Thursday, August 15, 2013

0 Creamy Coconut Kheer (Indian Rice Pudding)

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As you can see, black rice pudding is incredibly difficult to photograph. I promise that there are loads of almonds 
and pistachios in there, even though you can't see them. Black rice "dyes" pretty much everything it touches. :)

I created this recipe specifically for The Athlete's Cookbook, so of course, it has a great number of sports performance benefits for athletes. It also just so happens to be vegan, although that wasn't the impetus for creating it. ;)

Kheer is a wonderfully fragrant Indian rice pudding that's commonly served in many Indian restaurants. Most kheer recipes typically call for several gallons of cream or whole milk. OK, that's only a slight exaggeration (Hahaha!), but of course this recipe is a healthy version, so it doesn't contain either. Instead, I've used coconut milk, which, most notably, contains healthy fats that increase the rate of fat oxidation to provide an immediately available source of energy for athletes. :)

Traditionally, kheer is made with basmati rice (and sometimes also short-grain varieties). However, this recipe calls for black rice, a superfood that’s naturally sweet and unusually high in antioxidants, fiber, and protein, and as a result, is much healthier for you than most other varieties of rice. In fact, it's higher in protein than either white or brown rice, and at the same time, it's also lower in calories and carbs. Black rice contains a significant amount of the antioxidant, anthocyanin, which may fight cancer and heart disease. It's also good for your immune system, blood circulation, eyes, stomach, kidneys, and spleen. Black rice has a much thicker outer hull than many other types of rice, so it that means it takes longer to cook. However, it's worth the wait, as it's very nutritious. :) Its hardy outer hull (the bran) is what makes it high in fiber, plus it's also got a ton of vitamins (especially vitamin E) and minerals (like iron, potassium, and magnesium) and is unusually rich in amino acids, the building blocks of lean muscle mass, so it's an athlete's dream. :-D

Black rice is sometimes also called "Forbidden Rice" because only the royalty of ancient China (i.e., emperors and nobles) had been permitted to eat it. Black rice has a nutty flavor with chocolate-like undertones, so as you can imagine, it tastes great in puddings like kheer, which already contain nuts (usually pistachios &/or almonds, but sometimes also cashews). Simply put, it not only complements this type of pudding, but also enhances what's already there.

This dish also contains a plethora of fragrant ingredients -- cardamom, saffron, and rose water -- a wonderful, heady combination that'll make your kitchen smell divine. Get ready for a rich, complex, and intensely flavorful experience for your taste buds. This all natural, no-sugar added pudding is, quite literally, as sweet as pie. So, if you’re a sweet tooth but still want to eat healthfully, this recipe’s for you.

Creamy Coconut Kheer (Indian Rice Pudding)

13.5 oz. can coconut milk
1 c. water (for boiling rice)
1/2 c. black rice, washed, soaked for 30 minutes, and then drained
1/2 tsp. cardamom powder
1/2 tsp. saffron threads, soaked in 2 Tbsp. of hot water for 30 minutes (or ideally for 2 hours, if there's time)
1 1/2 c. honey
1/2 tsp. rose water (omit if unavailable)
2 Tbsp. almonds, slivered
2 Tbsp. unsalted shelled pistachios, plus more for garnish
1/8 tsp. salt, or to taste

Directions: Crush almonds and pistachios coarsely using a mortar and pestle (or place onto a clean surface, cover with plastic wrap, and smash with the side of a knife), and set aside. Pour coconut milk and water into a large pot, cover, place over high heat, and bring to a boil. Uncover, add rice, including reserved liquid, saffron, cardamom, cover again, and bring to a boil once more. Then reduce heat to low and simmer for 40 minutes, or until rice is tender and almost all of the water has been absorbed. Rice is done when it starts to crack open slightly and develop at least 2 or more beads. In the last 2 minutes of cooking, add honey, rose water, almonds, pistachios, and salt and stir until honey is fully dissolved, then add almonds and pistachios. (Be careful not to overcook the rice or it'll be mushy and unpalatable.) Remove from heat, let rest for at least 10 minutes, and then gently fluff with a fork. Remove from heat. Spoon the rice pudding into small ramekins (or custard dishes) and top each portion with crushed pistachios. Serve either warm or at room temperature.

Servings: Makes 2-4 servings.

Chef's Notes: Please note, this pudding has a short shelf-life, and will last for only about a day.

If you can't find unsalted pistachios, use the shelled salted ones but then omit the salt.

Saffron can be soaked for much longer, anywhere from 2 to 12 hours, so you can also soak the saffron overnight. The longer it steeps, the more intense the saffron flavor will be.

Be sure to use Chinese sticky black rice and not wild rice. (Wild rice is a dark color, but trust me, it's not what you want to use for this pudding. The taste of wild rice is woody and savory, and totally wrong for a dish like this. Furthermore, wild rice isn't even technically considered to be rice.) Also, since this pudding is very sweet, it's a good idea to balance the sweetness by serving it with something plain or mild tasting, like a cup of (herbal) tea or a glass of milk.

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