Friday, 30 May 2014

Lychee Ras Malai

Kashmir is a curious juxtaposition of beauty and decay, the echo of music and the gasp of anguish... flowers blossom where wounds fester, but the spirit...the spirit soars high, high above the mountains.... the shimmering snow, the swaying trees, the dilapidated houses, the happy homes, the lattice of leaves and the tangled wires, the nervous laughter, a surreal glow. Happy to be home, but the mind wanders....wonders?

Yes, in the last two weeks I was away  frolicking in the valley of Kashmir and boy! did I have a good time? The trip wasn't a smooth ride...but who wants it smooth anyway. But all about the trip in another post. For now, there is only one incident I would like to share with you which of course would lead, in the most circuitous way, to the recipe of the day. 

Now, this was my first time in Kashmir and I was travelling with few other folks. So I had to, though unwillingly, stick to the usual tourist circuit. So, our itinerary include stops at Srinagar, Gulmarg, Sonmarg and Pahalgam. Now Gulmarg and Sonmarg were only day trips from Srinagar, but we stayed overnight in Pahalgam. Our acquaintance in Srinagar who had arranged the trip for us had booked us rooms at a tiny guest house nestled in the hills. The rooms had only basic amenities but offered excellent views of snow-capped mountains. 

What was more exciting for me was that here the kitchen worked differently from a regular guest house and hotel. So you had to order a few hours in advance and only after you had placed your order from a small but hearty selection of dishes, one of the two guys working in the kitchen would head to the market and buy all the ingredients, meat, vegetables, et al. So, there was no doubt that the food on offer was absolutely fresh. On the day we reached, we ordered for Rogan Josh and rice for lunch. 

The lunch arrived after a seemingly unending 2 hours but what was served blew our mind. Huge chunks of meat floated in the soupy gravy. No oil floated on top and yet the gravy was a brilliant red. I poured some of it into the rice, tore off a morsel of meat that came off easily and along with it some delicious fat, scooped a mouthful with my fingers, I was salivating already, and put it in my mouth. Then I died. 

I do not know if it was the fact that we were super hungry or if it was the setting or the fact that the ingredients were super fresh, but that meal was by far the best I have had in Kashmir. The Rogan Josh was brilliant, the meat, with layers of fat, superlative and my heart was doing somersaults. At the end of the meal everyone in the group believed that we were a blessed lot. 

Now comes the twist in the tale. 

Egged on by the success of the Rogan Josh, we ordered for Kashmiri Kheer. We hadn't tasted too many desserts during our stay in Kashmir, and decided this was perhaps the best place to try it considering the culinary skills of the young guy who had whipped up that mind-boggling Rogan Josh. So we ordered, a bowl for each of us. The Kheer arrived three hours later. Yes three hours. A chalky soupy concoction or ground rice, water and milk, and yeah they did say sugar, though we couldn't trace it. I am known for being able to get anything down my gullet, this I couldn't. 

Now, in many parts of the country kheer means rice pudding....for me rice and milk means payesh. Kheer is something quite different. Kheer for me is what Didun used to make and I used to devour with luchi or porota, milk reduced ad thickened with sugar to a thick golden delectable delicacy. Initially I used to be quite confused, now I know. So I was expecting a dessert with rice and milk but not what I got. I have had some excellent meals in Kashmir but this one dish I couldn't get over. It kept haunting me. I had decided I would make some kheer and calm my soul once I got home. 

And I did. 

However when I walked in last evening, the first thing I noticed was a huge mound of lychee on the dining table and my dad popping one lychee after another. Now while everyone celebrated mangoes during summer at my place we celebrate lychee with equal panache. My dad and my brother love lychee and it's crazy how much lychee you'll find at my place during the summer. 

It came to me in a jiffy I will make some Lychee Kheer...Ummmm lets call it Lychee Ras Malai. The Lychee quite looks like rasgulla, no? It's the simplest recipe ever and can be done in a jiffy. My father always ends up bringing too much lychee home and considering the heat some of it simply rot and go to waste. I figured this was a good way to use up some. 


Lychee - 20 (seeded)
Milk - 1/2 litre 
Cinnamon stick - 2 inch 
Sugar - 3 tbsp + 3/4 tbsp 
Pinch of salt 
Water - 1 cup 
Condensed milk - 2 tbsp 


In a pan add the water and 3 tbsp sugar and heat until sugar dissolves and the water begins to boil. Add the lychee and boil for five to six minutes. Keep aside to cool. 

In a pan add milk, cinnamon stick, 3/4 tbsp sugar and pinch of salt stir and place it on medium high heat. Reduce milk to less that half, stirring continuously. 

Add the lychee along with three fourth of the sugar syrup. Stir and combine on low heat, cook for a few minutes, stirring along. 

Finally, stir in the the condensed milk and remove from heat. Add the almond flakes and keep aside. Once it comes to room temperature.Then put it in the fridge to chill.

Garnish with almond flakes and serve chilled. 

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