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A Delicious Kheer Recipe for Diwali

Oct/23/2022 / by Sweta Vikram

A dessert representing Ayurvedic wisdom and Indian tradition.

How often do we make mithais or savory items for festivals without really knowing the reason or tradition behind them? I have always been curious. When I was a kid, my brother would tease me that I should wear a dictionary as a pendant because my favorite words were, “means what?” I respect traditions but won’t follow them blindly. What a privilege to be born in a country and culture that has so much healing wisdom to share with the world.

As someone who works in the space of yoga, Ayurveda, and mindfulness as a speaker, writer, and coach…I am always thirsty for knowledge and beyond thrilled to share, with others, what I know. This Diwali, I want to remind you that if you are busy, tired, feeling tight with the budget, unenthusiastic about cooking, looking for a simple dessert recipe, or desire to add homemade mithai to the menu, you don’t have to look beyond kheer or rice pudding.

No matter how organized you are, festivals take a toll on our mental health. Some people get anxious (vatas) while others might lash out or argue incessantly (pittas) and there might be folks who go into detached and shut down mode (kaphas). Kheer is easy to make, obviously, when eaten in moderation. It improves gut health, reduces inflammation, and boosts overall well-being. When Diwali begins in India, the weather is still warm. In a lot of people, there is accumulated pitta in the mind-body from summer. Kheer is an ideal dessert for those with high pitta. Both basmati rice and milk are cooling and effective to balance the pitta dosha.

Vedic Significance of Kheer

In the Vedic culture, when a baby turns 5-6 months old, the family does a ceremony called “Annaprashan.” It’s the first time the baby is fed any grain. “Kheer” is one of the first few items that’s cooked for the celebration and introduced to the infant. Kheer is an integral part of the Annaprasana ceremony and is considered representative of everything pure and divine. Even on Rakhshabandhan in many homes, people make kheer. Kheer made with rice is rich in starch, which yields a host of health benefits.

According to Ayurveda, milk provides special and unique nutrition that cannot be derived from any other type of food. When digested properly, milk nourishes all the tissues, promotes balanced emotions, and helps to balance all the doshas. It is one of the most important foods to promote ojas (vitality). Milk’s special importance in India goes back to the Hindu mythology and the story of samudra manthan. As legend goes, Lord Dhanvantari, “The God of Ayurveda,” was responsible for samudra manthan, also known as the churning of the ocean of milk. He brought forth the drink of immortality, “amrit” (nectar).

The samhitas of Ayurveda advise men to eat kheer after sex to replenish their lost vigor. According to the epic Ramayana, King Dasharatha didn’t have kids at first. So, a sage gave him kheer as a potion. The story goes that Dasharatha divided the kheer equally between his three wives. All the queens went to their royal chambers to bathe and purify themselves before enjoying the bowl of kheer. A bird carried away the bowl of Queen Sumitra, Dasharatha’s second wife, while she was drying her hair on the terrace after bath. When she told the other two queens, they shared their kheer with her. The story goes that the three women loved each other as their own sisters. Eventually, Kaushalya gave birth to Rama; Sumitra had two sons Lakshmana and Shatrughna; and Kaikeyi gave birth to Bharata. It’s said that given Sumitra’s portion came partly from the other two queens, it was no surprise that the sons were so close with each other. It also explains the attachment between Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrughna, as if they were parts of a whole.

Kheer for Ayurvedic Doshas

Kheer is a combination of rice, cow’s milk, and a sweetener. Made with basmati rice and full-fat, organic cow’s milk, “Kheer” holds a high place in Ayurvedic cooking and healing. The sweetener could be sugar, palm jaggery, sugarcane jaggery or any other local traditional sweetener. You can garnish the dish with raisins, cardamom, saffron, other nuts, or rose water. Ayurveda will remind you that the ingredients in kheer should reflect your doshic needs.

While dairy is overall good for vata types, they will be able to “enjoy” kheer on days when their digestion is good. Use jaggery as a sweetener as it has “heating” properties, which is warming for vatas. If you have a vata imbalance, go for a warm bowl of kheer versus cool or cold.

If there is an ideal dessert for pitta types, it is kheer made with rice. I add green cardamom and rose water because they are both “cooling” and create a slice of heaven for the pittas in my family. High pittas should eat kheer at cooler temperatures. Nuts can increase heat in the body, so avoid them beyond a few slivers of soaked almonds.

Kapha types should eat very little kheer, and that latest by 2 p.m., when the sun is still strong and so is their digestive fire, aka agni. Kheer is traditionally made with milk, so it can be sweet and heavy, especially for kapha types. Sure, digestive spices like cinnamon or shunthi (dry ginger) help cut the mucus, but desserts aren’t good for kaphas. Make the kheer with jaggery, exercise extreme portion control (kaphas tend to overeat when out of balance), enjoy the kheer when it’s warm, and preferably at the start of the meal. Saffron is another warming spice for the kaphas.

The Recipe

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups grass-fed, full-fat, organic cow’s milk
  • A fistful of rice (washed, soaked, and drained).
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp raisins
  • 1 tsp crushed cardamom
  • 1 tbsp rose water

METHOD

  1. Boil the milk until it becomes a little thick.
  2. Add the rice to it and let it boil.
  3. Keep stirring every 5 minutes so nothing sticks to the bottom.
  4. Once it’s reduced to a porridge-like consistency, turn off the stove.

Notes: My mom taught me to add sugar (2 serving spoons) once the mixture has cooled down a little bit. You can sauté the raisins in ghee or add them raw to the kheer. Garnish with crushed cardamom and some rose water.

Ayurveda is not just a few medicines or a few scriptures, but a holistic total lifestyle deeply involved with yoga, meditation, food habits and epigenetic social cultures” ~ Amit Ray, “Yoga, the Science of Well-Being”

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