Growing up, I don’t recall any special occasion when rice pudding was not prepared. Be it a birthday, after exam celebrations, any festival or a family get-together, this creamy comfort-in-a-bowl always made an appearance. This ritual is still followed religiously. And I still lick the bowl clean, every single time.
At home, rice pudding is not just a casual indulgence but it’s auspicious as well. My mom has always been very specific about how and when she would prepare the pudding. She needed a clean kitchen, no distractions and sufficient time. There cannot be any rush and she would never make the pudding along with something else being cooked on the other side of the stove. She always gave her entire attention to the pudding, stirring quietly, every now and then. There are no shortcuts when it comes to making payesh.
Although any short grain rice would work but in Kolkata, people go for a distinct kind of short grain rice called gobindo bhog. It has a lovely sweet aroma. And if it’s winter, a special flavor goes in the pudding – date palm jaggery. This jaggery is considered a delicacy in Kolkata.
The jaggery is derived from the sap of Date Palm Tree, which is cooked to bring that striking burgundy color. It’s then stored in earthen pots that boosts its flavor and eventually solidifies. At the end, you get two versions of jaggery. One is a thick liquid form called notun gur or nolen gur and the other kind in a rock solid form called patali gur. In either case, the flavor is immense.
Good thing, it stays in the freezer for several months. So when my brother visited us a few months back, Mom sent quite a bulk. Ever since, I have been making khejur gurer payesh very frequently.
- 1- cup short grain rice, I used Kolkata’s special aromatic rice, gobindo bhog
- 2 cups whole milk
- 3 cups heavy cream
- 4 green cardamoms
- 1 dry bay leaf
- handful raisins
- handful cashews
- 6 to 7 tablespoons date palm jaggery, depends on how sweet you prefer the pudding
- Wash the rice and soak it in the water for about 30 minutes.
- In another small bowl, soak the raisins.
- In a thick heavy bottom pan, pour milk and heavy cream. Drop the bay leaf and bring the milk to boil. Keep stirring in between. Now, let it simmer in medium low heat for about 15 minutes or until the milk thickens a bit.
- Drain the rice from water and pour it in the saucepan. Continue cooking in medium low heat, stirring occasionally.
- After about 10 minutes or so, the rice should be half cooked. Add the jaggery at this point along with roughly crushed green cardamom and continue cooking in medium low heat, stirring occasionally.
- Once the rice gets softened and the milk thickens, drop the cashews and raisins. Give it a mix. If you prefer a thinner pudding, add more milk and cook for one more minute.
- I like to eat it while it is at room temperature. If you prefer the pudding cold, allow it to reach room temperature before placing it in the refrigerator.
- You can use any other type of jaggery. However, the flavor and taste will differ a lot.
- If at any point you feel that the pudding got too thick and the rice is still uncooked, pour some more milk (preferably warm) and continue cooking.
- Never add raisins in the beginning as it might curdle the milk. Always add them at the end. Also, soaking them in water helps to puff it up.