Indian cuisine is famous for flavour, its use of spices and most of all for its variety of sweets. From all the amazing choice available, my favourite is simple rice kheer. Slow-cooked milk that is reduced and sweetened to a dense texture and then cooked with rice and spices. A decadent, mellow, UNFORGETTABLE rice pudding, Kheer is the quintessential Indian dessert.
A celebration of milk
Over years of writing and researching about food, I have attended a number of events hosted by the Dairy Farmers of Canada and the Ontario Dairy Meeting dairy farmers, learning about Canadian Dairy and how exceptional it is has been an enriching experience for me. Even more so since I spent years searching for dairy substitutes to accommodate for food allergies in the family. Now that the allergies are (somewhat) under control and dairy is back on the menu in our home, I’ve rediscovered my joy of cooking with this yummy ingredient.
Which brings me to rice kheer. This recipe is how my mom makes it in India. Her kheer is the best. Mine though? It comes a close second!
Few ingredients, big flavour
Kheer is unusual in that it has very few ingredients and milk really is the star of the dish. To get this dish right, the cooking takes a couple of hours. The milk is slow-cooked until it changes to an ivory colour. Once it reduces to a dense, sweet mass, I add rice along with spices to pump up the flavour and turn it into an unforgettable dessert.
Don’t let the simple ingredients fool you. Kheer is a decadent, mellow rice pudding that has many layers of subtle flavour. The rich, creamy taste of sweetened milk is enhanced by the fragrance of cardamom and saffron. What’s even more amazing is how different kheer tastes depending on whether you serve it hot or chilled. I prefer chilled. Heaven in a spoon!
Real-life Kitchen Tips
- This is a slow, time-consuming recipe that needs to be monitored. I make it when I am doing other things in the kitchen so I can stay in the vicinity.
- Milk burns if it is cooked continuously at high temperature. It also burns if the pan’s base is too light. My Mom uses her heaviest aluminium kadai for this dish. I use my cast iron dutch oven.
- If you do find that the milk has got stuck to the bottom and smells of burning, don’t worry. There is a solution, actually, there are two:
- For a little bit of “burn” – keep going just make sure you don’t scrape the burned layer from the bottom as you stir.
- For a lot of “burn” – transfer the milk to a fresh pan and continue
Some people will insist that a good kheer recipe must have raisins. Ignore them. Much like the conflicted pecan tart discussion in Canada, raisins in kheer have also divided families for generations. I am on the side of “no-raisins”. Let me know how YOU feel!
Indian Kheer Recipe
- 2 Litres Milk 2% or whole will do
- 1/3 tsp ground cardamom seeds from cardamom pods
- 1/2 tsp saffron threads
- 2/3 cup plain white sugar You may need to add more as needed
- 1/3 cup short-grain rice I use arborio for this recipe
Find the heaviest bottomed pan in your cabinet. Pour the milk in it.
Heat the milk on high while stirring till it comes to a boil.
Turn the heat to medium. Be prepared to stir every few minutes as the milk evaporates and reduces.
Add the cardamom and saffron at this time.
It will take more than an hour for the milk to reduce to almost half its quantity. Keep scraping the sides of the pan. The creamy strings are what you need.
Rinse the rice a few times and add it once the milk has reduced and become dense.
Stir more frequently once you have added the rice, to prevent burning.
Continue to cook till the rice is of a mushy texture but still holding its own shape.
Add sugar at the end and stir a few times and cook a little bit more.
Taste for sweetness. Kheer tastes less sweet when chilled, so add more sugar if it tastes just right when hot.
Garnish with chopped almonds and serve chilled.