Friday, March 06, 2015

Pineapple Keshar Bhaat(Pineapple Rice Pudding/Zarda)

Kesar/Keshar/Zaffran/Safron is an exotic spice that has Greco-Persian origin. Stigma of Saffron flower are hand picked, dried and packed in small boxes holding one gram or slightly more in the autumn months when it grows in abundance. Kashmir is also very famous for Kesar cultivation. We get pure gold seal saffron round the year, thanks to global marketing. Kesar is widely used in cooking especially in sweets and desserts. Some of the Kashmiri cuisine essentially had Kesar as the flavouring ingredient. It has that exclusive aroma unmatched by artificial flavouring. The price of Kesar varies from Rs.150/- to Rs.450/- per gram as per demand and supply.
I am fond of Kesar and just about any sweet or dessert with added Kesar. So I stock Kesar in abundance which can be preserved for years in the fridge in sealed condition. Even here in Mangalore we get pure Kesar in Ayurvedic medical stores.

When we were young, our mother used to make an excellent sweet dish, a rice pudding named Keshar Bhaat. She used to cook Jeersaali or Gandhsaali rice with pure home made ghee, sugar, cardamom and raisins to make it tasty. Needless to mention that she was a perfectionist in her culinary skills. At weddings and functions, we rarely get to see Keshar Bhaat as dessert, since caterers find making its cousin Doodhpak or Rice Kheer easier and cost effective. However, Pineapple Pudding or Sheera is another sweet dish that is popular in Mangalore, mostly made for functions during Summer months when Pineapple harvest is in abundance. Now we get pineapple round the year and it is not a rare opportunity to taste Pineapple Pudding. Pineapple Pudding is also known as Pineapple Kesari Bhaat in old Mysore side and Pineapple Kesari in Tamilnadu. Yet, I haven't come across any recipe which mentions Pineapple Keshar Bhaat or Pineapple Rice Pudding. Please don't get confused with 'Kesari Bhaat' and 'Keshar Bhaat'. I deliberately call Rice Pudding as Keshar Bhaat with an added 'H'. That's how it is called among Mangalorean GSB households. Keshar Bhaat is called as 'Zarda' in North West Frontier of India and in Pakistan.

We had the lonely pineapple grown in our garden recently, perhaps the only one I have grown in my life so far! It was almost mature but was expected to grow further, when due to weather condition, 
it started tilting and we didn't have any other alternative but to harvest it and keep it for ripening. It took over a week to fully ripen and first thing that came to my mind was making Pineapple Pudding. So I cleaned and cut it, made slices and kept it inside the fridge. Then I started to think that nobody has ever tried making Pineapple Keshar Bhaat with rice. Why not give it a try and present this colourful sweet dish to our good readers for the Holi festival? Besides, pineapple adds more flavour and that sweet and tangy taste to rice.
Now, making Keshar Bhaat requires real skill and care but once you know the tips and tricks, it is almost child's play to make it perfectly. Here are a few useful tips that you need to carefully follow:

1. Choosing the rice: 
Choose a good aromatic rice with short grain such as Jeersaali, Gandhsali or Doodhmalai. Basmati can also be used, but long grain rice doesn't give the same texture and taste as short grain rice. 

The simple science behind making perfect Keshar Bhaat is that each grain of rice should be evenly coated with ghee and melting sugar while the grains should not get fluffy or too hard. They should also be succulent in taste, retaining moisture inside out while not being too sticky in texture! Short grain rice has all that quality which Basmati lacks.

2. Adding the right amount of ingredients: 
Right amount of water, ghee and sugar should be added to make the Keshar Bhaat delicious. Cooking rice to perfection is thus ensured. Spices like cardamom and cloves(I also add cloves because they have a unique flavour that blends with the rice well). 

3. Controlling the heat: 
This is important while cooking anything, but while cooking rice, we need to watch and monitor the heat properly, lest the carbs within rice tend to char and spoil the flavour. Also, covering the lid of the pan right on time ensures slow cooking essential to make perfect rice. If you cover the vessel earlier, the rice water tends to overflow and if you delay the timing, rice gets under-cooked! You can also use the perforated roti plate that's available in the market, underneath the rice pan for uniform slow heating.

4. Adding Sugar: 
Though some people add sugar along with rice while cooking, it is always better to add sugar after the rice has cooked to a certain point. Sugar has to just melt and coat the rice grains. If sugar syrup infiltrates the rice, taste and texture change, leaving the dish insipid!

So please follow these tips properly to achieve 100% success.

Presenting my own innovative sweet dish Pineapple Keshar Bhaat or Pineapple Rice Pudding, a fantastic tasty dessert that can even be eaten not only after lunch or dinner, but also for breakfast along with Rava Uppumaavu or Upma, completing a hearty meal with a unique 'Chowchow Bhaat' in old Mysorean language!
Make it, and you will see your family exclaim "Wah kyaa Bhaat hai!" and sing "Keshara Sera Sera....Bhaat ho toh aisa ho!"

"Have a Colourful and Sweet time with Pineapple Keshar Bhaat as you celebrate the Festival of Colours, Holi!"

Jeera/Gandhsali/Basmati rice - 2 Cups
Water - 5 cups 
Pineapple - 1 Cup(2-3 slices) chopped into tiny bits
Sugar - 1 and 1/2 Cup
Ghee - 80 Ml 
Cloves - 8-10
Cardamom powder - 1/2 Tsp
Almonds - A handful(10-15), blanched and chopped
Raisins - A handful
Saffron - A generous pinch
Wash and soak the rice for about 10-15 minutes.
Drain and keep aside.
Soak saffron in little hot water
Keep water for boiling.
Heat half of the ghee, add cloves and Fry.
Add drained rice with pineapple chunks and lighly fry for 2-3 mins.
Add boiling water and bring to a boil.
Add saffron.
Cover and simmer for 10 mins, until the rice is 3/4 cooked.
Add rest of the ghee along with sugar and cardamom powder.
Keep on slow flame, mix lightly with a fiber/wooden spatula for 2-3 mins and allow the sugar to melt and get evenly mixed with the rice.
When ghee leaves the sides, switch off the flame and garnish with chopped almonds and raisins.
Keep for another 5-10 mins for the rice to swell up.
Mix and serve hot.
If you skip adding pineapple chunks, this will be the normal Keshar Bhaat.

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