Pumpkin treat with nutty bite

KHEER is a creamy, sweet dessert that is always served for joyful occasions.

The classic north Indian sweet rice porridge, though relatively easy to make, does demand paying attention to the simmering milk to keep it from burning.

A standard recipe calls for milk, rice, sugar, ghee and either cashews or almonds, or both thrown in for extra crunch and taste.

It is quite similar to the sweet treat made by people living in the southern states of India called payasam.Kheer with rice is a dessert that I was lucky enough to savour, time and again while growing up, thanks to the few Punjabi families that lived along the road of my family home in Sunrise Park in Kluang, Johor.

I remember my mother’s good friend Serijit Kaur sharing with us freshly cooked and enjoyable kheer, sholay, aloo matar and chapati from the Gurdwara Sahib Kluang.

Decadent sweet orange-hued ladoos, too, would find their way to our dining table.

Pumpkin kheer. — Photos: LOW LAY PHON/The StarPumpkin kheer. — Photos: LOW LAY PHON/The Star

But it was always rice kheer that we consumed, so it was surprising to learn that kheer can be made with carrot, pumpkin, semolina and even oats!

Kheer can also be made with semiya, says Kalvindar Kaur from Seremban, Negri Sembilan.

The first time I tried pumpkin kheer was about four weeks ago at the Gurdwara Sahib Seremban when I stopped by for a visit.

There I saw Sikhs gathering to cook a vegetarian lunch and for dessert was pumpkin kheer.

Since Sikh temples cater to a large number of temple-goers as well as visitors, kheer is cooked in a large pot and stirred with a long stainless steel ladle.

During my visit, I noticed that menfolk were in charge of the stirring and after having tried making kheer myself, it can be tiring on the arms to continuously stir the milk.

I relished every bit of the kheer, once it was served, and was eager to try out this pumpkin version.

The pumpkin kheer recipe is courtesy of the temple committee which Kalvindar sits in.

She explained that kheer was always cooked for special as well as happy occasions.

According to her, it is a dish that is made in every Punjabi household.

Grate the pumpkin to help hasten the cooking process.Grate the pumpkin to help hasten the cooking process.

It is also made by Pakistanis, she added.

Although Kalvindar’s recipe calls for the use of cashews, cooks can get creative and mix almonds and cashews as there is no hard and fast rule.

She encouraged me to use raisins or dates as sweeteners if I did not want to add too much sugar.

I opted for dates and cranberries for sweetness and a sprinkling contrast of colour.

Although there is saffron in this recipe, it can be omitted as it is, after all, the world’s most expensive spice.

Pumpkin kheer has a lovely lemon yellow hue and can be eaten hot, warm or cold.

The idea is to keep stirring until it reaches a thick consistency.

Split the cashews into halves.Split the cashews into halves.

As the kheer cools down, it will thicken even more.

Thick or thin, it is a bowl of sweet goodness that is perfect for a happy occasion especially since Vaisakhi, Vishu, Tamil New Year, Singhalese New Year, Ugadhi Bohag Bihu and Pohela Boishakh celebrations are in April.

Pumpkin kheer

Ingredients6 tablespoons ghee

16 cashews kernels

30g cranberries (or raisins)

65g Medjool dates

400g grated pumpkin

6 to 8 tbsp sugar

1 litre whole milk

Few strands of saffron

1 tsp green cardamom seeds powder

1 tsp rose water

Add the cooked pumpkin back to the pot containing milk.Add the cooked pumpkin back to the pot containing milk.


Peel and grate pumpkin using a box grater and set aside.

Grating the pumpkin hastens the cooking process.

Next heat ghee in a pan over medium heat.

Add cashews, fry until golden brown and remove to a bowl.

Next fry the cranberries (or raisins) for a few seconds, scoop out and set aside.

There is no need to fry the dates.

In remaining ghee, fry the pumpkin.

Cook for five minutes until soft and transfer to a bowl.

Pour milk into the same pot and bring to a soft boil on medium heat.

Continuously stir the milk.

Let it simmer for 10 minutes and make sure it does not stick to the bottom.

Next, add cooked pumpkin and saffron and simmer for another five minutes.

Keep stirring.

The following step is to introduce sugar to the kheer and simmer for five minutes more.

Mix in cardamom powder.

Continue stirring.

Lastly, throw in fried cashews, cranberries (or raisins) and dates.

Add in rose water and continue stirring until the kheer thickens slightly.

Once the consistency is no longer runny and somewhat heavy, turn off the heat.

Kheer can be savoured chilled or warm.

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Pumpkin kheer , Punjabi , Sikh , payasam


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