KESARI KHEER AUR POODA – केसरी खीर और पूड़ा (Saffron Infused Rice Pudding w/ Wholemeal Pancakes)

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For my next post, I wanted to share a salad recipe. In fact I had kept one ready to post today. However, I realized that monsoon is half way through in ‘Aamchi Mumbai’ and I have yet to post a hard core true-blue monsoon recipe. I must admit that I have no idea how monsoon is typically welcomed in Mumbai (perhaps with a vada-pav or may be pooran polis) but I certainly know how monsoon is welcomed in the state of Punjab – with Kheer i.e. milk and rice pudding. There goes a saying in Punjabi “Je saawan kheer na khaadi aa, kyon jeena ae apradhiya” which translates to – “one who hasn’t eaten kheer during the monsoon is a sinner and has no reason to be alive!!” Such is the significance of this luxurious and creamy dessert in Punjab J
Traditionally, during the monsoon, this queen of desserts is served with the ‘Pooda’ which is a sweetened pancake made with whole wheat flour with no raising agent added to it. Whenever I make this dish, my mind takes me back to my childhood. Mom used to get up in the very early hours of the morning, keep the kheer ready before we all woke up, cooled it and by the time we got up she would be ready to make the pooda. Aah! those good ol’daysPersonally, I prefer having a piping hot pooda with chilled kheer. I think the contrasting temperature and textures of these two dishes (kheer being creamy and cold; pooda being soft centered with crispy edges and hot) is the ultimate way to enjoy the monsoon! (I am updating this post with some fresh pictures and also making some tweaks to the recipes) You can serve the pooda to the size and thickness you wish to. I am keeping one of the previous picture along with new ones to help you get an idea and to draw a comparison. 

This creamy dessert is a favorite with children and grown ups alike. Milk is simmered on low heat along with rice for couple of hours till it is reduced to half its consistency or till it achieves a creamy consistency. In fact, I prefer a little thicker consistency of kheer for this one since it is meant to be mopped up with the hot poodas. Earlier I used make this dish the way my mother used to make it, i.e. sweetening the kheer and the pooda with sugar. But since a few years, we have switched to healthier option of using date pallm jaggery and jaggery powder to sweeten our desserts and even cakes. Therefore, i am sharing the amount of both, sugar and jaggery, leaving the choice to you, of which one you intend to use for sweetening this dish. Although this particular dish is earmarked to be enjoyed especially during the monsoon season, it is equally good having it on a cold wintery morning. So comforting J

It is simple dessert with very basic ingredients and is made richer with the addition of dry fruits. I prefer it the royal way, i.e. by infusing it with the warm flavors of saffron. Feel free, though, to use cardamom or cinnamon powder to make this kheer aromatic. In fact, we always used to have the Elaichi Wali Kheer i.e. Cardamom Rice Pudding with the pooda. 

You will need the following for the Kesari Kheer:
1 litre plus two tbsp Whole Milk
50 grams Rice (I prefer using Gobind Bhog variety of rice for rice puddings)
2 tbsp Sugar, adjust to taste 
10 – 12 strands Saffron
12 – 15 Almonds, soaked for a few hours in water
2 tbsp chopped Pistachio
½ tbsp raisin (optional)

Soak the saffron in two tablespoons of warm milk and set aside for the flavors to steep for at least a an hour.

Pick and wash the rice and soak it in water for half an hour. 

Boil the milk (on high flame) in a heavy bottomed saucepan or pot stirring it continuously to ensure it does not burn. 
Once it comes to a boil, lower the heat.
Drain and discard the water from the soaked rice and add the rice to the boiling milk. 
Stir for a minute and then reduce heat.  
Simmer the contents for 15 minutes then add the soaked saffron along with the milk. 
Let the milk simmer (stirring it occasionally) till it reduced to half the quantity. 
Turn off the heat and stir in the sugar (please check notes before adding sweetener)
Meanwhile, peel and chop the almonds.
Add chopped almonds, raisins and pistachios (reserve a little for garnishing)
Serve hot, warm  or chilled, garnished with nuts.
Enjoy!
Serves 4 to 6 (depending on the consistency of the kheer)
Note – Use half a cup to three fourth cup of scrapped date palm jaggery to sweeten the rice pudding instead of sugar (adjust to taste especially if you intend to use regular jaggery as it is more intense in its sweetness)
Note – If using jaggery to sweeten the pudding, allow the pudding to cool for 10 – 15 minutes before adding it to the pudding.
 
For Pooda
 
1 cup Wheat flour / Wholemeal Flour
¾ cup Sugar or scrapped Date Palm Jaggery
1 tsp Anise Seeds/ Fennel Seeds
½ tsp Cardamom Powder (optional)
1 C plus ¼ C Water (for the batter)
Oil or Ghee for shallow frying
 
Place a saucepan over medium heat and add water and date palm jaggery or sugar (whichever you are using)
Keep stirring till the the sweetener gets completely dissolved in water. Allow the water to cool.
In a mixing bowl add the flour, fennel seeds, cardamom powder. Whisk everything and add water to make a smooth, lump free batter.
Adjust the consistency according to thickness of the pooda you desire. For thicker ones, this consistency is fine but for thinner and bigger ones, you will need to add a tablespoon or two more, of water. 
Heat a tawa (skillet) and grease it with oil or ghee (I use a basting brush for greasing to keep a control on the amount)
Pour one and a half to two tablespoons of batter and spread it around to the desired size and thickness.
Cook it on low medium heat. Once the top is no longer raw, flip the pooda and cook it.
If the oil seems less, drizzle a little around the edges. Cook the pooda till both the sides nicely browned.
Serve immediately with kheer.
Enjoy!
Yield – 8 to 10 depending on thickness
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