Shahi Makhana Kheer: Indian opulence through food

A dessert only worthy for royalty; the Shahi Makhana Kheer is an Indian preparation that makes use of the Foxnut.

Food is as cultural as it is personal. We borrow from the larger framework of food heritage and curate our own personal palate.  The minute customizations, if flavorfully palatable to the generations it passed on to, add to the overarching framework.

The Shahi Makhana Kheer is very deeply embedded in Indian cultural, regional and religious heritage. It’s simplicity and versatility gives it an extra edge. The heritage value of food is also rooted in its geography – what grows where, in what quantity and when it should be consumed.

The main ingredient of this sweet Indian delicacy is the Foxnut. It comes from the gorgon plant that mostly cultivated in low land areas of Indian, china and Japan. In several states of North India, this kheer (sweet pudding) is made during festivals, and offered to deities as well . Within the ‘Mithila culture’ of Bihar, it is the most popular dessert during festivals. In Punjab, however, it is also used as a roasted savory snack.

It is sometimes added to certain vegetable curry preparations. The Foxnut (makhana) is a puffed Lotus Seed – it looks almost like popcorn, but a more nutritious, flavourful and textured version of it.

There are several ways to make the foxnut pudding. The one we are going to elaborate on is a royal version with some rich ingredients and personal touch with some brown sugar!

The ingredients are as indulgent as the dish to be cooked!
Image: Jessica Singh

 

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups makhana (puffed lotus seeds)
  • 1/2 cup rice (cooked and mashed)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp almonds (blanched and sliced, approx. 2 tbsp)
  • an equal amount of pistachios (sliced, approx. 2 tbsp)
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom (crushed)
  • saffron (Few strands)
  • 2 teaspoons ghee (clarified butter)

The dry fruits, as one can see, form a major chunk of the ingredients. These not only provide a really unique texture to the kheer, but also make it extremely nutritious.

 

The Shahi Makhana Kheer is rich, homely, and often revitalizes childhood memories for me.
Image: Jessica Singh

Procedure:

  • One can begin by taking heavy bottom pan to melt the ghee and put it on low heat.
  • Add the makhana and sliced almonds and roast them for about 2 minutes.
  • After this add the milk and rice, turn the heat to medium high, and bring the milk to boil.
  • Once the milk comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and let it boil for the next 20 mins. During this time keep stirring and scraping the sides while the foxnut softens.
  • Add the cardamom now, as the slight hint of green spreads, add the saffron strands for a sudden glorious yellow glow. After this, add half this pistachios (the remaining will be used for garnishing).
  • Now, take a heavy bottom saucepan, grease the pan and add sugar. Keep stirring the sugar continuously till the sugar starts melting and changes colour to a light brown.
  • Turn the heat off and stir till it becomes golden brown. Be careful not to burn it. This whole process will take about 5 minutes.
  • Now, add the golden sugar to the kheer, put it on low heat, and keep stirring till it melts completely. This is this last step that will add a very unique flavor to this kheer.

The shahi version of this kheer is generally served warm but it can be served cold too. Empty it out in bowl and garnish generously. While you will be assured that it tastes royal; it should also look royal! A feast for the eyes can be a treat for the tastebuds too!

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