Payesh is a traditional Bengali dessert made of rice (Basmati or Gobindo Bhog) and milk, slow cooked with aromatic cardamoms and bay leaf and generous amounts of chopped nuts (cashews or almonds) and raisins. This dessert ought to be made with precision and timing…and patience! And if you don’t get it exact, the imbalance in consistency and sweetness will be very obvious.
This recipe makes enough to fill eight-10 dessert bowls, five if all of your guests have a sweet-tooth!
n a thick-bottom saucepan, heat the milk and the heavy cream till almost boiling. Reduce the heat to low, add the bay leaf and keep boiling. Add the crushed cardamoms and boil for a few minutes more on very low heat. Add the grains of rice and cook on the simmered heat.
I did not remember to soak the almonds overnight, so I quickly soaked them in hot water which was easy for me to peel off their brown skin. You can chop them or make slivers of them and add to the milk along with the raisins. The milk would have been boiling for about 30-40 minutes and hence reduced in consistency. Watch the milk change color from a chalk white to a very nice, silky ivory color.
After about 40-50 minutes of slow cooking, a liter of milk would reduce to about one-fourth, giving you that semi-thick consistency of the payesh. Make sure you are stirring continuously. Add the sugar at this stage and cook for a few more minutes till the sugar dissolves with the milk.
Garnish with a few strands of saffron. Allow the payesh to cool to room temperature, then keep it in the fridge (covered of course).
Serve in small silver bowls (if you have it) after an Indian meal. Traditional and low on sweetness, thatâs how I like my Payesh.