almonds, or pistachios) rose petals and raisins.
Although this recipe is for chawal ki kheer, there are other variants of kheer prevalent in many states of India which will substitute the rice for seviyan (vermicelli, as we know it; long, noodle like strands) or semolina. For this recipe I decided to use basmati rice for it’s remarkable flavour and easy accessibility. In england we use ‘pudding rice’; short grain rices which are plumper and heralded for their consistency. Personally I’d suggest using whichever works best for you; I’ve seen successful creamy attempt made with either.
To deviate from the classical and traditional, I would dare to suggest that cooking the rice in almond milk rather than the usual full-fat might enhance the flavour even more and make for a delectable variation which would also be vegan. I may experiment with that in the future – if you have experience in mixing the traditions with modern flavours, please let me know!
Chawal ki Kheer
A decadent treat perfect for special occasions and homely warmth.
- 1 litre milk, (almond milk if vegan)
- ¼ cup basmati rice,
- 4 tbsp sugar of your choice,
- 5 cardamon pods,
- A pinch of saffron,
- A dash of rose water,
- Raisins, almonds, pistachios and cashews to taste.
- Wash the rice through until the water runs clear of starch.
- Soak the rice in clean water for 30-40 minutes, then drain.
- In a large saucepan, slowly heat the milk on medium heat until it comes to a boil – make sure you stir this regularly to prevent sticking -, and then add the rice.
- Add your 4tbsp of sugar and stir it through the milk & rice.
- Turn it down to the lowest heat to cook the rice – you want the rice to cook slowly and evenly. It should be gently simmering until the rice is soft and sticky. You will be able to tell the rice is almost cooked when the kheer is thick and doesn’t roll from the spoon. You will need to stir regularly, to make sure the rice doesn’t stick.
- Keep stirring the kheer and add these things:
- Take a pinch of saffron and grind it slightly with a pestle and mortar, and then add a teaspoon of hot milk, stirring until the saffron has dissolved and the milk turns a gorgeous bright yellow.
- Add your saffron to the kheer and mix well. Don’t worry if the colour doesn’t change; mine stayed white.
- Add 2 whole cardamon pods so they will release their oils into the kheer. Remove the seeds of the remaining pods and grind them into a powder, then add to the kheer.
- You can now add a splash of rose water, chopped almonds, cashews, etc, to your taste.
- Continue to cook the kheer for 5 minutes more, until thick and all the flavours are mixing.
- Garnish with pistachios, almonds, cashews, raisins, rose petals … I added some saffron dissolved into milk for colour.
I absolutely adore the smell of both cardamon and saffron, and kheer ended up tasting even better than it smelt. Serve in small portions – it’s such a rich, sweet treat that you probably won’t be eating much, but will savour every bite.