I was born in Mumbai and grew up in the city. I ended up romanticizing the city for anything and everything that it had to offer me. My parents however would often miss their rural roots. They would narrate me and my sister several funny anecdotes of the village where they were born, they grew up, where they shared laughs and grief with their cousins and uncles and aunts, and which they left with heavy heart for the city of Mumbai in search of better opportunities. I still remember, though not as clearly, but my memory still is fresh in parts, my first trip through the dusty bylanes on an open jeep leading to my ancestral home in a small village in Uttar Pradesh.
I remember my Tayiji (Father’s (Elder) Brother’s Wife: it is sad that English does not have a different word for each of these relationships) would narrate a story to me every night. She was a proficient story teller who had lot of stories in her virtual story sack. That story bag would stay hidden deep in her mind somewhere during the daytime, when she would work diligently throughout the day. Finally, at the end of the day, when she would settle down on the chair kept in the middle of veranda, all kids would surround her and insist her to narrate one of the stories. She would look at us with great affection and as if she has opened up her story sack, gradually she would begin her story narration, and we would all be lost in the beautiful world of kings and queens and elephants and horses. These memories are so pristine in my mind that thinking about them fills me up with glee and makes this world look beautiful.
These memories are so sweet that I would spend talking about them tirelessly, if not interrupted. So let me come back from memory lanes and tell you something about this recipe. It was during this trip that I had an opportunity to try out Bakheer. Traditionally in Uttar Pradesh, this recipe is often made during festivals of Dussehra and Ramnavmi or as an offering to village goddess. During our stay, a Puja (an act of worship) for village goddess was organized and these delicacies were made as a part of offering for Goddess. I was charmed by the subtle sweetness of Bakheer. Though I have a sweet tooth, I am too selective about what I prefer eating in desserts. I am not a huge fan of anything too sweet and would rather prefer eating something that is sweet in a subtle way and Bakheer would fall into that category.
Bakheer is made by combining (Gud) Jaggery with rice and milk. There is a more popular and universally prepared variant known as Kheer which is also known as Indian rice pudding. Kheer is typically prepared with basic ingredients like Rice, sugar and milk. Other ingredients can be added depending upon your creativity and taste. Bakheer is more or less similar to Kheer, with one major difference that we add Jaggery to this recipe to impart sweetness. In Uttar Pradesh, dark brown (almost black) variety of Jaggery is available and it gives this recipe a dark brown color. However, I have observed that dark brown variety is little difficult to obtain in other states and cities. The other variety which is yellow in color is more easily available. This recipe can be prepared by any of these varieties, but if you are able to procure couple of large chunks of brown Jaggery (from some organic food stores or from one of your North Indian neighbor) that would help you weave a magic in your kitchen with this recipe.
The most important point of the recipe is never put the milk in cooked rice when it is on flame. Ensure that you cook the rice completely, turn off the flame and when temperature of milk and rice are fairly similar, we can add milk to the cooked rice and mix them gently.
- 1½ cup organic brown jaggery
- 1 cup rice soaked in water 30 mins
- 4 cup milk
- 3 cup water
- 1 tsp cardamom powder
- 8-10 cashew nuts
- 1 tbsp raisins
- 2 tbsp clarified butter (Desi Ghee)
- Heat 3 cup water in a pan. Add jaggery to the pan to ensure that jaggery pieces melt on medium flame.
- Jaggery pieces would take about 4-5 minutes to melt. As soon as they melted and no more cubes are visible, turn off the flame.
- Strain the jaggery syrup using a strainer to get rid of impurities.
- Mix jaggery syrup and soaked and drained rice in a pressure cooker and cook it on low-medium flame for 4-5 whistles or 20-25 minutes.
- Bring the pressure cooker off the flame and let the pressure release by natural release method. Meanwhile boil the milk in a pan.
- When the pressure is released naturally, gently mash the cooked rice with the back of the ladle. Do not mash them completely.
- Heat 2 tbsp clarified butter in a pan.Fry cashew nuts and raisins until the raisins are slightly puffed.
- When raisins are slightly puffed (approx 1 min). Add cooked rice to the pan and fry them.
- After 2 minutes, add cardamom powder and mix it well. Now turn off the flame.
- After couple of minutes, add milk to rice. It is very important to ensure that the temperature of milk and rice are fairly similar otherwise milk may curdle.
- Bakheer is a delicacy prepared specially on festival of Ramnavmi in Uttar Pradesh with Chana Dal ki Namkeen Poori.
Finally, if you are left wondering what should be the best companion dish with Bakheer, it is without any doubt Chana Dal ki Bharwan namkeen Poori. This sweet and savory combination should be an ideal preparation that would linger on your taste buds and you would love to prepare on festivals.
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