Kheer, Kiru, Payasam or Payesh is a very popular South Asian dessert which has different names in different languages spoken in the region and slight variation of flavouring. One interesting name is “gil-e-firdaus”. In Hyderabad, gil e firdaus is a thick kheer made with milk and bottle gourd. It literally translates as “the clay of paradise”.
On both sides of the border, in Punjab, its known by the name ‘kheer’. Basically its a pudding cooked with rice, milk and sugar, flavoured and garnished with saffron, rose water, raisins, almonds and pistachios.
Before flour or nut-based halwa became popular in the subcontinent, the local people commonly made simple desserts with milk, yogurt, paneer, honey, sugar syrup and jaggery. The thick evaporated milk used as the base ingredient of kheer might have evolved into the frozen dessert – kulfi and various other milk based puddings combined with fine noodles called saviyaan, semolina, carrots or bottle gourd.
My love for kheer goes back to my early childhood. Not only the creamy, sticky sweetness won me over the first time I ate it but the myth attached to it also fascinated me a lot. I loved kheer so much that I used to even lick the pan it was cooked in. One such evening, as my mother caught me trying to scrape off whatever kheer was left in the pan with my fingers, she told me that it was said that it rained on the wedding day of the person who licked the kheer pan.
Well, maybe this little incident stayed tucked away in my mind somewhere but I never thought about it till my wedding day. Guess what ? As I came out of the banquet hall on my wedding day, it was raining! 😀
My favourite flavour is kheer with rose water. Enjoy !
3/4 cup basmati rice
3/4 cup sugar
2 litres whole milk
7-8 pods green cardamoms
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup almonds, crushed
2 tablespoons rose water
This Is What You Do :
Boil rice in 5 cups of water over medium-low heat in a deep pan.
Cook till the water is reduced and rice grains are really soft and mushy.
Rice should be slightly overcooked and easy to mash up with the spoon while stirring.
Add milk and crushed cardamom seeds to the rice in the pan. At this stage either reduce the heat to very low or place a skillet under your kheer pan and cook it over medium-low heat.
Keep stirring frequently and don’t let the rice and milk mix stick to the bottom of the pan because that will make the kheer taste slightly burnt and unpleasant.
When the milk is reduced to half of its original quantity, add sugar. Let the mixture cook and keep stirring till it reaches the creamy consistency of thick custard.
Add raisins, turn off heat. Stir in rose water and pour into serving dish or individual bowls.
Garnish with crushed almonds and fresh, thoroughly washed rose petals. Serve chilled.
Makes 8 servings