Mama’s Punjabi Recipes: Chawal di Kheer (Rice Pudding)



Kheer has become a staple dessert in so many Indian restaurants South Asian restaurants, just like the equally popular ras malai (cottage cheese in creamed milk) that you can almost predict what’s on the menu. Part of the reason is that kheer is a simple and inexpensive dessert to make. But this does not mean that all restaurants make it equally well. Far too many make kheer with boiled rice soaked in a thin milky syrup, which does not do justice to this dessert and only a few make it properly: thick and with nuts.
The term “kheer” comes from the Sanskrit word ksheeram (which means milk), but the dish is also known as payasam in South India or payesh in Bengal. The recipe for the popular English rice pudding is believed to have originated from kheer.

Kheer is found all over India, though the true North Indian version is made with ghee, rice, sugar, cardamom, raisins, kesar (saffron) and dried fruit in thickened milk. It is prepared for festivals, in temples and many special Hindu occasions though it is equally popular – especially the one made with vermicelli – among Muslims for Islamic celebrations.
Kheer has made a comeback as a chic dessert at wedding where the thickened variety is presented in small earthen dishes, garnished with strands of saffron, chopped almonds and pistachios and with a small piece of sona ka varak (gold film).

1.4 cup doodh (milk) – whole is best, but low-fat will do too
2.1 cup chawal (rice)
3.¼ cup chinni (sugar)
4.2 tbsp condensed milk (if used, you can reduce the sugar)
5.¼ tsp ilachi powder (cardamom powder)
6.Dry fruits to your taste: kishmish (raisans); badam (almonds – peeld and silvered); piste (pistachios – halved or pieces)

1. Pour the milk in a saucepan or small pot and bring to a boil over medium heat.

2. Meanwhile, wash the rice in cold water and let it soak in the water.

3. Once the milk has come to boil, pour the rice through a strainer, then pour the rice into the milk. Stir occasionally to make sure the milk does not stick to the pot.

4. In a little while the milk will get thicker and the rice will mix well. Now, add the sugar (condensed milk if you like too) and throw in the dry fruits. The peeled, silvered almonds taste best.

5. Thicker kheer tastes best. It can be served hot, but most people prefer to eat it cold, so refrigerate for an hour or two before serving.

Shakuntla Malhotra is a skilled cook of Punjabi dishes made in the old-fashioned style that she learnt as a young woman in her ancestral home in Lyallpur, India before it became part of Pakistan after the Partition in 1947. People have often admired her cooking for its simplicity and taste that comes with each mouthful. Even in her mid-eighties, she continues to cook daily and agreed to share some of her delectable Punjabi recipes.

mamas recipe inside3



Fasting is common during navratri, when only fruits, milk, potatoes, coconut flakes and root vegetables like singhaade da aata (lotus root flour), arbi (Eddoe) and sabudana (large grain or pearl tapioca) should be eaten and grains avoided as they are assumed to absorb negative energy. Spices are limited to red chillies, turmeric, cumin and sendha namak (rock salt) but onions and garlic are not allowed.
The most widely followed navratri is the one just preceding Dusserah in October-November with three days of worship to Goddess Durga followed by three days devoted to Goddess Lakshmi and finally three days to Goddess Saraswati. But there is another navratri followed by the faithful, the Vasant or Chaitra Navratri which occur in the springtime around mid-to-late March, culminating in Rama Navami.
Most devout people will eat the same items at both navratris and since these – coconut flakes, singhaade da aata, arbi and sabudana – are expensive, not commonly used in daily life and there are usually plenty left over, it is better to store them in the refrigerator in plastic bags and reuse them six months later.