I have an incredibly unhealthy obsession with cardamom. I grew up in a household where it was used as a breath freshener, crushed with nuts and grains for a hearty winter porridge, and thrown along with orange pekoe to make for a lovely, aromatic cuppa.
I’m convinced that my long standing love affair with cardamom is a direct result of its omnipresence in Pakistani cuisine. Everything from korma and biryani, to ras malai and kulfi – they all call on the use of this complex and lovely little spice. In my own culinary adventures, I’ve paired it with orange zest and almonds for a unique twist on chocolate chip cookies, in addition to coupling it with vanilla beans for sweet tea cakes. Whether you prefer savoury or sweet, I have a feeling you’ll fall in love with cardamom as much a I have.
One of my favourite uses for cardamom is in Pakistani milk based desserts. While many traditional recipes do call on cardamom for flavouring, they usually rely on rose water or kewra water for their distinct floral flavours. I’m not a huge fan of either, as I think that they are entirely overpowering. I much rather prefer the complexity that cardamom offers on its own.
With Eid right around the corner, I thought I would share with you a recipe for my second favourite Pakistani dessert – kheer (I already posted a recipe for my favourite Pakistani dessert – ras malai – here). Kheer is basically a rich, Indian rice pudding that has been scented with delicate spices. Recipes for kheer are many and varied, but they all share the same foundation: whole milk that has been reduced, rice, sugar, and – you guessed it – cardamom!
The recipe that I’m sharing today is as simple as it gets: boil milk, add rice, simmer over low heat and stir (frequently), add sugar and ground cardamom, remove from heat, cool, and lastly, dig in! Like with many other recipes for kheer, mine takes a few hours to cook to allow the milk mixture to reduce and thicken. But the wait (and resisting the urge to slurp hot pudding from out of your pot) is totally worth it. The end result is a bowl of thick, creamy, cardamomy delight!
- 4 c. whole milk
- 1/4 c. basmati rice, washed and soaked for a half hour
- 1/4 c. sugar
- 4 cardamom pods, seeds removed and crushed
- toasted almonds and pistachios (optional)
- In a heavy bottomed pot, heat milk over medium high heat and bring to a boil.
- Once the milk has started to boil, add rice and continue to boil over medium high heat for 10 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent milk from burning.
- After 10 minutes, reduce the heat and continue to simmer milk and rice mixture on low heat for 2 hours. Continue to stir frequently to avoid milk mixture from burning. Use the back of a spoon to crush the rice granules along the side of the pot while stirring.
- Once the milk has reduce and the mixture has thickened, stir in the sugar and cardamom.
- Turn off the heat and transfer kheer to a bowl or into individual ramekins.
- Refrigerate the kheer and serve cooled.
- Kheer may be topped with toasted pistachios and almonds. I didn't have any on hand, so I omitted them. Enjoy!