Without the place that dessert holds in our hearts, our happiness would be incomplete. That seasons and desserts go hand in hand is very true about living in India. Even if one speciality is cooked once throughout the year, you'll still have at least a years’ worth of recipes to make at home. That is the sheer variety of desserts in the country. The matriarchs of the family are quite the experts at collecting these recipes which have been passed down from one generation to another, in an effort to preserve them. Even for a minute, if you hark back to these forgotten recipes which show us how much talent and creativity our ancestors showed in the kitchen, then we wouldn’t be seeking out today’s desirable ‘it’ culture, as 'it' wouldn’t be as interesting as usual.  

In Punjab, beyond the mustard fields, sugarcane is grown in abundance. There are some traditions that revolve around the use of sugarcane in sweet foods and drinks. Although these traditions are popular everywhere, they are closely associated with the culture of Punjab. Jaggery is widely eaten. It is made from sugarcane and then spiced up with some fennel seeds, dry fruits and pepper. Sugarcane juice is a very popular cool drink for heat relief. It is served with a dash of lemon and ginger in tall glasses. 

Photo: Ashwini Chaudhary

But there is much more to Punjab which goes beyond what’s depicted in the popular culture. Creativity goes above and beyond what we see, and that’s why some of the recipes which originated here have a very niche following. But the creators took a lot of things into account such as what to eat as per the climate, how to derive nutritional benefits, how to keep the body cool during high temperatures when the plains became too hot and so on. There’s one particular recipe that is a speciality of Punjab: roh di kheer. It may not be talked about in popular culture, but this is something that every generation should know about.  

Roh di kheer, also called raoh ki kheer, is prepared during the festival of Baisakhi. It is made from sugarcane juice. It also makes use of lassi so that the impurities in sugarcane juice are separated and removed when the former is mixed into the latter. Kheer, on its own, is a rice pudding. So rice is the third main ingredient in this recipe. Last of all, spices and dry fruits are added. An Indian dessert is incomplete without a handful of cashews, raisins, almonds, cardamoms and peanuts, isn’t it?  

In its simplicity, roh di kheer brings many of the health benefits of simple and unprocessed sugar. Sugarcane is an ancient crop that is a major source of dietary fibre, potassium, calcium, iron and several amino acids which the body require. Moreover, sugarcane juice is one of the best drinks for rehydration. So that’s why it is such a popular drink. But like I said earlier, we need to trace and replenish our knowledge of our roots so that we know how to keep ourselves healthy and steer clear of the bad, refined foods that we have become addicted to.  

Here’s a recipe for roh di kheer that you can try to make at home — 

INGREDIENTS 

1 bowl sugarcane juice 

1/2 glass lassi 

1/4 cup rice  

1 tablespoon roasted peanuts  

1 tablespoon almonds, chopped 

1 tablespoon cashews, chopped 

1 tablespoon raisins   

1 1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder 

METHOD 

  • In a pot, add sugarcane juice.  
  • Heat it on medium flame, until it comes to a boil.
  • Add lassi. Stir the mixture, until the impurities in sugarcane juice float to the top.  
  • Add soaked rice.  
  • Cook the kheer on low flame, until the rice is cooked. This should take 20-25 minutes 
  • Once the pudding thickens, then add peanuts, almonds, cashews, raisins and cardamom powder.  
  • Turn off the heat. Allow it to cool. Serve.  

We hope that you’ll enjoy this recipe and share it with your friends and family.