Makhana are the puffed seeds of giant water lilies. Makhana or Euryale ferox is an aquatic cash crop in India. The Mallah community of Bihar use indigenous methods for harvesting the seeds of water lily plants, and spend a lot of their time in processing the seeds of this crop. Read an interesting paper on Makhana and its harvesting method here.
I first had my share of Makhane ka Kheer or Makhanar Payesh in Madhubani as a pre-teen. I wasn’t particularly thrilled about the fact that the dessert was made of “seeds”.
I was surprised to find these natural foods here in Toronto at the Indian store. I was quick to grab two packets. We spent the first just snacking on it. I tossed the Makhana in hot ghee and seasoned with salt and pepper and fried them on very low heat till each “seed” got blissfully crispy. They beat a bowlful of calorie-rich buttered popcorn hands down!
But tonight I made Makhanar Payesh or Makhane ka Kheer, a simple dessert of thickened milk (or cream) and the Makhana thrown in and cooked till soft. The chopped almonds and cardamom powder were just the fringe benefits of an innovative dessert.
Ingredients for Makhanar Payesh are:
1 liter half and half cream
250 grams makhana
2 tablespoons ghee
5-6 tablespoons sugar
Few almonds, roughly chopped
Quarter teaspoon powdered green cardamoms
Few strands of saffron (optional)
Start boiling the cream in a thick bottom pan. You could also use milk, I used cream to reduce cook time. Add the cardamom powder and half the chopped almonds to the cream.
In a separate pan, heat ghee and toss the Makhana on low heat till they get crispy and brown on the edges. Keep them aside.
Babysit the milk/cream and keep stirring it continuously. It should reduce to almost half before you add the toasted Makhana. Add sugar.
Cook till the Makhana is soft in the insides. Add the leftover chopped almonds and sprinkle some saffron before you serve. The Makhanar Payesh can be served either warm or chilled.