Kheer is the Indian version of rice pudding. It's creamy, spicy and usually enjoyed cold. I don't often make Indian desserts because I find most of them to be too sweet for my liking. Kheer doesn't depend on sugar for it's flavour, so it's no wonder it's one of few Indian desserts that I enjoy.
My version of kheer started off as an experiment which eventually turned into a crowd hit. The first question people ask when they eat it is "What rice is this?". Technically you can use any rice to make kheer, but I chose to use Arborio rice. Arborio rice is a short grain rice commonly used in Italy to make a dish known as risotto. Risotto is well known for it's creamy flavour despite it not having any cream in it. The creaminess actually comes from the rice. It made perfect sense to me to use this rice in my kheer, and it really did make a difference to the end result.
Another difference in my recipe is the dairy. Traditionally whole milk is used to make kheer. I decided to replace some of the milk with cream. This is totally optional. If you're not looking for such an indulgent dessert then you can use 8 cups of milk. Do not use skim milk though. This dessert relies on the fat to make it set, so skim milk is out of the question.
There are two methods of making kheer. One method is to boil the milk and allow it to thicken, then add cooked rice and spices. I call this the quick method. It results in a fairly good dessert, however I think the second method is superior. The second method begins the same in that you allow the milk to boil, but you add uncooked rice to the milk. This way the rice cooks in the milk and absorbs the flavour of the milk. You end up with a much more flavorful dessert, which is why I prefer this method and this is the method I outline in the recipe below.
One last note about the add-ins. I like a variety of nuts and raisins in my kheer, but you can really add whatever nuts you have on hand. The raisins are optional, but if you're a fan of raisins then don't leave them out. They plump up in this dessert and it's heaven!
Serves 10 - 12
1 cup Arborio rice (or any short grain rice)
water, just enough to soak the rice
6 cups milk
2 cups cream (or 2 cups milk for a less creamy version)
1 tsp freshly ground cardamom (about 5-6 pods worth)
1 cup sugar, or less if you prefer
1/4 cup cashews, chopped and toasted
1/4 cup almonds, chopped and toasted
1/4 cup pistachios, chopped and toasted
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup coconut thread
Firstly, wash you rice under cold water. Three times should be enough. Then allow it to soak in water for 30 minutes. While that's happening, move on to heating the milk.
Place your milk and cream, if using, in a heavy bottom saucepan on medium heat. Allow the milk to come to a gentle boil. Keep stirring it so that it does not burn at the bottom of the pan or boil over. Keep boiling for about 8 minutes. You want the milk to start to thicken a bit and you should see it has reduced slightly. Once you see it has reduced, add your cardamom and saffron. Keep cooking for one minute.
Now drain the water from your soaking rice and add it to the saucepan. Keep cooking and stirring as you go until the rice has cooked.
Once the rice has cooked you will likely have reached the correct texture. The kheer should not be runny like milk, it should be thick but still loose. At this point you can add in the sugar, nuts, raisins and coconut. Remove from heat and stir to make sure everything is combined. Taste your kheer to check if it's sweet enough. If not you can add more sugar, or even more cardamom if you like.
Pour your kheer into a large bowl, decorate the surface with more chopped nuts. Allow to cool to room temperature before placing in the fridge to set for 2 hours.
Serve your kheer cold from the fridge.
Tip- If you have cooked the kheer to much and it is now too thick, you can still save it by removing it from the heat and adding more milk to loosen it up. Make sure to taste it as the addition of the milk will dilute the flavour slightly.