Wednesday, April 22, 2009

New Addiction: Kheer

I really do intend on blogging more. Really! I promise! I have a lot more "Nihonjin Nibbles" to do as well as I am slowly working through Orchid's care package...

Within the last year my workmate and best friend CB started eating at a buffet south of town called Amar India. They put out a decent buffet spread for lunch and they are usually quite busy. It is very much enjoyable, but very much filling.

One of the things that I like ... er, love ... is kheer, an Indian rice pudding. The way they serve it at the buffet it is quite a bit thinner in consistency than what us Americans consider pudding. Sometimes it is almost soup-like. It also has a flavor to it that I found to be totally unique. When I first tasted it, I didn't like it. I could not quite place the taste, it has a sort of anise-y quality, like licorice but muted and somewhat different. The more I tasted of it, the more I started to enjoy it. Now when I go it is difficult to resist going up three, sometimes four, times for refills. Thank God they have tiny little bowls for the desserts!

I asked very dear friend from Toronto, whom we call Piper, for a recipe since she and her family are from over Pakistan way. (As soon as I hit send on the email asking for a recipe it struck me that I could have just Googled it ... but whatever. LOLduh!) I figured that the recipe would be complicated and involve many strange and exotic ingredients.

Boy, was I wrong.

Sometimes the simplest things can have quite a profound affect on a person. Like kheer. Rice, milk, sugar, cardamom. That's it. I did some research online to see how others make kheer and I slightly altered Piper's mum's recipe to make a smaller quantity because the original recipe would have made approximately one metric ton of pudding...

Simple Kheer Recipe
4 cups Milk, 2% or greater
1/4 cup Basmati (or other starchy long-grain) Rice
2/3 cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 tsp Cardamom, powdered or ground

Soak rice in water a short time to remove some starch.
Boil milk, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Yes, it WILL burn ... using non-stick cookware or a double-boiler will help.
When milk boils over, clean up the mess, then drain and add the rice.
Reduce heat to medium.
Keep stirring.
Cook until rice is tender and milk has reduced some. Consistency should be like a thin creamy soup but much thicker than the original milk.
Keep stirring.
Add sugar.
Keep stirring.
When rice is tender but not mushy, sprinkle in cardamom.
Keep stirring.
Remove the conglomeration from the heat.
Keep stirring.
Let cool.
Enjoy slightly warm and soupy or chill. Chilling will thicken the consistency.
When in doubt, stir.
Here are some caveats I found while monkeying with the recipe...

  • 1/4 cup of rice makes a LOT of kheer.
  • Milk does burn. If it burns, start over. If you stir it into the kheer it will taste like something evil.
  • Add sugar to taste. I like mine on the sweet side. The sugar also acts with the starch to give the kheer body and thicken the pudding.
  • Cardamom powder can clump. Put the cardamom powder in a small bowl and add a little milk and whisk with a fork to declumpify it before adding to the mixture.
  • It doesn't look like it will be very thick when being cooked. It will thicken, trust me. If it is thick and pudding-like in the pan, it will be like a brick when cool. You can loosen it with water or skim milk.

I didn't realize until I made some that the unusual taste of the kheer comes from the cardamom. I have never cooked with cardamom before, but it has a wonderful smell to it, somewhat grassy with hints of licorice. It is also widely used in apple pies, I have come to find.

The first batch I made was of perfect consistency, but lacked some sweetness and flavor as I had only used 1/4 cup of sugar and 1/4 tsp of cardamom. I adjusted the recipe for the second test batch to use more of both and not cook the milk so much so the extra sugar would not throw off the consistency. The second batch came out too thin indicating I should have let the milk reduce some more. To make up for this, I made another batch like above but used only three cups of milk. Near the end of the cooking process I mixed in the second batch and let it cook for a bit. This mixture of batches 2 and 3 came out great and is nearly perfect!

I don't think mine will ever be as good as what is available at the Indian buffet, but since one batch of kheer costs about $1 to make, I think the savings is worth the effort.


Orchid64 said...

The timing on your posting this is surprising. Just yesterday, I came across a recipe for paneer kheer and considered trying it.

Lately, I've made coconut rice pudding which is simple and fabulous, though it does require that you have cold rice on hand. You just add a can of coconut milk to a large pan, whisk in 2 eggs, sugar to taste (I use 1.5 tbsp. of real sugar and 6 packets of Splenda), 1/2 tsp. salt and stir in 2.5-3 cups of rice. It probably would be nice to toss in a cardomom pod or two as well if you like the flavor (though I didn't). Cook it up until thickened, stir in a teaspoon of vanilla after you remove it from the heat and voila.

It's incredibly yummy, especially after it's cold.

badmoodguy (Бадмўдгуи) said...

It's even funnier that you mention coconut milk, as just the other day I thought now tasty this recipe would be with coconut milk!

The kheer recipes would probably be fine with Splenda as I don't see the sugar adding too much to the thickness or texture of the pudding.

I was just quite surprised as to how much 1/4 cup of dry rice works out to be in the final product.

As always, thanks for reading and commenting!