September 18, 2011

Payesh (Bengali version of rice pudding)

In Bengal, birthdays are celebrated with payesh. However, now-a-days one also get a cake with the candles around, there is always payesh on the menu. One starts the birthday with a spoonful of payesh, generally cooked by the mother. It is a sweet way to start the day. And then, later, the lunch or dinner ends with a big bowl of payesh. It is also cooked during any auspicious occasions, for festivals and so on.. A big bowl of thick milk with specks of gobindobhog rice, sweetened with the delicious jaggery giving it a hint of brown is just delicious. And then you add nuts and raisins of your choice. Jaggery is used in winter, when new date jaggery comes in the market. Otherwise, sugar is enough. The gobindobhog rice adds a sublte aroma. Though similar to rice pudding from different parts of India and elsewhere, it has a very different consistency. It is more liquid, and the trick is keeping the milk enough liquid and yet the rice shouldn’t settle down at bottom. My mother used to make a big pan of it every time, and it would be gone in no time at all.. After coming to Slovenia, for the first time I made it myself. Even though it was good every time, there was something missing. And I know what it was. The rice! Now when my parents visited me recently, they got me the perfect gobindobhog rice. And behold! It did the trick. It was the best payesh I had ever cooked. And it brought those nostalgic memories of my mother’s payesh and home. And Blaž just could not stop eating :)

You can print the recipe for your kitchen here: PRINTABLE RECIPE

(Serves 2)

1lt full cream milk
1/2cup gobindobhog rice (or any aromatic small grain sticky rice available)
2tbsp date jaggery (or sugar)
2 bay leaves
5-6 green cardamoms
1/2cup nuts and raisins of choice (broken almonds and cashews are best with golden raisins)


1.      Pour the milk in a thick-bottomed deep pan. Add the bay leaves and cardamoms. Start reducing it over low heat.
2.      Wash the rice and keep it aside.
3.      Reduce the milk to 2/3 of its volume.
4.      Add the rice and half of the nuts and raisins.
5.      When the rice is cooked, add jaggery or sugar.
6.      Cook on low heat for 10 more minutes.
7.      Remove from heat and garnish with the remaining nuts and raisins.
8.      Serve cold.

The jaggery  or sugar (or whatever sweetener is used) should be added after the rice is cooked. Otherwise, the rice does not want to be cooked.
Any small grain, aromatic, sticky rice can be used in place of gobindobhog rice.
You can add bit more milk if the payesh is getting too thick. The payesh should be almost a bit less viscous than honey.
Full cream milk tastes best, but other can be used too.
Adding cream or half-half is not good choice.

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