I have the best neighbors in the world. This sweet couple lives nearby that come from Indian and I absolutely adore them. For the wife’s first Halloween in the US I invited them to carve pumpkins with us. (Cause seriously the whole concept of Halloween has to be culturally shocking to people new to the US–zombie worship? Go places to be scared on purpose?). My husband takes a personal interest in carving his pumpkin well each year. So I figured it would be a nice neighborly thing. And that is where pumpkin kheer became known to me.
There is this pretty common dessert in Indian restaurants called Kheer. It’s pretty much the indian version of rice milk or rice pudding. So there are some unique cardamon overtones and cashew bits. Overall I have never craved it, nor have I disliked it. I have just usually enjoyed the main dishes more. As we sat among the scooped out innards of our pumpkins that carving night my neighbor starts to describe this dessert in India that uses the pumpkin. It takes me a moment, but I ultimately realize she is describing kheer only with pumpkin instead of rice. Needless to say I was unimpressed. She began asking me if these jack-o-lantern pumpkins would be used for recipes. I quickly diabused her of that misconception.
“You want a ‘sugar pumpkin’ or a ‘pie pumpkin,’ if you you want to cook pumpkin kheer. They are way smaller and the flesh is more tende”….I seriously don’t’ know how a jack o lantern pumpkin would taste, but if it’s like overgrown zucchini, fairly bland and ultimately unsatisfying. If you have ever eaten a jack o lantern pumpkin please tell me I am so curious.
Anyway my neighbors finished carving and went home with a fun jack-o-lantern and I felt all good with neighborly well-being. And then she showed up a few days later with a batch of pumpkin kheer. Oh. My. Word…..I had a new favorite fall dessert. And it didn’t even have pumpkin pie spice in it. I kid you not! I now make this every fall. I love that it isn’t your typical fall dessert (but I do make those too like pumpkin chocolate chip cookies ) It’s a sweet break from the over-spiced flavors of fall. And now I give you pumpkin kheer or pumpkin sweet milk dessert.
A not-so-typical delicious fall dessert that can only be made when the sweet pie pumpkins are available. No pumpkin pie spice here to make pumpkin kheer
- 1 small Pie pumpkin peeled deseeded and grated
- 1/4 milk
- 5-6 strands saffron
- 1 pint half and half
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp cardamon powder
- Pistachios or raw cashews for garnish
Buy small or medium sized orange colored pumpkin, peel it, deseed and grate it.
Now in a small bowl, add 1/4 cup warm milk, add 5-6 strands of saffron and let it soaked for 5 minutes.
Then, in a heavy bottom pan medium sized, add 1 pint of half and warm it up to an almost boil.
Add grated pumpkin, keep stirring at low to medium heat. Let the pumpkin cook in the hot liquid, about 5 minutes. But don’t let the strands go completely mushy, you want a more tender solid piece.
Add sugar 1 cup.Stir it in let it cook for few minutes.
Add cardamom and the saffron milk prepared above. Stir in.
Garnish with pistachios and/or raw cashews when ready to serve. Or let the nuts sit in the milk while cooling to soften.
I totally left in my neighbors instruction to buy an orange colored pumpkin because I want to know what other colors I can get in India that required that specific detail. Thinner grated pumpkin seems to work better than thicker. You can use a can of sweetened condensed milk instead of the sugar, but that was too sweet for my tastes.