chopped pistachios and bowls of distractions

I’ve decided transfer some more of my old recipes over, primarily because I didn’t want to have to flip through blog v.1 for some of my favorites, but also because, after 4 days and too-little sleep, I’ve finished Assassin’s Creed III and have found myself needing to keep busy as not to fall into a tragic depression from withdrawal and emptiness.

My priorities are golden, quite obviously.

Kheer and Seviyan are two dishes that have been a steady constant in my life for as long as I can remember. Though they’re traditionally made for special occasions and religious events, I’ve found myself craving them now that I’ve given up the flours and have every intention of loading up on dessert in the form of custards, puddings, and ice creams.

Seviyan features vermicelli, a very thin noodle, boiled in oodles of milk and sugar, which basically sounds like the best idea anyone ever had with pasta and dairy. Pakistani desserts aside, vermicelli have been used in countless dishes, savory and sweet, all over the Eastern world. Another personal favorite of mine is the Persian faloodeh, a more ice cream-esque frozen dessert flavored with rose water and lime juice (though we have a variation flavored with rooh afza). But that’s a post for another day.

Kheer is a similar dish, milky and custard-y in nature, though accompanied with rice rather than vermicelli. The rice lends it a thicker, more pudding-like consistency than you find in the seviyan, and so I often prefer it for its richness, particularly on colder autumn nights. Mum likes hers plain and simple, but I love mine with a few raisins thrown in for good measure.

Seviyan
Yields 6-8 servings

Ingredients:

  • half gallon of whole milk
  • 1 cup crushed vermicelli noodles
  • 1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 pods cardamom, cracked, or a pinch of ground cardamom
  • 1 drop kevra
  • chopped pistachios or almonds to garnish, if desired

Method:

In a large pot over medium flame, heat milk until just boiling. Lower temperature to a gentle simmer and stir in the crushed vermicelli noodles. Keep the milk at a low simmer for 45-50 mins until milk has thickened some, stirring every 5 minutes or so to keep it from burning. Feel free to pull up a chair and your favorite book, but be vigilant about scraping the sides and bottom of the pot every now and then.

Once milk has thickened a bit, pour in the sweetened condensed milk and stir to combine. Add kevra and cardamom, stir, and let cook and thicken for an additional 10-15 mins. Remove the pot from the heat and let the custard rest for 5 mins. Spoon custard into dishes and top with chopped nuts of choice, doing so before the top of the custard manages to develop a film. (Don’t worry, I assure you the thick top layer is the best part.) Seviyan tastes best after a few hours in the fridge, and will stay good, covered and chilled, for up to 5 days.

Notes:

  • For a gluten-free version, substitute with vermicelli rice noodles.
  • If kevra can’t be found at an Asian grocer, substitute with a drop of rosewater. Do not use both kevra and rosewater.

Kheer
Yields 6-8 servings

Ingredients:

  • half gallon whole milk
  • 1/2 cup uncooked basmati rice
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 pods cardamom, cracked, or a generous pinch of ground cardamom
  • 1 drop kevra
  • 1/4 cup raisins, if desired
  • chopped pistachios or almonds to garnish, if desired

Method:

Soak rice in warm water for 30 mins. Meanwhile, in a large pot set over medium flame, heat milk until warm. Drain the water and puree the soaked rice with 1/4 cup of the heated milk. Add the pureed rice to the warm milk. Increase the heat and allow milk to come to a boil. Stir constantly to prevent the rice from forming clumps, as well as to keep the milk from burning.

Once milk boils, immediately reduce the heat to prevent the milk from overflowing. Simmer the milk over a low flame for about an hour, stirring every 5 minutes or so. Again, a good book is a welcome companion. Once milk has begun to thicken, add the sugar. Stir occasionally for an additional 5-10 mins. Taste for sweetness and add more sugar if necessary. Toss in cardamom, kevra, and raisins, and stir enough for the raisins to heat through. Remove the pot from the heat and let the custard rest for about 5 mins. Pour into serving dishes and garnish with the chopped nuts. Kheer can be eaten warm or cold, and keeps well, covered and chilled in the fridge, for up to 5 days.

Note:

  • If kevra can’t be found at an Asian grocer, substitute with a drop of rosewater. Do not use both kevra and rosewater.

Having either is still, admittedly, a rare occurrence, but the spontaneity keeps the suspense and excitement fresh, you know?

Okay, so, mostly, I don’t have an hour to spend by the stove on any given night, so my opportunities have been limited. Still, Thanksgiving break is looming, nights are getting longer, I’ve had to turn up the heat in my apartment, and mountains of thesis research are leaving me antsy, so I’m sure there’ll be a pot bubbling on my stove soon enough.

But even on chilly weekends, one bite is enough to take me back to jasmine trees, Great Illustrated Classics, henna tattoos, calls to prayer, grandmothers and grandfathers, noisy rikshas, dusty streets, afternoon ceiling fans, and hot summer nights.

So, you know, there’s that.

“You never forget a beautiful thing that you have made. Even after you eat it, it stays with you – always.”

-Julia Child, My Life in France

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