There's no denying that rice pudding is at the top of the list when it comes to comforting desserts. This classic Indian version, called kheer, is spiced with cardamom and flecked with golden raisins and pistachios, and is sure to become a new favorite. This recipe comes courtesy of Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi; it's one of her favorite things to make for Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights.
Celebrating Diwali Through Food and Family
"Diwali is the biggest Hindu holiday in the calendar — it's like our Christmas and Fourth of July all rolled into one," Lakshmi told Kitchn. "The holiday commemorates the triumph of good over evil, and light over darkness."
And even if you don't typically observe Diwali, Lakshmi says there are several ways to work the celebration — or elements of it — into your routine.
"Make friends with an observing Hindu, find the closest Hindu temple closest to your home, and join in. We always love outsiders interested in our culture," says Lakshmi. "Or even buy a small oil lamp or tea lamp, which are available at most Indian grocery stores or online. If you have children, there are some great children's books about the story of Diwali. Sanjay Patel has a great one called Ramayana: Divine Loophole."
And, of course? Make Lakshmi's rice pudding.
After making this creamy dessert once, you'll likely find yourself making it again and again. It's a celebratory dessert, yes, but it's also humble enough to serve as an everyday treat. It's easy and familiar, but the touch of spicy cardamom really makes it stand out. Top it with your preference of cashews or pistachios, and if you're craving extra richness, make it with half-and-half instead of whole milk.
Padma Lakshmi's Rice Pudding
Serves 4 to 6
short-grain Indian or Italian (Arborio) rice
1 1/2 cups
raw cashews or pistachios, finely chopped
Seeds from 4 green cardamom pods
Ground cinnamon, to taste
Place the rice and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Add the milk, sugar, raisins, cashews or pistachios, cardamom seeds, and cinnamon and simmer, stirring often, until the rice is tender and the mixture is creamy, 30 to 35 minutes more. Serve warm or chilled.
Ingredient variation: For extra richness and decadence, you can substitute the milk with light cream or half-and-half.
Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days.