This ‘Chaler Payesh’ is nothing but our Indian style rice pudding or ‘rice kheer’ made by boiling thick milk with aromatic rice (Gobindo Bhog) and sugar slow cooked with aromatic cardamoms and bay leaf and generous amounts of chopped nuts (cashews, almonds and pistachio) and raisins. It’s a very tasty, simple to make & flavorful Bengali dessert. This traditional Bengali dessert is prepared in all Bengali homes for most of their festivals like Durga Puja, Lakshmi Puja, Saraswati Puja etc. This dessert ought to be made with precision and timing…and patience! And if you don’t get it exact, the imbalance in consistency and sweetness will be very obvious.
‘Payesh’ is nothing but a humble desert which graces all the festivals and occasions in India. India is a vast country where the language and dialect changes in every 100 kms ! So this dish changes its name and flavor in various regions in India. In west it is known as ‘Basundi’, in South India it is called ‘Payasam’, in North India it is called ‘Kheer’ and east India ‘Payesh’. And every region has it’s own touch in this recipe.
This recipe has a very special position traditionally in introducing solid food to infants in Bengal. When the infants are just six months old, there is a special ceremony called ‘Mookhe Bhat’ or ‘Annaprashan’ (Anna means Rice) or First Rice Ceremony where the child is introduced to a platter of traditional food amidst celebration in silver plates and bowls. With this dish we introduce rice, which is primary food of East India. Traditionally aromatic rice called ‘Gobinda Bhog’ is used. If you don’t find ‘Gobondobhog Rice’ (it’s difficult to find outside Bengal) you may use any aromatic short grain rice. Here goes the recipe!
Ingredients to serve – 6
- Whole Milk – 1 and ½ liter
- Gobindo Bhog Rice – ½ cup
- Cashew, Almond and Pistachio Nuts – ¼ cup (Chopped)
- Raisins – A handful
- Green Cardamom – 2
- Bay Leaf – 2-3
- Ghee or clarified butter – 1 Tbsp
- Sugar – 1 ½ cup (depending on your sweetness level)
- Wash the rice, drain the water and keep aside.
- Pour Milk in a boiling pan, usually a deep heavy bottomed pan.
- Add 2 or 3 green cardamom and bay leaves.
- In another pan add ghee and lightly fry the rice.
- When the Milk come to a boil add the rice. Be careful so that milk does not boil over. Stir continuously.
- Stir intermittently and check if the rice is done. You kind of have to keep stirring frequently else the milk might scald the bottom of the pan as it thickens.
- When the rice is cooked add sugar.Adding sugar before the rice has boiled hinders it getting cooked properly.
- Now stir the milk continuously so that the milk does not burn or scald the bottom of the container and the rice does not stick.
- When the Milk has thickened to the right consistency add raisins.
- To check that milk has thickened to the right consistency. Take the ‘Payesh’ off heat and add chopped cashew nuts.
- Serve in room temperature.
~ When the rice is cooked add sugar. Adding sugar before the rice has boiled hinders it getting cooked properly.
~You can also leave out the ghee, but that does not allow the rice to stick to each other.