Make your festival meals exotic as well as healthy, with this Forbidden Black Rice Kheer, flavoured with vanilla and enriched with apricots. The result is a delicious festival treat, truly fit for the Gods! As the rice cooks, the aroma wafting through the house has to be experienced to be described!
This recipe was created when I participated in Teena Sunoj’s mystery box Onam Payasam challenge. The ingredient I found in my mystery box, was Black Rice. I had already made salads using Black rice, and was happy for the opportunity to try out a payasam for our Onam round up.
Black Rice is used in Indian kitchens in the North East and in Chettinad cuisine as well as in Kerala. The variety of rice differs from place to place, with some varieties turning a dark purple hue when cooked. In this recipe I have used a Black Rice with purple, black and brown grains, a Heirloom variety from First Agro Farms of Talkad, Mysore. Any sticky Black rice should give similar results.
A little time spent on the net gives interesting information: that Black Rice was first cultivated in China, some Ten thousand years ago, and for hundreds of years was reserved solely for the culinary pleasure of Chinese Royalty and noblemen: hence the name ‘Forbidden Rice’ or ‘Emperors Rice’, as its consumption was not permitted for the common people. The Rice was grown in limited quantities and the distribution carefully controlled.
Black rice may not always be Black, it could be pinkish, brown, purple, grey, or shades in between, and of course, black!. When cooked, some varieties may be glutinous and sticky, due to high levels of amylopectin ( a major component of starch, and made up of glucose units).
The black colouring is due the abundant presence of anthocyanin, which is what makes for colourful purple grapes, blueberries, aubergine … You get the picture? Perhaps these ancient Chinese Emperors knew a thing or two: that this Black rice that they reserved for themselves, was highly nutritious, fabled to increase both health and longevity, and in fact called ‘tribute rice’ or ‘longevity rice’ during the Ming Dynasty.
In India this rice is grown in Manipur, and is available in some gourmet stores and on online stores. If, like me, you are lucky enough to live in Bangalore, then you can get the Zero pesticide, non-GMO variety from First Agro Farms through their distributor, Sakura Fresh.
Black Rice Health & Nutrition: (sourced from various online sites): Do check with your doctor for the individual suitability or otherwise of consuming any of these items, however healthy they are said to be, specially when being treated for any illness.
Rich in disease fighting antioxidants, contains vitamins like B1, B2, folic acid; essential amino acids such as lysine, tryptophan; minerals including iron,copper, zinc, calcium and phosphorus; anthocyanin- said to help lower the risk of heart attacks by preventing plaques from building up in the arteries, as well as to fight cancer.
Ongoing research is being carried out, to support the view that consumption of Black rice can prevent Alzheimer’s Disease, Diabetes and even Cancer. Low in calories, high in flavonoid phytonutrients, and a rich source of fibre as well as Vitamin E.
In this recipe for Black Rice Payasam or Kheer, the addition of vanilla subtly complements the fragrance of the rice, and along with the Apricots, lifts an exotic ingredient to a delicious, aromatic dish. No ghee is used in the preparation, and pistachios substitute for the traditional cashewnuts.
Soaking the rice for about 3 hours, reduces the cooking time. The rice could be soaked overnight, however for the variety that I used, 3 hours was more than enough for the rice to cook into a soft and yet chewy texture.