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Kheer is a classic Indian sweet pudding, made with all sorts of things, from vermicelli to rice, to wheat berries, to tapioca pearls – the flavors are as diverse as the different states of India that make it!
Vermicelli Kheer (shevai or semiya kheer) is one of those quick desserts that we make to celebrate things big and small: the traditional recipe involves cooking vermicelli (previously sautéed low and slow in ghee, or clarified butter) in warm milk, perfumed with cardamom, until the milk reduces to about half its original volume. Raisins are plumped up in more ghee, cashews fried in some more, and finally the entire saga of it all is topped with saffron (bloomed in a teaspoon or so of warm milk).
Part of what makes Kheer so special in all its simplicity, is the time and love that is put into it. But sometimes you have all the love in the world and none of the time to put it into – that’s where this shortcut Kheer recipe will come in handy! It is simple and straightforward, and distills the essence of Kheer in 10 or so minutes with just a few ingredients – the steps are easy enough for little hands to make (with some help from mom or dad, of course)!
We start by warming the milk with some smashed cardamom pods (or ground cardamom) in the microwave, while sautéing the vermicelli in ghee in a small saucepan. Then pour the milk (using a sieve or strainer if using whole cardamom pods) into the saucepan, and cook for a few minutes. Once it’s cooked, add condensed milk to thicken and sweeten the Kheer! Add a few strands of saffron, if using, and you are done!
You can garnish the Kheer with slivered or sliced almonds, or chopped cashews, or chopped pistachios (sautéed in a bit of ghee, for bonus points!). You can add dry fruits, such as raisins into the mix (sauté it in the ghee before adding the vermicelli to the pan). But neither are needed to make Kheer that reminds you of home!
Makes 2 servings
1 1/2 cups whole milk
8-10 cardamom pods, smashed open in a mortar and pestle, or, 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
Few strands of saffron (optional)
1 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter)
1/2 cup thin vermicelli noodles
2 tablespoons raisins (optional)
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons slivered or sliced almonds, or any chopped nuts (such as pistachios or cashews) (optional)
Small mortar and pestle, Microwave-safe measuring cup or bowl, strainer/sieve, medium-sized pot, wooden spoon or silicone spatula
Place the whole milk, smashed cardamom pods (or powder, if using) in a microwave-safe measuring cup (preferably with a spout), and warm it in the microwave for 2 minutes.
Turn on the stove to medium-low heat, and place the pot on it. Add the ghee. Once it starts to melt, add the the vermicelli noodles to the pan and stir with a spoon for 3-4 minutes until they are slightly brown. Stir often to make sure they cook evenly and don’t brown too much! Take the pan off the stove for a minute.
Slowly pour the warm milk into the pan (if using pods, then pour it through a sieve/strainer). Stir again to mix everything well, and put the pot back on the stove. Add saffron, if using.
Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring often, or until the vermicelli noodles are soft and almost cooked, like spaghetti. Don’t forget to keep stirring often!
Add the condensed milk to the pan (it will be thick!), and cook for 1-2 more minutes.
Serve the Kheer in small bowls or in pretty teacups. Top it with sliced almonds (if you’d like!) and enjoy it warm!