Kheer cheer for Diwali

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ABHILASHA SENGUPTA on an evergreen classic

As Diwali approaches, the desire is up for the sweet things in life. No doubt you could get yourself a variety of finger-licking mithai at the sweet shops and spice shops out there, but if, like me, you are pining for a bit of home-made mum-style mithai, then read on.

Remember mum’s kheer? Haven’t we all grown up thinking our mum made the best kheer in the world?!

The perfect comfort food for me when I’d had a fight with my brothers/friends, or got a bad mark in the class test, or generally struggled with teenage angst, kheer has continued to remain an all-time favourite in my adult life. You could cook it with a variety of ingredients, as the following recipes show, but nothing can beat that original chaaval ki kheer, rice pudding.

Essentially, rice is cooked in milk, sugar is added, and then it is all reduced. It turns light yellow in colour as it gets richer and creamier. Nuts such as almonds, cashewnuts and pistachios are added for flavour and texture, as are currants and raisins. A touch of powdered cardamom, and saffron, make it all – truly divine.

Kheer is good hot or chilled (just remember to make it sweeter if you are going to serve it chilled) and people have their preferences for consistency – some like it runny, some want it thick.

The kheer takes on different hues in the recipes below: some use the traditional northern Indian technique, some the southern payasam method, and some incorporate ingredients completely out of Indian cuisine.

 

Quickfix Kheer

Cook 100 gms rice in about a litre of milk till soft. Reduce heat and add in a tin of condensed milk. Cook for a further 5 to 7 minutes, or until desired consistency is reached. Put in nuts of choice, and cardamom powder.

 

Carrot Kheer

4 large carrots, chopped

1 – 2 cups sugar

½ tsp cardamom powder

2 cups milk

Pinch saffron

2 tbsp ghee

Powdered pistachios and almonds for garnish.

 

Boil carrots until they are soft. Blend the boiled carrots along with cardamom powder to a smooth paste.

Head ghee in a heavy-bottomed pan and add the carrot paste. Cook until the raw smell disappears. Then add sugar and cook for a further 2 to 3 minutes. Finally, add milk and saffron and allow to boil till desired consistency is reached.

Garnish with pistachios and almonds. Serve either hot or cold.

Beetroot Kheer

1 medium size beetroot

½ litre milk

1 cup sugar

1 tsp almond essence

 

Wash the beetroot well; peel and grate or cut to small pieces. Cook the beetroot immersed in just enough milk till tender (or use a pressure cooker). Cool and blend to a smooth puree. Bring the remaining milk to boil and add beetroot. Let it simmer for five minutes and then remove from heat. Add sugar and mix well. When cool, add almond essence. Best when served cold.

 

Sabudana Kheer

1 cup sabudana (sago)

1 ½ cups sugar

1 litre milk

4 cardamom pods

Pinch saffron

 

Soak sabudana in water for about fifteen minutes. Meanwhile, heat milk with sugar and cardamom mixed in. When it comes to a boil, add sabudana and stir till the seeds swell up and become translucent. Add about a cup of water now. Soak saffron in a tbsp of warm milk and then add in to the boiling milk.

Serve hot.

 

Mango Kheer

1 kg ripe mangoes

200 gms sugar

1 litre milk

2 tbsp chopped nuts

 

Peel mangoes and chop up flesh. Cook in a heavy-bottomed pan with an equal quantity of water until paste-like.

Mix sugar with equal quantity of water and bring to a boil to form a syrup. Now add the mango mixture in slowly, while continuously stirring. Introduce the milk, mix well and cook until desired consistency is reached. Decorate with nuts.

 

Badam Kheer

50 gms almonds

50 gms sugar

½ litre milk

Handful slivered almonds extra for garnish

Pinch saffron

 

Soak almonds in water overnight. Peel and put through a blender with a little water, to make a lumpy paste.

Heat milk in a heavy-bottomed pan. When it comes to a boil, add in the almond paste and sugar. Soak saffron in a tbsp of warm milk, add into kheer and continue to boil until desired consistency is reached. To serve, decorate with slivered almonds.

 

Carrot Vermicelli Kheer

200 gms vermicelli

1 ½ litre milk

3 carrots

100 gms sugar

Nuts of choice

2 tbsp fresh grated coconut

1 tsp ghee

½ tsp cardamom powder

 

Grate carrots and cook in the microwave, with a little water, until quite tender. (You could also chop up and boil, and then mash).

Heat ghee in a heavy-bottomed pan and roast vermicelli until lightly golden. Add in milk, carrots, sugar, cardamom powder, coconut and nuts. Bring to a boil and then simmer until vermicelli gets swollen.

Best served chilled.

 

Paneer Kheer

150 gms paneer, grated

1 litre milk

100 gms sugar

½ tsp cardamom powder

Nuts of choice, raisins and cherries for decoration

 

Heat milk in a heavy-bottomed pan and bring to a boil, then simmer until it reduces somewhat. Add in sugar and cardamom powder and stir until sugar melts. Then introduce paneer and cook till well blended and desired consistency is reached.

Chill. Just before serving, decorate with nuts, raisins and cherries.

 

Ghia (Louki) Kheer

400 gms ghia/lauki/bottle gourd

2 ½ cups milk

1 tbsp pistachios, chopped

1 tbsp almonds, slivered

1 tbsp walnuts, chopped

1 tbsp raisins

¼ cup whole milk powder

1 cup sugar

½ tsp cardamom powder

Pinch saffron, dissolved in a tbsp of warm milk

 

Peel ghia and discard seedy portions. Grate rest of the flesh.

Bring to a boil 2 cups milk in a heavy-bottomed pan. Reduce heat and let simmer for about ten minutes, till it thickens somewhat. Stir intermittently. Dissolve milk powder in remaining 1cup milk and pour this into the pan. Also add grated ghia, sugar, cardamom powder, saffron and nuts. Cook till well-blended and desired consistency is reached.

Serve either warm or cold.

 

Coconut Kheer

2 cups fresh grated coconut
1 cup milk

1 tsp (uncooked) rice

½ tsp cardamom powder

1 tsp ghee

2 tbsp cashewnuts, coarsely chopped

250 gms jaggery (or brown sugar if that’s easier)

2 cups water

 

Grind to a coarse paste the coconut and rice, adding just enough water. Pour into a heavy-bottomed pan, add 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Then introduce jaggery/brown sugar and mix well, and bring to a boil again. Add in cardamom powder and milk and cook briefly till well blended.

Dry Fruit Kheer

1 litre milk

¾ cup sugar

¼ tsp cardamom powder

Pinch saffron, soaked in a tbsp of hot milk

1 tbsp raisins

2 tbsp almonds, slivered

2 tbsp pistachios, slivered

5-6 dried peaches, chopped

5-6 dried apricots, chopped
Soak the raisins, peaches, apricots and in hot water for 10 minutes. Boil milk in a heavy-bottomed pan with cardamom, saffron and sugar, and cook till it all reduces somewhat. Drain the soaked dry fruit, add to the boiling milk, and stir gently. Simmer, stirring frequently, until desired consistency is reached. Add almonds and pistachios and remove from heat. Best served hot.

 

Moong Dal Kheer

1 cup yellow moong dal

3 tsp chana dal

1 tbsp ghee

2 tbsp cashewnuts, chopped coarsely

½ cup jaggery or brown sugar

1 ½ cups water

1 cup milk

1 tbsp raisins

 

Wash dals and soak in water for ten minutes. Drain, add fresh water and cook till soft.

Mix jaggery/brown sugar in a cup of water and bring to a boil to make a syrup. Mix this with moong dal mixture and bring to a boil. Add in milk, nuts and raisins and bring to a boil again, stirring.

Serve hot or cold.

 

Sweet Potato Kheer

3 medium sized sweet potatoes
1/3 cup grated jaggery (or brown sugar) or to taste
½ tsp cardamom powder
1 1/2 cups thin coconut milk

1 tbsp vermicelli roasted in 1 tsp ghee (optional)
Nuts (cashews/pistachios) for garnish
Peel sweet potatoes and slice them. Add just enough water to cover and boil until tender. Mash potatoes coarsely. Add jaggery and cardamom powder. Mix well. Next add coconut milk, stir and bring to a gentle boil on low heat. Add roasted vermicelli and simmer for a minute. Garnish with nuts.

 

Til ki Kheer

100 gm sesame seeds (white til)

100 gm fresh grated coconut

½ cup sugar, or to taste

1 tbsp raisins

1 tbsp cashew nuts, broken and soaked in warm water

¼ tsp cardamom powder

1 litre milk

1 tin condensed milk
Dry roast til and powder coarsely. Heat milk in a heavy-bottomed pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer till it reduces somewhat. Then add condensed milk and stir and cook for another 8-10 minutes. Add in sugar and cardamom powder. Stir continuously. Now add in roasted til and coconut. Cook till well-blended and desired consistency is reached. Pour into a serving dish and garnish with raisins and cashew nuts.

Polenta Kheer

¼  cup medium grain polenta
1 tsp ghee
2 cups plus more milk
2 green cardamom
5 tbsp sugar

Pinch saffron
A tbsp each chopped nuts of choice

 

Heat ghee in a heavy-bottomed pan and add in polenta. Roast gently until it lets off an aroma (do not let it change colour too much). Add the milk and stir till it comes to a boil. Reduce heat and continue to cook, till polenta is cooked fully. Introduce the sugar and cook till well-blended and desired consistency is reached. Throw in nuts and saffron, turn off heat and leave covered.

Since polenta varies in coarseness, you may have to change amount of milk mentioned here.

 

Orange Kheer

2 medium oranges

1 litre milk

1 tin condensed milk

¼ cup sugar

1 tbsp slivered almonds for garnish

 

Peel oranges and separate segments. Remove skin and pith and chop up flesh.

Bring milk to boil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Reduce heat and let simmer, stirring intermittently, till it reduces somewhat. Pour in condensed milk and continue to cook, stirring, till it reduces further. Add in sugar and reduce to about a fourth of original volume. Pour into serving dish, cover and let cool. Refrigerate. Then arrange orange on top, sprinkle almonds over, and chill again.

 

Microwave Ricotta Kheer

1 cup ricotta cheese

2 cups milk

1/3 cup sugar

¼   tsp cardamom powder

Pinch saffron

Fresh fruit of choice (mango, strawberries, grapes) and nuts for garnish

 

Put ricotta cheese in a deep glass bowl, cover and cook in the microwave on high for 2 two minutes.Take out, stir to remove lumps as best as you can, cover and cook for a further 2 minutes. Repeat to about 3 times (more if needed), till the cheese appears cooked and smooth. Introduce milk, sugar, cardamom and saffron, mix, cover and cook on high for five minutes. Take out, stir to remove lumps and cook for a further five minutes.

Cool completely. Decorate with chopped fruit and nuts, cover and refrigerate. Serve chilled.

 

Chana Dal Kheer

2 cups chana dal

1 cup sugar

1 litre milk

½ cup mixedcashewnuts and almonds

1 tbsp raisins

1 tsp ghee

1 cup sugar

1 tsp cardamom powder

2 drops almond essence

 

Lightly fry the chana dal in ghee until it browns. Soak in 3 cups of hot water for 2 hours. Soak cashews and almonds in just enough milk to cover them. Grind the dal and soaked nuts into a smooth, fine paste.

Pour milk into a heavy-bottomed pan. Add the ground paste and heat over low flame. Stir the mixture continuously until desired consistency is reached.

Turn off heat and add sugar, cardamom powder and raisins. When slightly cool, add the almond essence and mix well. Serve hot chilled.

 

Makhane ki Kheer

2 cups makhane (lotus seeds)

1 tsp ghee

1 litre milk

1 cup sugar

1 tbsp almonds, slivered

1 tbsp pistachios, coarsely chopped

1 tsp cardamom powder

 

Cut makhane into halves and gently roast in hot ghee. Add in milk and sugar and cook till milk is reduced to about half. Stir frequently to prevent sticking to the base of the pan. Add in nuts and cardamom powder and simmer briefly.

Serve hot or cold.

 

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