Recreating dishes from my childhood is one of my favorite things to do in the kitchen. The smells and flavors bring back so many memories!
Although I love sticking to traditional recipes, sometimes it is also neat to deviate just a little, put my own spin on it and see how things turn out! This is my take on the classic Indian rice pudding or payesh, as we Bengalis call it. My mother has always made payesh for every single birthday in the family and she still makes it for me every time I visit home!
This pudding ended up just as sweet and creamy and thick as the payesh of my childhood, but with an added chewiness that came from the quinoa. Since I did not have access to the special kind of molasses (made from the sap of the date palm tree) that is absolutely crucial for this dish, I had to substitute a quick homemade date syrup that did a fine job in mimicking the flavors of the molasses. Enjoy!
green cardamom pods, slightly bruised
tejpatta (often sold in Indian grocery stores as Indian bay leaf)
Add the whole milk, quinoa, cardamom, cinnamon and tejpatta in a large saucepan on medium heat and bring it up to a gentle boil. Boil for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
While the quinoa is boiling, let's make the date syrup! Add the dates and 2 cups of water to a microwave safe bowl. Make sure that the dates are completely submerged in the water. I used a 4 cup measure and it worked great for me! Microwave for 6 minutes. Using an immersion blender or a food processor, puree the date mixture really, really thoroughly. Strain the date mixture through a fine mesh sieve that is lined with a double layer of cheesecloth. Once the mixture has cooled enough, you should be able to really twist the cheesecloth and get most of the liquid out. In the end you should have about 1 1/2 cups of the date liquid.
Once the quinoa has cooked for 20 minutes, add the date liquid along with a pinch of kosher salt and bring the whole mixture up to a gentle boil. Cook, stirring frequently for about 10 minutes or so, until the mixture has thickened to the desired consistency. It is going to thicken as it cools, so you might want to take it off the heat while it is still a little liquid-y. Fish out the tejpatta, cardamoms and the cinnamon sticks and taste for salt. You can have the pudding at room temperature or chilled, garnished with chopped pistachios. Enjoy!