The magical combination of the holiday season & winter gives rise to many rich dessert making opportunities. The nip in the air makes it all the more enjoyable, & dare I say, somewhat guilt free. This is an indulgent pudding we enjoy once in a while…an eggless Indian rice pudding, a recipe I have concocted over the years, & often make on the go.
The quality of rice changes from time to time, but the pudding is quite forgiving. Add some milk if it is too thick, or a teenie bit of cornflour if it’s the other way. It’s rich, it’s eggless &, it’s very satisfying. The saffron version is particularly indulgent, & this year, my lad sprung a surprise on me. The true Gemini that he is, he decided he LOVES the pudding. Last year, no amount of coaxing helped; funnily enough, he even refused to taste it. Evolving tastes or refining tastes…whatever… life is simpler with a single dessert option sometimes!
The other night, we had a delightful Japanese couple over for dinner, Toru san & his lovely wife, Yoshiko. Toru san is an immensely interesting person, steeped in history, born in 1944 in Hiroshima, a year before the bomb was dropped. Luckily, he wasn’t in the city at the time of the attack, but held us wide-eyed with his stories in halting English about his experience in those days, & also about his stories when he worked for World Airways. Some time back, he told DH about the last World Airways flight out of Danang in Vietnam, which he was on board too, sent in to evacuate women & children at the end of the war.
Amazingly enough, a few days later, another of the hub’s colleagues discovered a video of the very flight on You-tube. “J.Daly,owner of World Airways, sent a Boeing 727 aircraft to Da Nang Vietnam to pick up stranded woman and children. Instead the aircraft was swamped by military personnel climbing on the aircraft. There were 260 people aboard a plane which is designed to carry 105. The plane was overloaded by 20,000 pounds. The baggage compartments were loaded with people. Some of the problems during the flight included, the rear stairway remained partially extended for the entire flight, the main wheels would not retract, a hand grenade damage to one of the wings causing fuel loss, and the lower cargo doors were open. The plane had to fly at 10,000 feet because of lack of pressurization thus fuel consumption was three times greater than normal. A flight on a “wing and a prayer” …The above picture has Toru san & Yoshiko, & also some exquisite red bean paste Japanese tea cakes that Yoshiko had earlier sent for us from a speciality bakery in Japan. Yoshiko turned out to be one of the bubbliest & chirpiest souls I’ve met…warm, elegant & full of life. She appreciated every little thing … from the food to the chrysanthemums, to the daughters blue highlights … & was full of stories of Japan, both war-time & more recent. I made this pudding for dessert when they were here. Both of them nodded with glee when they tasted the pudding…‘Lice pudding, lice pudding, vely nice vely nice’, they excitedly said, & my daughter, blue highlights & all, almost passed out. She didn’t realise that they tend to say ‘l’ instead of ‘r’!!! LOL…
Saffron Rice Pudding / Zafrani Kheer
Rice – 2/3 cup
Milk – 1 1/2 ltrs, whole fat + 1/2 cup cold milk
Cream – 1/2 cup; optional
Condensed Milk – 1 400ml can
Saffron – 1 tsp; soaked in warm milk
Seeds of 8-10 cardamoms; crushed in pestle & mortar
Almonds – 1/2 cup; blanched,peeled & chopped
For garnishing: Silver leaf, slivered almonds, pistachios, saffron strands
Wash the rice well, & strain it. Put it out flat in a microwave platter & run on high for 1 minute. Rest for 1 minute, loosen the grains with a fork, flatten again & run for another minute. Leave to cool (it should be dry now), & grind in a coffee grinder.
Bring milk to boil, simmer & add the condensed milk, stirring constantly while adding it. Add the cream & mix in well.
Now mix the ground rice with the reserved cold milk. Take the pan off the heat source, mix in the rice mixture thoroughly, & put back on simmer. Cook uncovered, on low heat, for 30-45 minutes until it becomes thickish & the rice grains are cooked. Stir often to avoid getting the rice into lumps. (If it does get into lumps, like mine sometimes does, just run a hand blender through it on low speed).
Stir in the soaked saffron & ground cardamom seeds. Check for sweetness, & add more sugar if required. Let it sit till it comes to room temperature, or is luke warm. Now you can set the pudding either in a large pudding bowl or in individual ones. Garnish as desired. Chill covered for up to 3 days in the fridge.
Note: This is a saffron rice pudding. For a plain version, the saffron can be omitted; the pudding is still very rich & delicious! A saffron version without condensed milk can be found here.
Have a sweet holiday season…
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