Narkel die Chaler Payes (Indian Rice pudding with Coconut)12:38 PM
Rice, the staple grain for many Indians is also believed to be very auspicious for almost all rites and rituals in Hinduism. According to Hindu Dharmashastra, food is supreme, 'Anna Parabramha or Anna parabramha swarupam. We are not supposed to waste a single grain of rice, It's the supreme and needs to be revered.
Food being the basic requirement for life Rice holds great spiritual signifiance and is a symbol of prosperity and fertility. Anna Dana or rice offering os believed to be the highest form of charity. No wonder its an integral part of almost all our pujas and rituals. No puja or offering to the God is complete without whole grains of rice or paddy seeds (dhan or dhanya). Starting from the Annaprasana ceremony, that marks the first solid intake of an infant to the wedding ceremony where the bride is finally supposed to pay back all her dues to her parents with a handful of rice...its needed every where. For us Hindus, its a symbol of prosperity, fertility and is supposed to ward off any demons and bad nazar.
I belong to a very middle class Bengali family. My parents are modern in nature but hold their traditions and roots very close to their hearts. One of them is definitely the Bengali way of elebrating our birthdays. Unlike other kids we hardly ever got cakes to cut with twinkling candles on it. Rather birthday mornings for us meant a fragrant sweet smell of Payes (rice pudding), an aroma of gobindobhog rice being simmered in big potful of milk and a fragrant cardamom laced air enveloped us for the whole day.
The day would start with an early bath, wearing new clothes and then sitting on the floor on an 'Asan'( or a small floor mat often lovingly hand embroidered and decorated by some elderly lady in the family) for the Ashirbad (blessings) and feeding of the rice pudding or payes. Maa, Baba and other elders present in the family will then come with a puja plate containing a Pradip (diya or oil lamp), Dhan durba (paddy seeds and green grass) and Chandan (sandal paste). They will first apply the Chandan tika (a small mark on the forehead, between the brows with the sandal paste) which is supposed to purify the soul and protect against bad luck and then blessing the person with Dhan and Durba again to ward off bad demons. Everybody will then take their turn to feed a spoonfull of this heavenly rice pudding to the birthday boy or girl and shower them with other gifts.
Like many other things we hardly could heart the beauty or significance of this ceremony then but now with time I feel like keeping this tradition alive for time immemorial. for all our birthdays I try to follow the same and never forget to cook this thick creamy rice pudding, as for me and for my family (am sure like many of you as well)...A birthday is never complete without a fragrant bowl of chaler payes or Rice pudding.
Here is one more version of the Rice pudding with narkel or coconut. I always use freshly grated/ scraped coconut for this and truly dont have any idea how dessicated coconut would taste in it. The juicy micro bits of scraped coconut takes this dish to a new height and creates a beautiful layered texture which my Husband loves. The dish that you see in this picture is from his birthday, and my not so sweet loving husband happily polishes off a big bowlful of this.
Narkel die Chaler Payes
Full cream milk: 1 liter+ 1 cup
Gobindobhog rice: 1/3 cup (or basmati)
Condensed milk: 1/2 can
green cradamom: 2
Bay leaf/ Tejpata: 2 small
freshly grated coconut: 3/4 cup
Ghee: 1 tsp
Raisins: handful (wash and soak in water)
Wash and spread the rice on old paper to dry it off.
In a heavy bottom pan start boiling 1 liter milk. Stir constantly on medium flame to reduce it for 20 minutes.
At 15 minutes of the milk being reduced, in another pan heat the ghee and fry the cashews on medium till golden. Take it out and keep aside.
Add the bay leaves to the same ghee and once it releases its aroma add in the dried rice. Stir and fry till they turn opaque. lower the flame and add 1 cup of the reserved milk. stir and cover and let the rice get cooked. Once the 1 liter milk is reduced for 20 minutes add half of the milk to the rice and stir it to cook for some more time.
Reduce the other half of the milk with the condensed milk for another 15 minutes or so till its thick and creamy. By this time the rice should be fully cooked (do not overcook the rice) so mix the rest of the milk to the rice, and the fried cashews. cook for another 5-7 minutes or till you are happy with the consistency. Always remember the milk gets creamier as it cools.
Grind the cardamom to fine powder. Switch of the flame and mix in the raisins, cardamom powder and the grated coconut. Mix and let it cool down at least to room temperature before serving.
We love it chilled.
Sending this to KFB's Puja special mishti week 2015.