By Shayma Saadat

This rice pudding (known as kheer), made with basmati rice, should not be a mushy dish; each rice grain should be visible and remain intact. If you feel the rice is undercooked and the milk is being absorbed too quickly, just use some of the warm milk being heated in a saucepan on the side and add in small quantities to loosen the pudding.

I have added only ½ cup of sugar because the coulis adds sweetness; however, if you have a sweet tooth, feel free to add up to a whole cup of sugar to the kheer.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Kheer
6 whole green cardamom pods
4 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup basmati rice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup sliced almonds, for garnish
freshly ground black pepper Rhubarb Strawberry Coulis
1 pound rhubarb, chopped into ½-inch pieces
1 cinnamon stick
2 tbsp water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 pound strawberries, hulled and chopped into ½-inch pieces

Make the kheer: Wrap the cardamom pods in a newspaper and crush with a rolling pin. The seeds should not be crushed to a dust. The result should look somewhat like freshly cracked pepper. Discard the green skin of the pods.

In a small saucepan, heat 1½ cups of the milk over medium-low heat; do not bring to a boil, but keep warm while you prepare the kheer. In a large heavy-bottomed pan, add the remaining 3 cups of milk, the rice, crushed cardamom seeds, sugar and slivered almonds. Turn the heat to high. As soon as the milk starts to steam, turn the heat to low and cover with a lid.

Every 7 to 10 minutes, remove the lid and stir gently, from the bottom up, to ensure that the rice is not sticking to the base of the pan. After about 40 minutes, the milk should be thickened but not entirely absorbed. The pudding should have a soft, velvety consistency and not look congealed.

Taste the rice. If it seems undercooked, add some of the reserved warm milk, replace the lid and continue to cook for 7 to 10 minutes. When done, the basmati rice grains should be intact. Transfer the kheer to a container and allow it to come to room temperature before covering and refrigerating at least 5 hours, but preferably overnight, to set.

Make the coulis: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the rhubarb, cinnamon stick, water and sugar. Stir well. Allow the mixture to bubble away until the rhubarb looks soft and has melted down into a sauce, about 20 minutes. Add the strawberries. Continue to cook until the strawberries have softened and melted into the sauce, about 10 to 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, discard the cinnamon stick, and allow the coulis to come to room temperature. The coulis can be prepared in advance, kept refrigerated, and brought to room temperature or warmed up prior to serving with the kheer.

To serve: Ladle chilled kheer into individual bowls and drizzle with coulis. Top with a sprinkling of sliced almonds and a dusting of fresh black pepper.

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