Growing up in India has always felt like one big fat celebration, as if the serious aspects of life were far removed from it. There seemed to be a season for a festival and yet no reason at all for a feast. Food, dessert in particular, was always at the very core of everything: dessert to help the new neighbors settle in and draw old ones closer, dessert to share happiness and lessen the impact of woes, dessert for distant relatives and school teachers, dessert for the Gods and Demigods, dessert for domestic helpers and well, mostly all cooked by domestic Godesses. There were endless rivers of ghee, cream and milk utilized to the last drop, bowlfuls of dry fruits employed at will, handfuls of grains – sometimes pounded, sometimes whole, and bottomless cups of sugar, to be sure.
The instances when health consciousness and medicinal properties of ingredients were factored into the equation were few and far between. But here is a recipe that’s an ode to our mothers and grandmothers, who commanded the kitchen and made dessert such an integral part of our lives. Made with the wonder grain millet (rich in antioxidants, good for cholesterol & diabetes) and jaggery in place of sugar, it’s a somewhat healthy dessert, if there’s such a thing.
Foxtail Millet Kheer with Jaggery
- 1 litre milk, preferably whole milk
- A pinch of saffron
- 2 tbsp cashew halves
- 1 tbsp raisins
- ¼ cup foxtail millet
- 2 tsp ghee
- ½ tsp cardamom powder
- 1 cup powdered jaggery
- Pour the milk into a heavy bottomed pan and bring to a simmer. Cook the milk on low heat, stirring frequently, allowing it to reduce to half its quantity.
- Take 2 teaspoons of the hot milk in a small bowl and soak the saffron in it.
- Meanwhile, in a small pressure cooker set on medium heat add 1 teaspoon of ghee and then the cashew halves. Let the cashews turn golden brown and then add the raisins. Swirl them around and then remove to a dish and set aside.
- In the same cooker pour another teaspoon of ghee and add the millets. Roast the millets, stirring frequently for about 2 minutes. Add ¾ cup of water and then close the lid and bring the cooker to full pressure. Now turn down the heat and cook for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the pressure release on its own.
- Meanwhile put the jaggery and one-fourth cup of water in a pan and let it melt into a syrup. Strain and set the syrup aside to cool.
- Once the milk has reduced stir in the cooked millets. Simmer for about 5 minutes and then add the cardamom powder.
- Pour the cooled jaggery syrup into the milk and stir it well. Simmer for just a few seconds and then add the fried cashews and raisins, and the saffron.
- Serve hot or chilled.
Note: You can also use regular sugar instead of jaggery. Add the sugar and them simmer the kheer for 5 minutes before adding the cashews.