The writing got me into a frame of mind where I felt ready to experience the silent ten-day Vipassana meditation retreat that my friend Dylan recommended. It was an incredible experience but since this is a patisserie blog, I won’t say too much here except that one of my biggest fears about the retreat was that I was surely going to suffer…
I wasn’t concerned about what it would be like for a hyperactive person to sit in one place for several hours a day or worse still, to meditate cross-legged for a full one hour without moving. Nor was I thinking about waking up at 4 am or what I would find as I exited the outer world to dive into the workings of my own mind and body. Nope, I was worrying about the food. I was anxious that I would suffer from a rumbling, grumbling, hungry tummy, based on the fact that only two meals were to be served every day: 6.30am breakfast and 11am lunch and that we were not permitted to take our own snacks with us.
I am pleased to report that the food turned out to be delicious vegetarian and was served in generous quantities. I only felt hungry once (maybe we really don’t need to eat as much or as often as we think). And I was delighted on the final day: we were served a cardamom scented creamy dessert for breakfast. Bliss!
The dessert was symbolic of the story our teacher, Goenka had narrated the day before about a boy who threw away the bowl of khir his mother had made because he was convinced that there were black stones in it. He was wrong, the black stones were cardamom seeds. He never got to taste the sweet dish. The moral of the story: take out what you don’t like rather than throw everything away. See the recipe for Khir below.
This recipe for Khir (also known as Kheer) requires a lot of time. It will serve 4- 5 people:
250 g cooked basmati rice (or 100 g cooked in 400 ml water)
½ teaspoon salt
2.5 litres milk
150 g sugar
1 ½ teaspoons of cardamom (shelled)
¼ cup of raisins
25 g chopped cashew nuts
35 – 40 ml oil or ghee
For the rice pudding:
Slowly boil the rice with the salt until it has cooked or place your cooked rice in a pot. Add the milk and bring to the boil using low heat. Simmer and stir for approximately four hours or until the rice loses its shape or the milk has reduced to half its original volume. Stir in the sugar and cardamom seeds (I would add the cardamom seeds earlier). You could cook the pudding for a few hours the night before and finish your cooking in the morning if you want to have it for breakfast, as we did.
For the garnish:
Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the raisins and cashew nuts and fry until the nuts are reddish in colour and the raisins have swollen.
Lots else happened during the metaphorical smoke break which I’ll share over the next few posts eg. how to make your own recipe book.
PS. Visit http://indianfood.about.com/od/sweetsanddesserts/r/kheer.htm for a different khir recipe using condensed milk, cardamom powder, almonds and saffron. It is served cold and decorated with rose petals.