This festival, like any other in the country, is associated with a lot of rituals and customs that are studiously followed. One of these is that the rice and coconut that are used during the puja need to be made into a vegetarian dish before Anant Chaturdashi, or visarjan as it is popularly known. This is the day all Ganpati idols are immersed into the sea but not before a grand, almost ostentatious farewell.
So when I was given the rice and coconut, all my mother-in-law told me was that I had to make something vegetarian. It could be something sweet she said, or even a savoury dish and generously gave me a couple of options too. But you know me, I didn’t want to do something which was in my comfort zone, so I thought of things I could do. The easiest would be a kheer but I know I don’t have the patience to stand stirring that in front of a pot, so the kheer was struck off the list. Then I thought of a plain and simple coconut rice, that was the problem – it was simple. I also thought of making a Thai curry with rice by making the curry from scratch, even the coconut milk. And so it went on…
Until the other day when a colleague told us about this extremely fast and fuss-free way to make kheer in the pressure cooker. It sounded as simple as dunking the ingredients together and allowing the pressure cooker to do its magic. So I thought, why not, let’s give this a chance! I’d not made kheer in a very long time and that was reason enough.
Me being me, I made a couple of changes to the regular kheer recipe. To begin with I used jaggery instead of sugar, the husband and I both love the caramelly, earthy flavour of this sweetner so using it was actually a no-brainer for me. The other thing that I did was I made the coconut milk from scratch. It was quite the effort but worth it in the end,
Rice and coconut kheer
1 cup of rice, washed and soaked in water for about 20 minutes
1 cup of milk, I used skim milk
1 1/2 cups of jaggery, chopped or the granules
1 1/2 cups of coconut milk, I used 1 cup of thin milk and 1/2 cup of the thick milk
1 tbsp of cashewnuts
1/2 tbsp of ghee
A few drops of almond essence
Drain and wash the rice. Place it in a slightly biggish bowl. Now add the milk, thin coconut milk and jaggery. Stir it all together so that the jaggery mixes in well. Pressure cook the whole thing for about 20 minutes or 2 whistles.
Allow the cooker to cool down and remove the dish out. If you think that the kheer is too dry then add some milk. Place the dish on a low flame and stir in the thick coconut milk along with the almond essence. Keep stirring to ensure the coconut milk doesn’t split. Taste at regular intervals to check the sweetness of the dish.
Meanwhile, fry the cashewnuts in some ghee and put these on top of the kheer. Serve hot.
*You can use basmati rice for a very fragrant kheer
* Instead of almond essence you can use some cardamom powder or even some nutmeg powder
*Top the kheer with fried raisins or pistachios or even some pinenuts