An exotic rice kheer (pudding) that gets its sweetness entirely from jaggery and dried figs. A hint of saffron that elevates it to greater heights.
A dessert fit for royalty with the best kind of calories you can hope to get from such indulgence. Jaggery may come from the same source as white sugar – sugarcane juice – but it’s miles ahead in terms of nutrition. The process of refining strips white sugar of sugarcane’s mineral contents, while the simpler method of jaggery-making retains them.
Dried figs are rich in antioxidants, fiber and calcium along with a host of other minerals.
All I knew about saffron till a while ago was that it gives a unique hay-like flavour to a dish and is the most expensive spice in the world (besides being the color of a certain political ideology, but let’s not go there).
Some poking around the internet reveals that saffron helps to relieve pains like tummy ache and arthritic conditions. It contains carotenoids – powerful antioxidants that protect your body’s cells from damage, improve vision and make your skin glow. Just a few strands of saffron are enough to impart all their goodness and flavour a big-sized dish.
Bottomline: Saffron is totally worth the price :)
- Milk* – 1 litre
- Rice – 1/4 cup
- Almonds – 10
- Raisins – 1 tablespoon
- Dried figs – 6 + 1 per serving for garnish
- Saffron** – 5 strands
- Jaggery powder – 2 heaped tablespoons (adjust to taste): I use Pro Nature powdered jaggery, a brown variety much tastier than light brown jaggery. Highly recommended.
*They say full cream milk tastes better in desserts.I use toned milk for kheer all the time and have never felt the need to switch to full cream. Try it if you like.
**Adjust the amount of saffron according to its quality. If you’re using powdered saffron or an inexpensive variety of the spice, it won’t be potent enough and you may have to add a few more strands.
1. Pre-cooking steps
4 hours or more before you start making kheer: Soak almonds in a cup of water.
1 hour before you start making kheer: Wash rice in several changes of water till the water runs clear. Soak in a cup of water for an hour.
Just before you start making kheer: Soak saffron in a tablespoon of hot milk. Saffron releases its flavor and color gradually when soaked in hot fluid; it will take about 20 minutes for the spice to be ready for use.
Cut six dried figs into 5-6 vertical strips each.
Slice soaked almonds into slivers.
2. Making the kheer
Heat a litre of milk in a thick-bottomed pan, bring it to a boil. Set the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Now add soaked rice and let the mixture simmer till the rice has cooked and milk reduced. Should take 20 minutes or so.
Keep stirring every 4-5 minutes while the kheer cooks, making sure you scrape the bottom of the pan - the kheer must not stick and char.
Add raisins, sliced figs + almonds, and saffron soaked in milk to the kheer. In a few minutes, the raisins will plump up and figs will soften and release their sweetness, while saffron will infuse the kheer with its pleasant flavor.
Add jaggery powder, stir until dissolved (1-2 minutes).
Add jaggery only towards the end, when the rice has cooked completely else the rice may not soften further.
Remove rice kheer from the fire. Let it cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.
Kheer thickens as it cools. If you want chilled rice kheer to be of pouring consistency, take it off the heat when it is slightly runnier than the way you like it served.
Serve rice kheer chilled in transparent bowls/glasses, garnished with dried figs.