Payesh (Rice Pudding) and Happy Diwali!

Have you ever heard of Diwali? We Indians kind of go bonkers over this festival. You can call it our Christmas. We clean houses, paint them new, dress them with beautiful lights. We pray to Goddess ‘Lakshmi’ for prosperity and wealth.

We draw ‘Rangoli’ – beautiful patterns that are drawn onto the ground of our living rooms or courtyards, using chalk or colorful powders and then embellished with a variety of fillers like flower petals or shimmering metallic sand, like this one that I drew.

Diwali Rangoli

Today we are celebrating Diwali, which is also called a festival of lights. It is primarily celebrated to mark the victory of good over evil. Diwali is short for ‘Deepavali’ or row of ‘deeps’. Deep is a clay lamp the size of a tea-light candles. This festival is celebrated with great pomp and show across India. Interestingly, it is also one of the few festivals that is celebrated by few different faiths – Hindu, Jain and Sikh.

In Hinduism, it is observed to celebrate the triumphant return of Lord Ram to his kingdom Ayodhya’, after vanquishing Ravana, the monster king who had kidnapped Sita, Lord Ram’s wife. The kidnap and rescue story of ‘Ramayana’ makes a great read in itself, but it also provides some great life lessons, like all holy books do.

Oh, let me not miss the most important part. We love to dress up – silk and gold if we can. Completely traditional of course, complete with ‘bindi – the famous ‘red dot’ on the forehead. Quite like this:

Can’t miss the food part, right? We cook, a lot. Lots of food.


Luchi – Deep fried puffed flatbread


Dum Aloo




Vegetable Biryani




I would love to write all the recipes right away, but it will have to wait. While I am running around making preparations, I will squeeze in the recipe for ‘Payesh’ – the rice pudding.

It’s a traditional Indian dessert made out of rice and thickened milk. It has quite a few names – rice pudding, kheer, payasam. We Bengalis call it Payesh.

Brown Rice pudding


I gave this traditional sweet a twist – I made it out of brown rice and added agave nectar instead of sugar. The flavors that came out were very similar to the ‘gud payesh’ we cook in Bengal. Gud is jaggery, and cooking payesh with date jaggery is a delicacy many of us crave for. Unfortunately, date jaggery is not to be found anywhere outside rural Bengal.

Why Brown Rice? It is a Power Food, that’s why.

I am a part of this exceptionally talented blogging group that showcases a Power Food each week. The Power Food ingredient each week is based on the book Power Foods: 150 delicious recipes with 38 Healthiest Ingredients from the editors of Martha Stewart’s Whole Living Magazine. It’s amazing the kind of food that fall under the purview of Power Foods. You can find these ingredients in everyday kitchen. They provide an outrageous amount of nutrients – fiber, vitamins, iron, calcium, magnesium, minerals, phytonutrients, fatty acids – and anything else that you can think of that aids in promoting good health and healthy food habits.

This week, we blog about Brown Rice. Do check out my fellow Power food bloggers:

5.0 from 2 reviews
Payesh (Rice Pudding) with Brown Rice
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Indian
A rich creamy dessert of rice and milk
  • 1 ltr Whole Milk
  • 2 tbsp brown rice
  • 1 cardamom
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¼th c cashews
  • ½ tsp unsalted butter
  • ¼ c sultanas or golden raisins if available
  • 2 tbsp Agave nectar (adjust to taste)
  • few strands of saffron (optional)
  1. Rinse the rice thoroughly in warm water, and soak it for at least 2 hours or more in 2 cups of water. (See *Notes below)
  2. Bring the milk to boil in a heavy bottomed pan. (See **Notes below)
  3. Don't let it flow over. As it nears boiling point, start stirring it.
  4. Add cardamom and bay leaf.
  5. Reduce to low, and simmer the milk. Stir it gently every few minutes so that the milk does not stick to the bottom.
  6. Drain the rice, and let it dry for 15-20 minutes while the milk is getting reduced.
  7. Reduce the milk till it's about ¾ the quantity.
  8. Add rice, and cook on low for 25-30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so.
  9. Check for doneness.
  10. While the rice is cooking, toss the cashews and raisins in ½ tsp butter and add to the rice and milk.
  11. Once the rice is cooked, switch off the flame. Now add Agave Nectar, very slowly. Adjust sweetness to your taste.
  12. Add the saffron strands.
  13. You can serve it hot or Chill for 4 hours and serve cold.
  1. * I soaked it overnight. Brown rice can be tough to cook, soaking helps it cook faster.
  2. **A dutch oven is good, but it should have a thick heavy bottom, or the milk will stick to the bottom and burn, spoiling the milk. Stir the milk to avoid this. It's VERY important.)

21 comments for “Payesh (Rice Pudding) and Happy Diwali!

  1. November 13, 2012 at 8:12 PM

    Wow Minnie, fantastic post. I’ve heard about Diwali but your explanation is much better. I look forward to the rest of the recipes.

    You’re very pretty.
    Maureen | Orgasmic Chef recently posted..Bread PuddingMy Profile

    • November 15, 2012 at 10:30 AM

      Thank you Maureen 😀 (Blushes with pleasure and happiness)

  2. CCU
    November 14, 2012 at 12:41 AM

    You are so beautiful Aunty and everything looks so delicious 🙂
    I love your desserts and hope you and your family have a perfect Diwali 🙂

    Choc Chip Uru
    CCU recently posted..Happy Birthday CG 2012!My Profile

    • November 15, 2012 at 10:31 AM

      Thank you Uru, I hope you guys had a blast too!! Have a great new year ahead.

  3. November 14, 2012 at 4:34 AM

    I’d love to attend a Diwali celebration one year-when you said it was like Christmas I thought “I’m in!!” 😀 Happy Diwali!
    Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella recently posted..Made From Scratch: Cured Salmon GravlaxMy Profile

    • November 16, 2012 at 11:41 AM

      Thanks Lorraine!! Any time you want!!

  4. November 14, 2012 at 7:16 AM

    I’ve never heard of Dilwali. It sounds like a very festive occasion. Love the photo of you all dressed up xx
    Hotly Spiced recently posted..The Wrong Side of the Law and…Caramel PopcornMy Profile

    • November 16, 2012 at 11:43 AM

      It is the biggest Indian festival, celebrated all across the country. Because of the diverse culture and rituals Indian states follow, there are very few festivals which are celebrated with equal fervor be it North or South. This is the only one that is celebrated whether one is in East, West, North or South.

  5. November 14, 2012 at 7:43 AM

    wow minnie u look awesome in traditional wear. happy diwali dear and ur dish looks amazing. i cant wait for u to post other dishes
    meena recently posted..Sago kesari— a guest postMy Profile

    • November 16, 2012 at 11:55 AM

      Thank you SO SO much Meena 🙂

  6. Bhaskar
    November 14, 2012 at 11:25 AM

    Till date I have found, kheer made by you bengalis are the best. Its so different and much much more tasty than kheer made anywhere else. And best is the one you all make with that khajoor waala gud. That tastes heavenly!! 😀

    And you are looking as beautiful as ever didi. 😀

    • November 16, 2012 at 11:56 AM

      It does, does it not!!!

  7. November 14, 2012 at 2:55 PM

    You look beautiful and your dishes too.
    kitchen queen recently posted..Baked Samosa RollsMy Profile

    • November 16, 2012 at 11:56 AM

      Thank you so much!!!!

  8. November 14, 2012 at 10:33 PM

    You look so beautiful in a saree. Luchi, dum Alu and payesh! I will take it all thank you! Hope you had a wonderful Diwali!
    Ansh recently posted..How To Cook Brown RiceMy Profile

    • November 16, 2012 at 11:56 AM

      Hey Thanks Ansh, a ton 🙂 You have a wonderful Diwali too!

  9. November 15, 2012 at 11:05 PM

    Happy Diwali! It looks like you were surrounded by beautiful things — from your gold and silk sari, to all of the lovely dishes you so carefully prepared for your celebration. That is a lovely photograph of you. And, I’d love to try your Payesh with Brown Rice.
    Barb @ Profiteroles & Ponytails recently posted..Fifty Shades of Chicken or Foolproof?My Profile

    • November 16, 2012 at 11:57 AM

      Thank you, happy Diwali to you too.

    • November 16, 2012 at 11:59 AM

      Thank you Barb:) So lovely of you to say such kind words!!

  10. November 19, 2012 at 1:03 PM

    What a feast! Thank you for the cultural lesson. I didn’t know what this festival was about. I love that you posted a photo of yourself in your silk dress. Indian silk is so beautiful and colorful. What is the name of the outfit?
    Mireya @myhealthyeatinghabits recently posted..Holiday Stuffed SquashMy Profile

    • November 19, 2012 at 3:54 PM

      It’s called a ‘saree’. Basically it’s a long wrap that you wear over a petticoat and a short blouse. You wrap one third of it around the waist, then put some pleats in which tuck right in front, and then you wrap the rest around the upper body, leaving the end hanging over one of the shoulders.

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