Growing up my American girl breakfasts consisted of two things. Either pour a box of sugary, other worldly colored cereal into a bowl with 2% milk (my parent’s attempt at being healthier) or have a classic scrambled eggs, bacon, toast and butter plate. I don’t remember either giving me the same sense of satisfaction or fortification that I find today through my preferred morning meals made from years’ worth of dabbling in the Asian and East Indian cultures.
It all started for me while reading Jumpa Lahiri’s prize-winning novel Interpreter of Maladies in my early thirties. I was enamored by her descriptions of the everyday breakfasts of rice and nurturing spices or mid morning snacks of puffed rice with chilies and turmeric. I went on to study traditional Chinese herbalism and discovered the Asian culture’s penchant for jooks and congees (rice porridges) full of savory bits of vegetables and meat or sweet chunks of dried fruits, beans and nuts. Breakfast seemed so much more meaningful when viewed not as a sugar rush to warp speed the day, nor as a lumberjack worthy carb and fat overload, but something hearty to fill the engine with goodness for endurance, brain power and belly warmth.
I experiment often with recipes that combine all the cultures I admire in this vein but of late, my favorite morning starter has been a simple and convenient Indian Kheer. The dish is basically a rice pudding spiked with nourishing goodies and can be played around with in content but I have been elevating mine most recently by using oatmeal instead and adding precious saffron threads brought home to me directly from India by a dear friend. Saffron does something soothing to the soul, and usually ends up in my favorite risotto, but of late has been making its appearance in this morning bowl, instantly boosting my mood for the day.
SOUL WARMING SAFFRON KHEER
½ cup quick oats
1½ cups almond milk
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ cup dark raisins
Pinch of saffron
2 teaspoons of honey
1 tablespoon chopped almonds
1. Add the oats and almond milk to a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat.
2. Lower to medium-low and stir in the cardamom, raisins and saffron. Cook for 5 minutes.
3. Drizzle with honey and top with chopped almonds.
Makes one big bowlful.