In July 2019, I volunteered for some time at Peepal Farm in Dhanotu, where I met some really wonderful people from different parts of the world. I developed an especially close friendship with this lovely lady from Argentina—Josefina—who felt like someone I have known forever despite hailing from a culture so different from the one I was raised in. I left the farm a few days before she did, and we promised to keep in touch.

She visited Delhi in late September and we were both delighted to meet again! I wanted to impress her (ahem!) with an Indian meal. She loves tofu, so a tofu-based dish was naturally on the menu. I remembered she had once talked fondly about having “chopped vegetables floating in a cold yogurt sauce” on her previous visit to India before she went vegan. Of course, I knew what she was referring to & decided to make her a vegan version (my specialty—yayy! I’ll impress this lady!!) And since I’m really bad at making rotis, I wasn’t taking any chance (NOT with this woman!) and chose to go the safe way with a simple veggie pulao.

With the menu for the lunch decided, I now stressed over what to make for dessert (I need to impress her, remember??) After playing around with ideas of making something “fancy” like vegan ras malai, kaju katli, or mishti doi, I eventually decided to go with our good ol’ kheer. After all, what could be a better way to finish off a simple home-cooked Indian meal than with a bowl of sweet, creamy, and fragrant rice kheer?

Josefina takes a spoonful and a nostalgic smile blooms on her face, “Hey! This is exactly like the arroz con dulce my mom used to make when I was a kid! You’ve taken me back to my childhood!”

Wow. So, my kheer actually reminds my friend from a faraway land of her sweet childhood memories?  I’m honored! She happy, me happy. Mission “Impress Josefina” accomplished 🙂

Vegan Rice Kheer with Jaggery

Preparation time: 1 hour, approx.

Serves 3

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup Basmati rice, soaked in water for 20 minutes & drained
  • 2/3 cup Jaggery powder, tightly packed (substitute with sugar if desired)
  • 4 cups coconut milk
  • ½ cup broken cashews, soaked for 4 hours & drained
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons golden raisins, soaked in warm water for 2 hours & drained
  • 2 tablespoons chopped roasted/blanched mixed nuts
  • 1 stick cinnamon (dalchini)
  • 1 pod green cardamom (choti elaichi)
  • 1 big pinch cinnamon powder
  • 1 big pinch cardamom powder
  • 1 small pinch salt

Method:

  1. Heat oil in a pressure cooker. Add the cinnamon stick, cardamom pod, and soaked rice. Roast for 3-4 minutes over low-medium heat until the rice turns a light golden brown.
  2. Add one cup of coconut milk + one cup of water to the cooker. Pressure cook over low heat for 8-10 minutes. Discard the cinnamon stick and cardamom pod.
  3. Grind the soaked cashews with ½ cup of coconut milk until smooth. Add this paste along with the remaining coconut milk to the cooked rice. Mix well and simmer over low-medium heat for 7-8 minutes, stirring frequently.
  4. Add the jaggery powder/sugar and mix well. Cook for a further 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently until the kheer reaches your desired consistency (it will thicken further after being refrigerated). Turn off the heat.
  5. Add a pinch of salt, cardamom powder, cinnamon powder, raisins, and chopped nuts, and mix well. Serve warm or cold!