Cooking, Cooking & Eating, Sweet

Kheer, Vindicated

Did you think, perhaps, that I might leave my kheer experiment like this? Did you think that I could swallow my pride like a spoonful of hot pink pepto bismol, accept my failure with equanimity, and abandon my aspirations toward that creamy, spicy Indian rice pudding in favor of some more comfortable fare? Did you?

Nah. Of course you didn’t. Because you (dear readers!) know me better than that.

The fact of the matter is that I never really abandoned kheer at all. Even as I moved on to posts about other matters — my plea for you to support the Tor Project, for example — I was toiling dutifully in the kitchen, playing with proportions, correcting my former mistakes, and refining my method. I was writing up a recipe that — for its simplicity and delightful results — I was sure would (obviously) dazzle you all. And I was merely biding my time, waiting for a tasteful period to have elapsed, before I returned the kheer from its exile.

When I think about it — obviously! — my kheer is something of a Napoleon of a dish. Not in this delicious pastry sense, no. But rather in the sense that it had been shuffled off to some (culinary) Elba, to live out its days in infamy and obscurity. But determined, it escaped. It found the (culinary) fifth French regiment along the coast of (culinary) Grenoble. And it marched back into the limelight, a new (culinary) Grande Armée at its back.

Of course, this kheer doesn’t get wiped out by Wellington. There’s no Saint Helena here. But the metaphor is sound. I insist!

Kheer, Vindicated

Or not.

Either way, whereas the failed kheer bore a resemblance to adobe brick, this one is moist and delicious. While the last one tasted only passingly like itself, this one has that Indian-style creamy spiciness down. If the last one caused Sarah — kheer enthusiast that she is — to hand the latter half of her dish off to me, this time around, she cleaned her bowl and asked for seconds.

I call that a success. I ask you all (dear readers) to please ignore my ignominious first attempt. And I encourage you all to try this iteration. You will definitely not be disappointed.

Kheer, Vindicated

1/4 cup + 1 tsp Basmati Rice
4 cups Whole Milk
1/3 cup Granulated Sugar
1/4 cup Slivered Almonds or Crushed Pistachios, plus some for garnish
1/4 cup Golden Raisins, plus some for garnish
10-12 Saffron Strands
4-5 Cardamom Pods, crushed
1 Star Anise Pod

In a 3-quart saucepan over a low-medium flame, heat the milk and saffron together, stirring occasionally. Add the cardamom and star anise to a tea egg or cheesecloth bag, and when the milk begins to steam, add it, along with the basmati rice, to the saucepan.

Kheer, Vindicated

Allow the milk-rice combination to cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, or until the rice is tender. Then stir in the nuts, raisins, and sugar, raise the flame to medium, and simmer, stirring continuously, for another 15-20 minutes.

Kheer, Vindicated

You’ll know the kheer is done when the liquid is the consistency of custard sauce and the rice begins to break apart.

Remove the finished kheer to a bowl — and remove the tea egg of spices from the kheer — and chill thoroughly. Then serve in custard cups, garnished with a few more raisins and nuts, and one or two strands of saffron.