Rice Pudding Redux: Chaval Kheer, or Indian Rice Pudding

This latest winter storm brings with it some major howling winds. Like, my whole house is shaking right now and these old windows are really letting the draft into my apartment.  I think some soul warming comfort food is in order and for today, that means rice pudding, or chaval kheer.

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You may recall I made rice pudding, or arroz con leche, back in Spain just over a year ago (One year! Time flies. Whew!).  I loved that recipe because it was the first time I had rice pudding success after countless failed attempts.  High five for me! The sad thing as I continue to plow forward, I find I have little time to go back and remake my some of my favorite dishes.  I love rice pudding and haven’t had it since my Spanish success.  Therefore, even though I’ve been bombarding you with rice dishes lately, I couldn’t pass up the chance to remake this favorite with a different, and admittedly more flavorful twist.

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Chaval Kheer, also known as Payasam (in the south) or Payesh (in the east) is eaten throughout the country and is thicker or thinner depending on the region.  Given its popularity, it was an obvious dessert choice, and not just a lame excuse to for me to repeat the rice pudding.  This selection was totally legit.

Two elements made that original rice pudding distinct from any others I’d tried: sweetened condensed milk and an egg.  While I hoped to have equal success with this Indian kheer, given my new no-dairy, reduced-egg food sensitivity diet, the two clutch elements in that on recipe had to go. What’s a girl to do?

While I easily omitted the egg, the sweetened condensed milk seemed like the bigger hurdle. However, the interwebs never cease to amaze me and Terris over at Free Eats had a solution:  homemade sweetened condensed coconut milk. Although making the milk did add an extra step (and an extra hour), it had to be done, and the kheer was no less perfect in that regard than the original. Plus, I think the coconut added a hint of an Asian twist, and really complimented the cardamom, cinnamon, vanilla and saffron to create an extra layer of flavor and a richness that compensated for the missing egg.

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On to the recipe!

Note: Don’t freak out- it seems like a LOT of liquid for so little rice, but trust me- it’s correct

Recipe from the Arroz, but with some Indian inspired flavors

Ingredients

½ cup Basmati rice

½ TB grated lemon zest

2 cups water

1 ½ cups almond milk

8 ounces homemade sweetened condensed coconut milk

½ tsp cardamom powder

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp vanilla

Pinch saffron

Roasted pistachios, to garnish

Directions

1.  Soak the rice and lemon zest in the water for an hour.

2.  Once soaked, bring the rice mixture to a boil uncovered on high heat.   When it starts to boil, lower the heat to medium and cook for 10 to 12 more minutes or until water is almost evaporated.

3.  To the cooking rice, add the milk, condensed milk and stir well to mix. Add the cinnamon, cardamom and saffron.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring carefully, until it thickens slightly or until desired consistency, about 25 to 35 minutes.

4.  Take off the heat and add the vanilla.  Let cool uncovered.  It thickens as it cools. I personally like mine warm, but it you can serve it both ways.  Garnish with the nuts.

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I will say that thought I much preferred the flavors of this one, I liked the texture and heartiness of the Arborio rice over the Basmati. So, next time, more fusion cuisine!


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