Getting the nolen gur’er payesh recipe right is one of life’s most rewarding experiences. A good payesh (Bengali rice pudding) is one with a rich, creamy, silky texture and just the right amount of sweetness. Also known as ‘kherjur patali gur’er payesh’ because it uses date palm (khejur) jaggery in solid form (patali) as a sweetener, this Bengali sweet recipe can double as a snack and an after-meal dessert. Whether you call it ‘payesh’ or ‘payasam’ or ‘kheer’, this is one of those quintessential Indian sweet dishes that transcends cultures and cuisines.
Nolen gur’er payesh (rice pudding with date palm jaggery) is made by boiling rice and milk together to produce a creamy reduction, and sweetening it with nolen gur. It is a Bengali winter specialty since nolen gur is available during the season. Used in a wide variety of Bengali sweet dishes during the winter months, nolen gur brings a depth of flavour and smell, in addition to mellow sweetness, to whatever dish it is added.
The key ingredients required for making a good payesh are fragrant gobindobhog rice (‘notun aatop chaal’—new, freshly harvested, non-parboiled rice), full fat milk, and good quality nolen gur. The milk to rice ratio is quite high in this recipe (1 litre milk to 50g rice). The fat in whole milk lends creaminess to the payesh and starch in ‘new’ rice helps thicken it. In case you can’t find gobindobhog rice where you live, the ‘kalijira’ or ‘jeera samba’ varieties will also do in a pinch.
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