Monday, August 31, 2015

Payesh / Chaler Payesh / Bengali Rice Kheer

When I think of kheer I think of a sweet semi solid semi liquid brownish milk which is very creamy and velvety in texture and is flavoured with cardamom powder. In other words it’s the liquid version of khoya or evaporated milk. That is what we think of when we think of kheer. To us kheer is completely made with milk and no other ingredients are added to it except cardamom powder and sugar.

bengali rice payasam recipe

simple payesh recipe

Whereas Payesh is a complete different story. By “Payesh” we understand a sweet dish, where some other major ingredient is added to a little bit thickened milk and then cooked with it. So for “chaler payesh” or “Rice Kheer” we understand rice being added to the thickened milk and then cooked along with it.

simple kheer recipe

Although there are some wide varieties of payesh available all over India, there is only some which are popular in Bengal. One is this “Chaler Payesh” ~ payesh made with rice. But there are Simaier Payesh, Sujir Payesh, Chosir Payesh and Sabur Payesh. Chaler Payesh is flavoured with Jaggery or more specifically wih “Nalen Gur” in the winter and then it is called “Nalen Gurer Payesh”, but that is completely another story.

how to cook chaler payesh

simple rice kheer recipe with step by step pictures

We make this Chaler Payesh almost for every occasion, from small to the grand. Be it the rice eating ceremony for the new born aka onnoprason, or birthdays or any kind of celebration.  Birthdays are incomplete without the “mayer hat’er payesh”(kheer made by mother), which is first served to the god as “bhog”. After that the payesh is served to the birthday girl or boy. In a way Payesh is the main attraction for the birthdays. It was the main treat for me on that very day. Ma made sure that on my birthday I wake up and bathe early in the morning. Then I used to wear a new cloth and go to our house temple / “thakur ghor” to pray, where Ma had already did her puja. Then in the lunch she used to serve me a big pot of payesh in a big “pitoler bati” / "shining brass bowl", with holy basil on top of it, along with a big meal, prepared just for me. The meal consisted of five kinds of fries, fishes, curries, rice / pulao and sweets. I had to sniff everything 3 times and throw away before eating a new item. That was a ritual ma made sure I did in front of her.

simple and easy rice kheer recipe with step by step pictures

Any big or grand meal has to be wrapped up with this chaler payesh. And similarly no “bhog” is complete without it. So, for this reason, for a long time I thought payesh means only Rice Kheer. Then as I grew up I came to know about the other variations. Also for making Payesh try to use Gobindobhog Rice, which adds in a lot of flavour to the dish. Although fine Basmati Rice does a decent job for making the payesh, but it’s the Gobindobhog Rice, which you have to use to have that proper Bengali Style Payesh / Rice kheer in your home.

easy payesh / chaler payesh / rice kheer recipe and preparation

Chaler Payesh / Payesh / Bengali Rice Kheer
Serves 4-5

how to make payesh quickly
1.5ltr of whole cow milk
½ cup of Gobindobhog Rice (In case of unavailability use fine Basmati rice)
2 tbsp ghee
2 tsp ghee for sautéing the cashews and raisins
1-2 cups of sugar (adjust according to your taste)
3-4 green cardamoms
2 medium bay leaves
¼ cup of raw unsalted cashews
A handful of raisins – golden / brown
Some saffron threads to garnish
2-3 almonds – slivered to garnish
Some mint leaves to garnish

Wash the rice until the water runs out clean.  After that soak the washed rice in water for about 30 minutes. After 30 minutes drain the water and keep the soaked rice separately.
In a heavy bottomed saucepan simmer the milk until the milk comes to a boil. Once the milk starts to boil put the flame on low and simmer for 25-35 minutes, or until the milk reduces to half of its original quantity.
During this process of simmering on low flame, stir continuously so that the milk does not stick to the bottom of the pan.
Take another kadai and heat ghee in it. Once the ghee melts put the drained rice into the kadai and start stirring so that none of the rice grains stick to the kadai.
Continue stirring until the rice becomes a little stiff and does not stick to each other.
At this point put off the flame and transfer the rice to a bowl.
In the same kadai heat rest of the ghee and sauté the cashews and raisins in it separately until the cashews become a little golden and the raisins puff up.
Keep them in a separate bowl.
When the milk has reduced to half and has thickened considerably, add sugar, bay leaves and crushed green cardamoms into the milk.
Stir till all the sugar dissolves and then add the fried rice to the milk.
Put cover and let the rice cook.
It will take about 15-20 minutes for the rice to get cooked properly. Do check by crushing some of the rice grains.
Add the sautéed cashews and raisins to the milk when the rice is half cooked.
If the milk dries out too much then add some more milk to the cooking payesh. It’s necessary to keep it liquid because the payesh tends to thicken when it cools down to room temperature.
However if you like thick payesh do ignore this step.
Once the rice is cooked nicely, taste and adjust the sugar level.
Stir till the sugar dissolves and then put off the flame.
Serve with some slivered almonds, saffron threads and mint leaves on top.

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