Here's a different take on something traditional. I love kheer, when I think of desserts that are homely and comforting, kheer is somewhere up in my top five. To me it evokes, simplicity and flavors that are characteristic of Indian cooking but that make. The best way to describe kheer, would be a sweetened porridge of milk and basmati rice with dried fruits and nuts served chilled. As much as I love it as a dessert, I have also been known to eat it at breakfast. Some people describe it as a pudding but I personally find it closer in texture to a porridge than a pudding. The rice is cooked till it is so soft that it breaks and almost falls apart to give that delicious soothing texture when you savor a bite. That is exactly what I've tried to do here with quinoa and the results are equally delicious.
Cooked quinoa has such a delicate soft texture and works wonderfully well in this recipe. Just make sure you wash the quinoa thoroughly to get rid of the bitter saponin coating on the seeds (I can't stress this point enough). Believe me you don't need or want that nasty bitter taste in your dessert!
You could use whole milk here but I prefer skim milk. While the quinoa and milk simmer with the fruit and nuts, the bright and vibrant orange saffron strands will infuse their color into the white milk. There is something simply wonderful about cooking with saffron, a little goes a long way. magically. Try to avoid buying ground saffron or saffron powder, it is normally tainted with turmeric and there are some good quality varieties of saffron strands that are easily available today.
yields: 6 servings
1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup water
1 teaspoon ghee or butter
4 dried dates, pits removed and chopped
4 teaspoons golden raisins
1 teaspoon pistachios, unshelled and chopped (I used unsalted raw pistachios)
1 teaspoon slivered almonds
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom seeds
3 cups skim milk
a pinch of saffron (I used Spanish saffron)
3 tablespoons sugar (add more sugar if you prefer it sweeter)
2 teaspoons rose water
a little extra toasted and chopped pistachios for garnishing
1. Rinse the quinoa thoroughly under running cold water until the water turns clear. (I prefer to massage the seeds with my hands while rinsing to make sure that I get rid of the bitter saponin completely). Bring the quinoa and water to a boil on a medium flame, cook until the seeds become translucent. Drain and discard the liquid from the cooked quinoa and keep aside.2. In a thick-bottomed stock pot, melt the ghee or butter on a medium high flame. Add the dates, raisins, pistachios, almonds, and cardamom to the melted ghee and sauté them for a minute.
3. Add the cooked quinoa to the nut and fruit mixture in the pot. Fold in the milk, saffron, and sugar. Bring the entire contents of the pot to a boil on a medium flame, then reduce to a simmer and cook till the liquid volume reduces by one-third. Stir frequently to make sure the milk does not burn.
4. Cool the kheer to room temperature. Then fold in the rose water and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Serve chilled and garnish with the extra pistachios.