Wedding festivities are in the air at the moment.If there is one drink that comes to mind especially during such celebrations it is the badam kheer.
Now the actual process of making this special drink is not to be taken lightly. It always involves the expert guidance of an elder who must be present to make sure that it is just perfect.
Over the years my cousins and I have gulped many tumbler-fulls of this delicious concoction while being privy to many loud conversations amongst our respective mothers and their mothers ,aunts discussing the finer nuances of a well made badam kheer. An amusing quality about this milky offering is in the way that it was pronounced. It was never two words as it is meant to be but rather amalgamated into one and called ‘badamgheer’ or at times even ‘badangheer’ 😀 😀 . I’m not sure if that habit is changed even today when we converse in the vernacular !
Now the badam kheer in our homes were never served in dessert cups but in small well polished silver tumblers or in fat short glass ones. They would be served hot or cold depending on the time at which they were served and of course the weather. I always preferred it chilled to an extent where the condensed droplets of water were visible on the surface of the container . The glasses would arrive in great volume perched on an extra large tray, leaving no doubts whatsoever as to the contents it carried. While we girls quickly downed one before surreptitiously reaching for the next, the badam kheer would be going through a palate testing by the matriarchs in the family.
A small quantity sipped on delicately would then be swirled around the tongue to check on the level of graininess , the amount of sugar used and all this only after checking on the colour. It had to be just the right shade of a pale buttercup yellow was the result of using the correct amount of saffron strands. The saffron again would have been handed over with a watchful eye. Too little and it’s decided straight away that it must be in the kitchen helper’s pocket. Too much and they mutter about it going to waste and people not knowing the value of ingredients.
Yes , we’ve heard all of that and more and it continues to this day. One time my grand aunt was visibly upset that she couldn’t spot a single strand of saffron floating about in anyone’s glass. A little while later we discovered to our dismay , a clump of saffron strands at the bottom of the bowl. It simply had not been stirred through properly.The cook responsible for this treat on that particular day received a suitable dressing down, one he’s likely to never forget.
The badam kheer is a preferred welcome drink for several reasons.It comprises of ingredients that are not only considered auspicious for good tidings but equally high on nutrition. In fact I took to this drink only around my mid teens and it is best enjoyed as an in between snack ,never immediately before or after a meal !
Having gotten a little confident in the kitchen I thought why not try and replicate this creamy sumptuousness by substituting an ingredient or two. The first thing that had to go was the white sugar so the lighter palm jaggery in powder form is what came up as a great alternative. What about almond milk instead of cow’s milk was my next thought. The only problem came while heating up the almond milk. Boiling it was not advisable as it would change taste and nutrient profile. So a very gentle heating and stirring for a good 15 minutes seemed to help. I had to be generous with the quantity of saffron,to get it to an appetizing hue and aroma.
The garnishes differ from finely chopped pistachios to thinly flaked almonds to fried chironji (saara paruppu).I’m quite happy with it plain but the one thing that will definitely not be added are pinches of cardamom powder however tiny. Our badam kheer taste buds were never quite accustomed to include that !