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The kheer that cheers

Festivities are in the air and if there is one drink that comes to mind especially during such celebrations, it is the badam kheer. The process of making this is not to be taken lightly. It almost always involves the expert guidance of an elder who must be present to make sure that it turns out just perfect.

Over the years, my cousins and I have gulped down many tumblers of this delicious concoction listening to many loud conversations of mothers, their mothers and aunts discussing the kheer’s finer nuances. Badam kheer was often pronounced as ‘badamgheer’ or just ‘badangheer’. We still refer it to it like that.

The badam kheer in our homes was never served in dessert cups. It came in small well polished silver tumblers or in fat short glass ones. It could be hot or cold depending on the time of day at which it was served and of course the weather. I always preferred it chilled. I loved to see the little drops of condensation on my glass. The glasses would arrive in great numbers on an extra large tray, and we quickly downed one before surreptitiously reaching for the next. Of course, it was also put through a rigorous tasting by the matriarchs in the family.

A small quantity was delicately sipped up, tested on the tongue for its graininess, sweetness and of course the colour. It had to be just the right shade of a pale buttercup yellow that came with using the correct amount of saffron strands. That again was watched with an eagle eye. Too little saffron and the verdict would be that the rest was squirrelled away. Too much, and there would be mutterings about wastage and people not respecting the value of ingredients.

Once my grand aunt was visibly upset because she couldn’t spot a single strand of saffron in anyone’s glass. We discovered later to our dismay that a clump of saffron strands remained at the bottom of the bowl. It simply had not been stirred through properly. The cook received a dressing down he will never forget.

The badam kheer has ingredients that are not only considered auspicious but equally high on nutrition. It is best enjoyed as an in- between snack.

I decided to experiment with the badam kheer. I used the palm jaggery in powder form instead of white sugar and it proved to be a great alternative.

Emboldened, I thought of almond milk instead of cow’s milk. The only problem came while heating up the almond milk. Boiling it is not advisable as that changes its taste and nutrient profile. But, a very gentle heating and stirring for a good 15 minutes worked. I had to be generous with the quantity of saffron, to get it to an appetizing hue and aroma.

The garnishes differ from finely chopped pistachios to thinly flaked almonds to fried chironji. I’m quite happy with it plain. And I must record my refusal to add cardamom powder to it. The badam kheer I grew up with never had cardamom.


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Printable version | Oct 13, 2021 1:53:16 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/The-kheer-that-cheers/article16441787.ece

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