Rice Pudding (Kheer)


As we are celebrating “The Festival of Lights” known as Diwali (short for Deepavali), I fondly remember the details associated with the celebration that lasted for five days as I was growing up in the tiny village of Berinag in the state of Uttrakhand (previously part of Uttar Pradesh) in India.  My recent trip to Berinag brought back the fondest memory of the special time spent with my family almost five decades ago.  I vividly remember my mother making kheer for us kids.  Actually it was made specifically during this time of the year as to welcome the festive season of Diwali as autumn begins (generally it falls during the months of October or November according to the lunar calendar) and starting of the new harvest season in the villages.

Kheer or creamy rice pudding is one of the subtly flavored festive desserts often prepared to celebrate religious ceremonies in my nani’s kitchen.

8 cups whole milk
3/4 cup medium grain rice
6 green cardamom pods, roughly crushed
2 one-inch-piece cinnamon sticks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/8 cup blanched powdered almonds
Blanched almonds for garnishing

1) In a 3-quart non-stick saucepan bring 6 cups of milk to a boil. Add rice to the boiling milk. Add cardamom, cinnamon sticks and saffron threads if desired.
2) Reduce the heat; cook uncovered over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until rice is tender. Add sugar and almonds (refined nut flour) to rice and stir constantly until sugar has completely dissolved. Continue to cook until rice is soft and the texture is quite creamy. Add more milk to achieve the desired creamy consistency of rice pudding (kheer). It has to be stirred frequently if you are not using non-stick saucepan.
3) Remove from heat. It takes about 45 to 55 minutes to cook the pudding. The rice pudding will thicken as it sets. You may need to add more milk to achieve the right consistency of the pudding. Before serving the pudding remove the whole cardamom pods and cinnamon stick. Refrigerate at least 4 to 5 hours. Garnish individual bowl of pudding as desired. This can be served warm or chilled.

Yield: 8-10 servings.

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