Meethe Chawal – Sweetened Rice with Whole Spices

There is something about cold, dreary and dull weather days that make you crave warm, comforting and homey food – may I say anything and everything sweet? Gud wale chawal or sweet rice made with jaggery are a winter staple in Punjab, especially around this time of the year, since it is sugarcane harvest time in Punjab. I have not had a huge success making gud wale chawal, I always feel that even after cooking them for long enough I end up with rice that are under-cooked. I am not giving up on that recipe yet and will keep trying different techniques until I get the flavor and doneness that is stored in my memory. Dr. A’s buaji (his dad’s older sister) was famous in the family making gud wale chawal and I had a pleasure of tasting her rice once, but unfortunately I never got to ask her for the recipe or any tips.

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I wanted to try making sweet rice without cooking them in a sweet syrup, to maintain the texture of rice while still ending up with perfectly sweetened dish. I thought about the Persian technique of cooking rice low and slow for longer time to infuse the essences into each and every grain of rice and making for an excellent presentation and great flavor. So I experimented with parboiling the rice while I soaked the aromatic spices in rose water. After the rice were about 1/3 way cooked, I drained the rice and mixed in sugar and then returned the rice to a pot with warm ghee, bhoonoed the rice for just a few seconds, added the aromatics and “dum-cooked” (with no added water) it for 20-25 minutes. And the result – my friends – is superb. I can’t wait to hear from you if you give this recipe a try. Simple approach to a dish that, when you taste it, feels like it came from some Royal Mughlai kitchen..hah!

Ingredients:

Basmati rice – 1 cup

Water – 4 cups

Saffron strands – a pinch

Rose water – 1 tablespoon
Green cardamom – 2 pods, cracked open
Cloves – 3
Cinnamon stick – about a 1 inch piece or half a stick
Ghee (recipe here) – 2 tablespoon (plus more for serving)
Sugar – ½ cup
Salt – a generous pinch

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Method:

In a small bowl, soak together saffron, cardamom, cloves, in rosewater; set aside to steep.

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Set a medium heavy bottomed sauce pan on high heat. Add water to the pan along with a pinch of salt. Cover and bring to boil. While the water is heating up, rinse and drain rice. After the water comes to a roaring boil, add the rice and boil until 1/3rd to half way cooked – about 8 minutes. Carefully drain the rice into a sieve and transfer to a cookie sheet. Stir sugar gently through the hot rice until completely mixed. Heat the ghee in the same pan in which the rice was boiled and add the sweetened rice. Mix and heat the rice gently till all the grains are coated with ghee, about 30 seconds, Sprinkle the rose water mix on top. Cover the rim of pan with a kitchen/tea towel or several layers of paper towels and place lid on tightly. Cook on very low heat for about 20-25 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes and then gently fluff with a fork. Transfer to a serving platter. Drizzle some ghee on the rice while hot and enjoy!

Love – Vaishali.

Notes:

I have not added any nuts or dried fruit in this dish (since we have allergies in our family) but adding nuts would be great. Fry about a tablespoon each of almonds, cashews and raisins in ghee and add them to the rice when you add the rose water.

These heat up nicely in microwave. So if you have leftovers, just nuke them in a bowl covered with a wet paper towel.

Tools used:

Sauce pan with tight fitting lid

Cookie sheet

Measuring cups and spoons

Sieve/colander

Spatula and fork

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