My first time having Indian food was, sadly, not a pleasant experience. Phillip and I were then high school students forging our own culinary tastes. I can’t recall if it was one of us who came up with the idea to try Indian food, or if it was one of the friends who accompanied us, Ben or Megan. This was before I Yelped every restaurant I went to, but based on the restaurant’s current ratings, it’s actually decent, and we were just assholes.
I’m not sure what kind of cursory research went into our dining options, but we found ourselves bouncing through a parking lot pockmarked with potholes to land in front of a dingy-looking strip mall. Our restaurant of choice stood adjacent to an insurance office and a nail salon. We exchanged suspicious looks, then bravely set forth to meet our dinner.
Inside, we were seated near the very front of the restaurant, and as far as I remember, there was only one other family inside and no music. I felt myself holding my breath for fear of breathing too loudly and calling attention to myself. The meal began with several flavors of lassi, one of which was rosewater, and another of which was mango. All were served room temperature, which really threw me for a loop. Surely, this was not foodsafe, I thought. At the time, the rosewater flavor grossed me out and I thought the mango tasted like grass. I had never eaten a mango.
I don’t recall actually ordering anything, but after the lassi course, we were brought empty metal platters with many sections, kind of like a cafeteria tray. Someone pointed us to a tablecloth-covered folding table that housed several chafing dishes which, to my memory, did not have lids, as we could see various murky substances lurking in each dish from our table. We looked at each other, confused, and then realized that we had ordered the buffet. One of us, I think Ben, made the first move, and we followed suit.
After the meal, we were all a little dazed. We piled into the car and began to laugh about what we had just experienced and how awkward the meal was. Megan sped through a red light and we made jokes about her driving skills. Megan, still high-strung from the meal, snapped at us that if we didn’t like her driving, then we should have driven ourselves. Like scolded children, the rest of us shut up and sulked, and we all endured a painfully silent car ride home.
What’s funny is that other than the lassi, I can’t remember anything about the food! I’m sure it wasn’t bad, because we didn’t write off Indian food forever. In fact, it is one of the most common cuisines we make for dinner, and going to our favorite local Indian restaurant is the highlight of my month. But the strangeness of that original place mixed with our teenage cynicism made me wary of Indian food for a little while. Megan still won’t eat Indian food to this day.
The only thing I haven’t gotten used to is kheer, Indian rice pudding. I love American rice pudding, so I was pretty jazzed when I found out that Indian restaurants served it for dessert. Until I realized that it was more like a sweet rice soup, instead of a thick pudding like I was used to. I’ve always really enjoyed the flavors of kheer, but not the consistency. When I ordered some in my takeout a few months ago, I began daydreaming of churning it into ice cream.
I loaded my Kheer Ice Cream up with all kinds of good stuff: basmati rice, saffron, and cardamom, of course, but also cashews and sugar-plumped golden raisins. And to make things even better, I went ahead and made cardamom waffle cones. It’s so good, it might even be able to get Megan to end her boycott on Indian food. She’ll always be a crazy driver, though.
- ½ cup (80 grams) golden raisins
- ¼ cup plus 2 teaspoons (70 mL) water
- ¼ cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup (65 grams) basmati rice
- 1 tablespoon ghee
- ½ teaspoon saffron threads, lightly crushed
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
- 2 cups (480 mL) heavy cream
- 1¼ cups (300 mL) whole milk
- ⅔ cup (135 grams) granulated sugar
- ¼ cup (75 grams) light corn syrup
- ¼ cup Sugar Plumped Raisins, drained (optional)
- ¼ cup (35 grams) toasted cashews, roughly chopped (optional)
- 2 egg whites
- 2 large eggs
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
- 1⅓ cup (160 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- Place the raisins in a small, heatproof bowl. Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Pour the syrup over the raisins and cool to room temperature. Transfer the raisins and syrup to a covered container and keep chilled in the refrigerator until ready to use, up to 1 month.
- Place the rice in a fine mesh strainer. Rinse under cold water for a minute or so, using your hands to rub the rice, until the water runs clear.
- In a large saucepan, melt ghee over medium heat. Add rice, saffron, and cardamom and stir to coat. Toast the rice in the ghee for about 2 minutes, stirring often. Add cream, milk, sugar, and corn syrup to the saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently, then reduce heat to low, cover the saucepan, and simmer for 30 minutes, until the rice is fully cooked and very soft.
- When the ice cream base has about 3 minutes of simmering time left, prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice and water. Open a gallon-sized freezer bag, roll the cuff down, and prop it open wide. When the rice in the ice cream base is cooked, carefully pour the ice cream mixture into the freezer bag. Seal the bag, submerge it in the ice bath, and let it rest in the ice bath until cold, adding more ice as needed. This will take about 30 minutes.
- When the ice cream mixture has chilled, pour it into the frozen bowl of an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer's instructions. When the mixture is thick and creamy, add in the raisins and cashews, if using. Transfer the ice cream to a freezer-safe storage container. Press parchment against the surface of the ice cream, and seal the container. Freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together egg whites, eggs, and salt until combined. Add sugar and whisk for about a minute, until the egg mixture lightens slightly in color. Stir in flour and cardamom until combined and lump-free. Whisk in the melted butter until the batter is smooth.
- Heat your waffle cone iron and cook and roll the waffle cones according to the manufacturer's instructions.