Bengali nolen gurer payesh or chaler payesh / rice pudding with date jaggery / molasses is the most favoured desserts in Bengali homes for any occasions. If there is any dish that is as ancient as the human civilization itself, it is the paramanna or payesh or payasam or kheer as we commonly know it. Rice and milk boiled together and sweetened with sugar cane was the food that has been the traditional offering to the gods for thousands of years. The first food that child eats in Indian culture and here birthday celebrations remain incomplete without this.
But the most celebratory of this, specially in Bengal is perhaps the nolen gur er payesh or the khejur gur er payesh. The vibrant lush green fields, the gentle and breezy sway of palm, coconut , date and areca nut tree, ponds tethered with fishing nets, mud houses, vast open blue sky- that’s rural Bengal for you.
When winter approaches every wistful soul hopefully dreams about the “ras” the sap that is being collected slowly in the pots tied securely to the sky touching tall date palm trees. Somewhere in the alpona adorned courtyards huge preparation works would be going on. The earthen hearth built newly for the purpose will be getting ready, the huge iron cauldrons or kadhai will be put on the fire and slowly the saps collected in clay pots would be emptied out on the kadhai. A gentle stir in the vats , the precise control of the heat, and under the watchful eyes of a adroit housewife, slowly the sap turns magically into treacle, infusing the aura with its heavenly scent.. this will then be left to set in earthen vessels and left to mature.
We call them patali Gur or khajoor Ka Gur or date palm jaggery.
Sinful. Pure indulgence. Elusive.
A delightful breakfast ritual of luchi and patali gurer payesh marks the wintry Sunday mornings in many Bengali homes. Truly, what could be the better way to start the day than this? Fresh gur of the season and the divine gobindo bhog rice (no basmati, can not hold a candle to this) together makes a beautiful potpourri of flavour and taste, with divinity written in every morsel.
Bengali chaler payesh is also an important part of many pujo rituals like kojagari lakshmi pujo.
- Milk: 500ml
- Rice (gobindo bhog) : 6 tbsp or almost ¼ cup
- Date jaggery / molasses (crushed) : ½ cup
- Sugar / sugar candies (misri) : 3-4 tbsp sugar / 2 tbsp misri
- Bay leaf: 1 or 2
- Raisins and fried cashews : a handful
- Cardamom pods: 2-3
- Soak the rice in water for 30 minutes. Drain and let it dry for few more minutes.
- Take 500ml of milk in a vessel and bring it to the first boil. Add the bay leaf and the cardamom pods.
- Continue with the boiling of milk till it reduces slightly or thickened a bit.
- Now slowly add the soaked rice and stir continuously. Cook it on a low flame till the rice become soft (till the rice cooked up to 60 - 70 %).
- Add the sugar now and cook for few more minutes till the sugar dissolves completely.
- At this stage rice will be sweetened enough and payesh / kheer should have homogeneous consistency.
- That is rice and milk should not look separated when pouring from a spoon.
- Take off from the heat and add the date jaggery, mix it well with the milk. Now on a very low heat keep on stirring till the jaggery melts completely and is incorporated well.
- Serve hot or cold as dessert or with puris.
This recipe serves two and measurement is very important (specially the ratio of milk to rice).
Stirring continuously means do not leave it for few minutes otherwise rice and milk will be separated.
Rice should not be overcooked (rice should be cooked up to 80%).
If you melt the jaggery on a high flame, milk will get curdled. Best practice is to crush the jaggery completely, add a ladle full of milk to the jaggery, melt it completely and then add that to the payesh / kheer. I generally do not heat the payesh after adding the jaggery.
Besides, the typical Bengali chaler payesh, we also make kheer or payesh with chushi or pasta shaped rice dumplings, known as Chushir Pitha Payesh, very ethnic dish from erstwhile East Bengal, that marks the glorious festival of Makar Sankranti.
Also do check this Millet Kheer, made with barnyard millet, a specialty from Uttarkhand.
If you are looking for little different flavour for Sago Payasam, or Sabudana Kheer, you might want to check this Thai style Sago Pudding.