During winter ma always used to make a beet dessert, which I have been craving lately. A fellow blogger posted her beetroot halwa recipe earlier this month and that heightened my craving. Beets are in season now and I bought a beautiful bunch of beets from the farmers’ market on Saturday. I called ma today for the recipe. She learned the recipe from my grandmother, who used to make this beet-payesh(payasam) for my ma and my aunt, she said. She explained that I need to boil the milk first, with a bay leaf and a few cardamoms, and then add the grated beet along with a handful of raisins. In a separate pan I would have to dry roast three teaspoons of semolina and then add a teaspoon of ghee to it. Once the milk had thickened and the beet cooked, I would have to add sugar and the semolina to it and cook for just a couple more minutes.
I love how a beet transfuses its color to anything and everything, be it your fingertips, the chopping board or to the other ingredients in your recipe. While making this dessert today, the evaporated milk I used turned into a beautiful hue of pink once I added the grated beet. By the time I was done cooking the intensity of the color had reached a mesmerizing height.
I remember ma often used to serve this dessert warm and it was perfect for those pleasant winter evenings in Kolkata.
Here I can almost feel a nip in the air at dawn these days, a herald of autumn.
I was introduced to aam-kheer by my mother-in-law. It’s a luscious concoction of whole milk reduced to a heavy cream-like consistency, which is called kheer in Bengali, fresh mango (aam) pulp and sugar. The way she prepares it is a bit different though. Instead of adding mango pulp to the kheer, she garnishes it with bite-sized mango pieces. And that is how I have begun to love it.
During a phone conversation with her a couple of weeks back, she had mentioned that she was making aam-kheer. The thought of aam-kheer lingered on, even after the conversation had ended.
I had picked up some Haitian mangoes from the grocery store on Sunday and there was this long forgotten can of evaporated milk in the pantry. The ingredients were on hand; all I had to do was put them together, really. I did it, today. Just that I decided to go down the pulp-way this time around. And as long as I was doing something new, I decided it was okay to blend in three strawberries as well.
Reducing whole milk to kheer is a painstakingly long process but that’s how Bengali women have been doing it for generations. My ma does it that way, so does my mother-in-law. I on the other hand recourse to a can of evaporated milk. Just ten minutes of boiling and the kheer was ready. I stirred in the mixture of fresh mango and strawberry pulp once the kheer had completely cooled down.
The strawberries did to mango, what coffee does to chocolate — heightened its flavor.