Wednesday, October 10, 2007

P is for PAYESH

sweet payesh
Originally uploaded by dalbhat
Nowadays birthday cakes have joined the ranks of Bengali birthday fare but not so long ago when a little girl or little boy’s birthday came around in Kolkata, you would be more likely to see mothers or grandmothers lovingly preparing a richly sweet rice pudding dish known as payesh than buying a store bought cake. Actually you will usually get both in these times!

The rice that is often used for payesh is a tiny-grained rice known as Govindabog, "the only sustenance worthy of being offered to Prince Govinda.” This grain is similar to a baby basmati as it has a nice aroma and is said to have been revered by the Moghuls who built the Taj Mahal, reserved for honored guests.

Even though it's small, it's really considered a long-grain rice because its length-to-width ratio is 3:1. It's size makes it quick to cook, so perfect for payesh where it needs to be cooked up in the milk.

Though the recipe will vary from household to household, you can follow something like this to get the feeling (and hopefully taste):

Bengali-style Payesh

3/4 cup short grain rice (Govindabog)
4-1/4 cups milk
bay leaf
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp cardamon
12 cashew nuts
10-15 Raisins

Soak the rice in water for 15 minutes. Heat the milk on medium flame. Slowly add sugar to the milk and keep stirring. When the milk starts to boil, add the rice slowly to it. Remember to keep stirring the milk continuously. After about 20-25 minutes, when the milk has thickened and the rice grains have become soft, add the cardamon – stir gently. Remove the container from flame and add almonds sliced into half and raisins on top. Cool the payesh and keep it in refrigerator for a couple of hours. Serve chilled.

Happy Birthday to you!