Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A Childhood Love Affair

চিনির পায়েস
Payesh with Sugar

Payesh - the simple way

My love for payesh started at an early age. My family and friends soon found out about my infatuation, and suddenly at the slightest hint of a special occasion people were feeding me bowlfuls of payesh. And like any relationship that faces too much outside input, my affection for payesh came to an oversaturated end. I quietly moved on to laccha shemai, and kept my newfound love to myself. However, I couldn't quite forget payesh. There is a certain richness to payesh made with jaggery that isn't quite replicated by any other dessert, and so I made sure to learn how to cook this myself. 

Payesh is a dish traditionally served during special occasions and religious festivals, and has many variations. Of course, the jaggery needed for my favourite iteration is hard to come by in the UK, so the recipe I'm posting just uses sugar. Payesh with sugar is in fact what we mostly had growing up abroad, and what our family would serve during special occasions or dinner parties. For my recipe below I use unrefined sugar and powdered cinnamon to give the dish a slight caramel tint. If I manage to hunt down some jaggery from a store near me, I will make sure to update the recipe with new instructions. The ingredients below should yield enough payesh to make modest portions for 4.


  • 500.00 ml whole milk
  • 100.00 ml water
  • 60.00 g basmati rice
  • 1.00 small knob of butter
  • 3.00 cardamoms
  • 3.00 pinches of powdered cinnamon
  • 60.00 g of unrefined sugar, or to taste
  • Pistachios and raisins, optional for garnish


  • Pour the milk and water into a heavy bottomed (ideally non-stick) pan, and put on medium-low heat
  • Bring the milk to a gentle boil, which should take 10 to 15 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent a skin forming over the liquid
  • Gently crush the cardamoms, and add to the milk along with the cinnamon 
  • Bring the milk to rolling boil, and let it cook and thicken with the spices for around 5 minutes. Continue stirring throughout
  • Rub the butter into the rice, and add to the boiling spiced milk
  • Let the rice cook in the milk, which should take 15 to 20 minutes. Stir frequently while the rice cooks - this will stop the formation of a skin over the milk as well as prevent it from burning
  • Once the rice is cooked, add the sugar and mix into the payesh
  • Continue cooking until the dish reaches the desired consistency - runny or thick and stiff - my personal preference seems to change with the wind
  • Pour into a large serving bowl or individual dessert bowls while still hot, so the payesh can set as it cools down
  • If desired, garnish with chopped pistachios and raisins before serving. The dish can be had warm or cold. I would serve cold as a dessert or for afternoon tea, and warm for a special occasion breakfast.  

Additional Notes
The recipe above is payesh in its simplest form. As I've written earlier, I actually prefer payesh made with jaggery, and will hopefully posting a recipe for such soon. But the dish can get much more interesting. Payesh holds a special significance for Hindu Bangladeshis, and I've seen their recipes use more complex spice combinations - think bay leaves and saffron. In rural Bangladesh, I've also encountered versions of the dish that substitute rice for wheat, papaya or coconut. 

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