Getting the nolen gur’er payesh recipe right is one of life’s most rewarding experiences. Also known as khejur patali gur’er payesh because it uses date palm (khejur) jaggery in solid form (patali) as a sweetener, this Bengali sweet recipe can double as a snack and an after-meal dessert. Whether you call it ‘payesh’ or ‘payasam’ or ‘kheer’, this is one of those quintessential Indian sweet dishes that transcends cultures and cuisines.
Nolen gur’er payesh (rice pudding with date palm jaggery) is made by boiling rice and milk together to produce a creamy reduction. It is a Bengali winter specialty since nolen gur is available during the season. Used in a wide variety of Bengali sweet dishes during the winter months, nolen gur brings a depth of flavour and smell, in addition to mellow sweetness, to whatever dish it is added.
The key ingredients required for making a good payesh are fragrant gobindobhog rice (notun aatop chaal—new, freshly harvested, non-parboiled rice), full fat milk, and good quality nolen gur. The milk to rice ratio is quite high in this recipe (1 litre milk for 50g rice). The fat in whole milk lends creaminess to the payesh and starch in ‘new’ rice helps thicken it. In case you can’t find gobindobhog rice where you live, the ‘kalijira’ or ‘jeera samba’ varieties will also do in a pinch.
- 1 litre full fat milk
- 50 g new gobindobhog rice
- 150 g nolen gur (date palm jaggery)
- ¼ tsp salt
- 20 g cashew
- 10 g raisins (soaked and drained)
- 10 g ghee
- Soak the rice in water for 30 minutes. Do not overwash the rice as we don’t want to lose too much starch. After 30 minutes, strain the rice and spread it to dry. Coat the soaked rice in ¼ tsp of ghee and set aside.
- Soak the raisins in some water to allow them to swell. Heat ghee in a pan and fry the cashewnuts on medium heat until they are golden. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Transfer the milk to a heavy pan or kadai. On medium heat, wait for it to come to a boil. After that, reduce the milk for about 15 minutes. Stir regularly so that the milk does not catch the bottom or sides of the pan.
- Add the ghee-coated rice to the milk and keep cooking on low heat until the rice is fully cooked. This will require patience, as at several points it will appear as if the rice has cooked. However, you need to keep boiling it until you reach a stage where a grain mashed between your fingers faces no resistance at all. It should be mushy soft, as rice will harden when payesh is cooled. Stir gently throughout this process. Not only will that ensure that the payesh doesn’t burn, stirring will also release the starch from the rice, which will help thicken the payesh.
- Now is it is time to add the gur. But you need to be sure of two things before that. (a) The rice should be fully cooked because after adding the gur, the rice will not cook any further. (b) The payesh should be slightly thicker than how you actually want it as gur will loosen it up slightly. Right. Now turn off the heat and add the gur, along with salt, soaked raisins, and fried cashew. Keep heat turned off as any impurities in the gur will cause the milk to split. Fold everything in and cover the pan. Allow the residual heat to melt the gur fully. Serve hot or cool.