In my novel Sister of My Heart, when Anju and Sudha, the two cousins who are the protagonists of the book, are still little, their aunt, Pishi, cooks several special desserts for them. This one, payesh, is very traditional in Bengal, the part of India where I come from and where Sister of My Heart is set. It is also a dish that my mother was famous for. But whereas hers used to take a half-day to make, I've given you a shortcut recipe.
Makes 8 servings
Note: The payesh consistency should be fairly thick, and it may take a little longer than indicated to achieve this thickness. Keep in mind that the payesh also thickens as it cools.
3 cups half-and-half (fat free or whole)
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup basmati rice, washed & soaked for 1/2 hour
1 cinnamon stick
4 cardamom pods--peel & crush the seeds. Discard peel.
1 cup granulated sugar or brown sugar (according to your taste). More if you have a sweet tooth
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped peeled almonds
Rose Petals (if desired)
1. In a non stick pan, bring half-and-half and milk to a boil. Add rice (drain it first), cinnamon stick, cardamom. Cook on low, stirring often to prevent sticking, until rice is soft and milk thickened. (30 to 45 min). Some friends do this in a large container in the microwave oven, but I haven't tried it that way myself. (I tend not to use microwaves for cooking).
2. Add sugar, raisins and almonds. Cook on low heat another 10-15 minutes until the mixture is thick. (Keep in mind it will thicken more when cooling).
3. Payesh can be eaten warm or chilled. Sometimes I sprinkle rose petals on the chilled version just before serving. If refrigerated, it keeps for 5-6 days.But probably it will not last that long because it is terribly tempting!