You only need a couple of simple ingredients to make Kheer, a sweet, creamy and aromatic traditional Indian dessert
|Preparation time: 40 minutes||Cooking time: 2 hours|
|Serves: 4||Difficulty: Easy|
- 45g/1 1/2oz/1/4 cup of basmati rice
- 1100ml/11dl/just under 2 pt/4 1/2 cups of full fat milk
- 90g/3oz/7 tablespoons of sugar
- 5 cardamom pods, crushed
- Chopped pistachios, rose petals and/or saffron strands, to decorate
Make it vegan: You really need full fat milk (as opposed to skimmed or semi-skimmed milk) to make thick and creamy Kheer. To emulate this creaminess with vegan ingredients, use 3 1/2 cups of oat or almond milk (not soya milk) combined with one cup of plant-based single cream.
- A large heavy bottomed saucepan
- A large bowl
- A wooden spoon
- 4 small glasses or terracotta bowls, to serve
- Rinse and drain the basmati rice a few times, until the water runs clear. Then soak the rice in a large bowl of water for half an hour.
- Set a large heavy bottomed saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add a 1/4 cup of water to the pan and bring it to the boil. Allow it to boil for 3 minutes before pouring the water away and returning the pan to the heat. (This process helps prevent the Kheer from sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning.) Immediately add the milk to the pan and bring it to a gentle boil.
- Drain the rice. Add it to the milk with the cardamom and sugar and stir everything together with a wooden spoon. Bring the heat right down to low and allow the Kheer to simmer for about two hours, or until the mixture is nice and thick. While it’s cooking, scrape the bottom of the pan with the wooden spoon occasionally to prevent bits of rice from sticking and burning.
- Pour the finished Kheer into serving bowls or glasses and allow the puddings to rest for about ten minutes- the Kheer will continue to thicken and settle during this time. Then drizzle the finished Kheer with saffron strands, rose petals and/or chopped pistachios.
- Serve the Kheer immediately if you’d like to eat it hot. Alternatively, pop it in the fridge for 5 or 6 hours before serving if you prefer it cold.
- Maze Karein (مزےکریں)/Khuwar Amez Lôûk (খোৱাৰ আমেজ লওঁক)/Kripyā Bhojan Kā Annand Lijīyai (कृपया भोजन का आनंद लीजिये)!
- Kheer has been eaten across the Indian Subcontinent for millennia, so there are many varieties. It can be made with just rice, milk and sugar, but it’s often flavoured and decorated with many ingredients, including cardamoms, almonds, pistachios, cashews, rose water, rose petals, saffron, dried fruit and Kewra water.
- Similarly, while rice is often used to make Kheer, it can also made using tapioca, vermicelli, almonds, carrots, apples and many other ingredients as a base.
- Kheer can also be prepared in different ways- in some areas, the rice is cooked and mashed up before being added to the milk, in others, it’s fried up a little with ghee first.
- Kheer can be eaten hot, cold, or warm depending on how you like it.
Home: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh
Relatives: Shola-e-Zard (Afghanistan, Iran) Khira Sagara (India), Eight Treasure Rice Pudding 八寶飯 (China), Rice Pudding (International)
Kheer has been part of the Indian diet for a very, very long time: the dish is mentioned in the ancient Ayurveda texts, and in the 14th century Padmavat of Gujarat. But its specific origins are unknown. Its name derives from the Sanskrit word Kshirika (क्षीर) and/or the Persian word Sheer, both of which mean ‘milk’, and it’s one of many old Indian milk based desserts.
Kheer may have become as popular as it is because of its religious uses. Its main ingredient, rice, gained religious connotations under the Tamil Chola dynasty, and its colouring, Shwet (white), has traditionally been associated with divinity and purity in some parts of India. Perhaps as a result, Kheer became important for religious rituals in some parts of the subcontinent. It has often been linked with the god Shiva, and in some places it is traditionally served to his devotees. It is specifically given to the goddess Ksheer Bhawani as an offering, and is strongly associated with the temples of Guruvayoor and Ambalappuzha, where it’s customarily served to visitors. Kheer is also said to have played an important role in the construction of the Konark Sun Temple, which dates back to the thirteenth century AD: after many failed attempts to build the temple in water, one of its architects used a bowl of Kheer to demonstrate where a bridge could be built to construct it. Today, Kheer is often served up as a treat at religious festivals like Diwali, Ramadan and Eid and at special occasions like birthdays and baby showers, as well as as a casual, everyday dessert.
Because Kheer has been eaten across South Asia and the Indian Subcontinent since ancient times, there are many varieties. It’s eaten hot, warm or cold, made using rices, millets, pastas and fruits as a base, and can be flavoured with many different spices, fruits, nuts and sweets. Regional varieties include Payasam (a thin pudding from southern India, often made with jaggery), Gil-e-Firdaus (a thicker pudding from Hyderbad), Phirni (a northern Indian pudding introduced by Persians, made with ground rice), Payas (eaten in eastern India and Bengal on special occasions) and Payesh (Kheer with jaggery, from eastern India), as well as versions found in surrounding countries, like Sher Birinj (eaten in Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan.)