Gluten Free Rice Sheera - by Amruta Nargundkar
A doting father, my Baba indulged unembarrassedly in us when Aai, my mother went away for a week or two to her mother’s or on the few trips she went with her friends.
Baba would get as excited as us kids to be on our own, be able to eat out, watch movies, have no curfew time and do stuff that would usually not get past Aai’s approval.
One year Aai went on a short holiday to Pondicherry with three of her childhood friends at a very short notice. Baba was all game and helped her pack and be off on her way in a matter of hours, which was why we were left without the usual stock of “laadu-chivda” goodies, pre-prepped meals, any arrangements for a neighbouring “aunty” or the maid to come in and help braid my long hair and infinite and invariably forgettable instructions!
No sooner had she gone than I got sick from eating panipuri on the wayside “bandi” while returning from watching the “second show” of a movie on a school night.
This level of indiscretion was possible only in Baba’s reign at home alone.
A day or two later, seeing that I had begun to miss Aai prematurely due to my sickness, Baba set about cheering me up by making my favourite sheera, for the very first time in his life. I was super excited and even offered to help, but he wouldn’t hear of it. All he asked for was the ingredients and I told him just that – the ingredients as I remembered them from hanging around the kitchen while Aai made the dessert. He didn’t ask me for the method and I didn’t tell him because I didn’t know it anyway.
Then I sat back and waited impatiently for the aroma of roasted semolina that I, as the smelling scout, was required to watch out for and tell Aai I had smelt as a measure for the semolina’s doneness. Even as I was waiting for the whole house go agog with the aroma, Baba lovingly brought me a plateful of a green alien looking viscous mass.
Looking sheepish, he confessed that he had boiled water, added sugar, ghee and rava to create the flubber like sheera. And since it looked un-appetizing he had embellished it with all the pistachio nuts in Aai’s secret stock in the pantry. When it still didn’t look good, he added some green food colour.
Although he wasn’t colour blind, he had broad-spectrum names for colours and flummoxed us with his descriptions – like the time he gave us instructions to launder his red trousers that were actually his brown pair.
At best Baba’s sheera could be described as “लय ” (homemade craft glue) or “लप्पम ” - mixed putty.
And did he get teased for it!
Aai brought piles and piles of handmade paper, fabrics and incense sticks from the Sri Aurobindo Paper Factory and was eager to show us the brilliantly hued stuff- but even before we listened to the stories of her adventures, she first had to listen to the tale of Baba’s garish sheera escapade.
Life comes a full circle in the most unexpected ways.
When I was sick with a terrible cold some weeks ago and missing my mum, my first-born decided to make me some sheera. Warning me with dire consequences if I even got out of bed, she set about in the kitchen. The sense of déjà vu that descended even as I was presented with a plateful of sheera deepened when I saw the green colour.
What had possessed her? I had never used green colour in a sheera... and we hadn't talked about the lappum episode in ages...
But the sheera tasted great – certainly not like Baba’s lappum, but not 100% like Aai’s and my sheera either.
I spooned in a few mouthfuls trying to fathom how the fourth generation sheera is different. Watching my face keenly for approval, Amruta asked me in a deceptively casual voice where we stored the semolina. A little digging and it was confirmed that she has used idly rava made with boiled rice.
A new dish is created; a new family legend is born.
My Baba and his granddaughter who has never seen him surely concocted two diverse new confections – a cardamom flavoured craft glue and a gluten free sheera.
But the common denominator is sheera indulgence …
Gluten Free Rice Sheera – by Amruta Nargundkar
1cup rice rava/ cream of rice
¾ cup sugar or Splenda
2 tbsp ghee
A pinch of salt
½ cup low fat cream
½ tsp cardamom powder
A pinch of saffron
2 tbsp chopped pistachios
A few drops of food colour of your choice (totally optional)
Heat ghee in a heavy bottomed pan and add the rice rava and roast on low heat till it turns a light golden colour. Add the cream and stir till it is absorbed. Add about two cups of boiling water and mix thoroughly. Cover and cook on medium heat for a few minutes till white steam emanates from under the lid. Add sugar, cardamom powder, saffron (and food colour, if choose to) and mix. Keep stirring till all the moisture evaporates and semolina is cooked completely. Remove from heat and rest the pan covered for a few minutes.
Garnish with chopped pistachios and serve hot.