After my daughters were born, my mother-in-law insisted that on every birthday, each of the girls would be fed palak and payesh, preferably cooked by me. Why? I asked her and she said she didn't know but it was tradition. Something must be made with spinach (palak) and there must be some rice pudding (payesh). The payesh part I had heard of, but palak was a surprise. In any case I used to diligently make the two dishes the best I could.
Payesh had to be simple. What's there to it? I thought as I boiled milk and added rice and sugar. I was a mess usually. Either the rice was too much or the milk was too much or the pudding was runny, I just could not get that darn payesh to be the way it was supposed to be!
Yes, I asked my mother aand she told me I should add one fistful of gobindobhog rice to each half liter of milk. It works like magic. And the birthday girls may not be big fans of payesh but all the guests lick their bowls clean!
Here's how to make a typical Bengali Payesh, or Rice Pudding, if you will:
- Rice : two fistfuls (yes, it looks very little, but that's all you need, believe me)
- Milk: 1 liter
- Sugar: 2 tbsp
- Elaichi/ Cardomom: 2/3
- Raisins (optional): a few, about 50g
- Almond slivers (optional) some, about 1/4 cup. (Soaked, peeled and cut into slivers)
- Pour milk into a pan and place on stove top to boil,
- Wash rice and add to milk along with cardomoms.
- When the milk boils, simmer and stir till it thickens.
- By the time the milk thickens, the rice will also be cooked.
- When the milk has thickened adequately, it should still be runny and liquid, add sugar and stir.
- Add the almonds and raisins if adding and remove from fire.
- let it sit for a bit before serving. Remember the milk with thicken a bit even after you remove it from the fire so do remember to turn off the heat before the milk becomes too thick.
- Once it has cooled, place in refrigerator to chill.
- Serve cold.
- As they say, only ghosts have payesh that is hot!!!