I was introduced to kheer while traveling through India on a 3-week global health field trip with Harvard T.H. School of Public Health. I first found kheer served steaming from cast-iron cauldrons at a breakfast buffet in Visakhapatnam. My traveling companions and I – each equally enticed by the aroma of sweet baking cardamom – dished ourselves heaping bowls of the sticky rice porridge accompanied by adjacent fresh-sliced papaya. We faithfully and hungrily ate our kheer each morning as if it were Indian oatmeal until we were informed with a hearty laugh that our hot cereal substitute was actually a heavy dessert. I rolled my eyes at my own oblivious food faux pas, knowing that I had done little to help with the supersized image of our nation. “Silly Americans, here to preach non-communicable disease prevention, but they go straight for the giant bowls of candy for breakfast,” the locals must have thought with disdain.
Since the irony of this realization, I have taken kheer home with me to the states, where I serve it as a fragrant dessert item. Easy, aromatically pleasing, and adaptable, kheer can be served cool as an aftertaste for a light springtime kitchari meal. Alternatively, kheer can be served warm with ginger tea on chilly winter nights directly after its fresh baking fragrance fills your cozy kitchen. Read on to learn my favorite variation of this Indian dessert staple.
2C brown basmati rice
4C almond milk (I love Califa Farms brand) - +2C extra if served chilled
2t vanilla extract
¼C agave nectar (add to taste)
3T coconut oil
½t fennel seeds
½t ground cardamom
3T golden raisins
Soak rice overnight or for at least 2 hours ahead of cooking. Rinse thoroughly before cooking.
Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add rice to boiling water and reduce to a simmer. Allow rice to cook for 45 minutes, gradually stirring in almond milk, vanilla extract, and agave nectar.
In a separate saucepan, heat the coconut oil. When the coconut oil begins to melt, add cardamom and fennel seeds into the oil. Once the spice is dispersed, toast the cashews and golden raisins until lightly browned. Remove from heat, and stir into the rice mixture after it has completed its cooktime.
Serve warm or refrigerate for at least two hours. If chilled, stir in additional almond milk as needed before serving to retain pudding-like consistency. For best taste, enjoy with friends and eat mindfully.
Notes: Total prep time is 45 minutes if serving warm; Serves 14 friends for a tasting. This recipe was adapted from Holy Cow Vegan for a "Living Sustainably" yoga class and kitchari cooking demo with co-teacher Natasha Gayl.