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Gur Ki Kheer – Rice Pudding with Jaggery

Asma Khan

Lesson time 16 min

“It’s rice pudding on steroids,” Asma says about ki kheer, a traditional Indian rice pudding that uses Gulab (baby basmati rice), and jaggery (palm sugar), and is known for bringing good luck and fortune.

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Preview

We have a crazy tradition of eating sweets. Any of our rice and milk pudding dishes are a labor of love. To make a perfect ki without having burned it, you’ve produced it to your family, it brings good luck. Okay so now we are gonna make jaggery ki with baby rice basmati. So let’s start, I’m gonna go and get the milk out of the fridge first. This is a slightly painful bit because you’re gonna reduce the milk. I know people say, “Well, why not just use half cream and half milk?” No, cause a different kind of texture. Then another one and then I’ll put the fire on after that. So this is two liters of milk. Now I’m gonna put the fire on. I’m going to also put in my spices at this point. This is tejapatta which if you have… The translation is fire leaf. This is not bay leaf. It’s called bay leaf confusingly enough, but it’s not bay leaf because bay leaf doesn’t look like this. Bay leaf is dark green, it’s much shorter. This is olive of green, it’s also narrower. Of course, if you could smell it, you know immediately because very different flavor profile. And this is what we use in Indian food. We do not use the other bay leaf. Of course, if you’re stuck, you can use that. So usually you put around four cardamoms, but I’m pudding a bit more because they’re a bit small and don’t pierce it, don’t break it because then it’s gonna become very different kind of flavor, very too strong. So I’m pudding that in there and then I’m just gonna leave it too slowly reduce. And this is one of the reasons why, you do need to reduce that milk. A, because it has to thicken also, because you want these flavors to very, very, very slowly infuse. So stay in the kitchen, you can check your Instagram, do anything you want but don’t leave it. But you can ignore this for around 10 to 15 minutes easily. Whenever people have seen me cooking this, they said, “Oh it’s like rice pudding.” They mean the rice pudding that English people have. And I tell them, “Sit down, I’ll tell you one thing.” So I give them a whole lecture on how Indian… This rice dish is fast superior. It’s like rice pudding on steroids. Do not compare it to… Do not please, compare it to English rice pudding. And on live television once someone asked me, “Oh, it’s like rice pudding.” I was like, “You know, I’m gonna freak out.” And everybody, the whole place went bombarding, “Oh, don’t ever tell this to Asma.” So yes, there is rice and milk cooked in other parts of the world, that is something else. This is just unbelievably beautiful. And not to be confused with stodgy, stodgy, stodgy, rice pudding that you get in lots of other parts of country who I will not mention which countries. So yeah, it’s small. Baby basmati, very small compared to basmati but this is extremely fragrant. It’s called gulab the kind of the fragrance of roses. And the gulab here is the Indian red gulab which is the most aromatic, the most intensely fragrant rose I’ve ever actually been near. And somehow this always reminds me of my wedding because my entire wedding, my mother had decorated everything with lilies and gulab, which is my favorite flower. And somehow whenever, it’s been 30 years since I’ve been married, I still, whenever I have this fragrance of gulab, I remember myself as a bride. And this rice is gulab, I mean, it has this undertones of the same kind of rose. Just so that you can actually understand the difference between two, let me bring the other rice, the basmati. and so here you can see huge difference, size, texture, color, everything. Obviously, baby is miniature rice. And this rice is obviously longer. That is more brown because not as heavily polished as basmati that you get in the west so, you basically get the same grain. Of course, the most selective, the more expensive quality, which is the longer grain doesn’t necessarily make it better rice. For me, rice is about fragrance. This is why for me personally, this is better rice. Because this rice is what has not been fiddled around with. This is pure rice that has been grown in this region for decades. So I’m gonna put this basmati back because obviously I’m not gonna use it. So even though gulab is a small grain and doesn’t need to be soaked for so long I’m still gonna soak it. I’m just gonna put some water in there. You don’t need to eat the starch, it’s not necessary. I’m going in one direction and see, it’s just, all of this is starch. And if you don’t wash your rice very well you just wanna be eating all the starch for nothing. And it’s really, really important, wash the rice well. So now the water is gone clear and I’m just gonna leave it to soak for half an hour. Okay, so now the milk is reducing quite heavily. So you can see now this is all the milk fat. What we call malai, the cream. In India the milk is not homogenized so the fat gets separated from the milk very easily. So we just gonna keep this here and then I’m gonna bring the jaggery. Let me bring the rest of it as well so you can see actually what it looks like, so this is Jaggary. Traditionally made with date palm sugar. Every time I try to explain to people about jaggery is, I remember as a child, we used to have a date palm quite close to our house. So they’d slice it into the palm and they tie a terracotta pot. And, or the whole night through that slit the sap seeps out, drop by drop, by drop going in. And there was a fat bird who used to sit with his mouth open like that. So every time a drop went, half of it went into his mouth and the rest went into the pot. So it was so smart, it knew exactly when to come. It would sit and just drink the jaggery. I mean, it must have had serious sugar high. So this is that sap. That sap is then collected, and then it is cooked in copper, in copper pots, very slowly so that the sap dries out and becomes this. So this is a traditional sugar that was used in Bengal. You do have jaggery in every part of India. This is the only way that we used to have sugar. This is how you sweetened our tea, we add it to desserts and everything till the Chinese came. In the 1700s the Chinese turned up. Chinese knew how to make sugar the way we know with cane sugar. And in Bengal, the word for Chinese and sugar is the same, Cheenee. So this is what is so beautiful about Kolkata that we have absorbed all these kind of culinary traditions of other people, all their contributions, they’ve left their footprints all over our cuisine. And because it, we have absorbed it and made it part of our own, even samosa is not Indian. Everything is what you want it to be. You have to have a big enough heart to actually do salaam and acknowledge those people who contributed to your cuisine, to who you are. My milk looks like it’s ready for the rice. And I’m going to actually just drain this rice, which is going to go into the jaggery dessert. I’m gonna add my rice in here. The way to add the rice is to sprinkle it. If you add it in one clump, it’s gonna sit in one clump so you don’t want that. And now the difficulty starts because now that there’s rice in there it’s gonna get start getting stuck. You gotta watch it. Now, of course, because the rice is white. You can’t see what’s happening to it but in the spoon, I can feel it. I can feel the grains getting stuck. So you gotta keep making sure that you get it out. There you can see the rice in there so you won’t able to see it visually unless you pull it out but you’ve gotta keep stirring it quite frequently. You want it to be a slow, slow, low boil. But I’m gonna wait for it once to become quite high at the boil, then I’m going to reduce it so that you get a bubble occasionally, and then you gotta wait for half an hour more for it to slowly cook. This is what I mean by a low steady boil, occasional bubbles coming up. The milk is getting reduced quite heavily. Now, if you look at the top, you can visibly see the rice. Cause initially the rice was not visible at all. Now the rice is visible, very, very visible, has become bigger and of course you can get the aroma. It’s very exciting. And now here you can see we started at that level, it’s gone down and it’s getting thick. So I’m going to actually add the jaggery here because the jaggery is going melt very quickly. I’m just gonna grate it on it, you can chop it up as well if you want but it gets very messy as I’m gonna show you. So here, the jaggery goes in. I’m gonna start stirring it in so it starts melting. Of course, now you wanna see the color changing slowly. The reason why I have taken it off the fire is because I’m scared it’s gonna get stuck while I grate it and I want to stir gently. And as you can see, the jaggery is just gonna melt instantly. Same with molasses, if you’re gonna be using any kind of sugar based sap kind of brown sugar, maple syrup, of course if you use anything that is syrupy it’s gonna make a thinner. If you’re not gonna be using jaggery make sure you use sugar that has some flavor in it. You need it to be quite sweet because as it cools, it gets less sweet. I’m sure there’s some science behind it but not scientist just a cook. I mean, I know everybody does this but if you are tasting, everyone is like, “Oh spoon tasting.” Never double dip. You taste, you put it aside, taste, you put your aside. You have a dishwasher, put it in. If you don’t wash all the teaspoons, it’s worth it. Don’t put bacteria in. I mean, I know this is, everybody knows this but it’s worth reminding as people are seeing me use. So every time I use a spoon, I’m setting it aside. Just little things it’s important but it’s really important to taste it so don’t be deter to taste. Just have to be ready to wash your spoons. Yeah, I am now very happy. I’m going to get my bowl. I’m just gonna add a little bit of pistachio on the top. You don’t have to, if you don’t want to, and also, you can add dried fruits in there. Usually people add raisins you can add dried fruits that will cook. So definitely cashew nuts, you can add raisins, sultanas, any of that. I don’t do it because for me the jaggery is the star of the show, I don’t wanna have nuts. So I’m gonna now dig it out. I’m just gonna put my pistachio on the top. So I’m not gonna bother with the pistachio for myself. I’m just gonna have this on my own. It’s hard to describe the texture of the rice. Gulab has a softness, still it has a texture. And then the jaggery and the undertones of all the all the spices that we put in, the bay leaf and the cardamom that boiled down for so long. I sense it’s there but I’m not so sure. That’s the beauty of it, when you boiled for so long all the flavors have gone in but they’ve kind of just diffused in the whole milk. It’s so good.

About the Instructor

Asma Khan, owner of famed London eatery Darjeeling Express and bestselling cookbook author of “Asma’s Indian Kitchen” teaches her favorite family recipes, inspired by her childhood in Kolkata, India. The chef, restaurateur, and activist is the first UK-based chef to be featured on Netflix’s Emmy-nominated Chef’s Table and, in 2019, was listed number 1 on Business Insider’s ranking of “100 Coolest People in Food and Drink”. Join Asma on a nostalgic culinary journey to explore the smells, flavors, and ingredients of her ancestral Bengali roots.