*Bellocq's blend, The Queen's Guard, pairs perfectly with this elegant dish. It's a Ceylon tea with bits of rose and lavender mixed in, a very lady like tea indeed. It reminded of my first trip to India (seen above), where my father and I adventured through the South he photographing Chettiar Mansions and I documenting the food, life, music, religion and anything else my 16 year-old brain could process. One particularly grueling day (we were working) we chanced upon a mayor figure who of course invited us into his home for tea, a lush hodgepodge of British colonialism and South Indian traditions. There's nothing finer than a cuppa, a few cookies and a deliciously large couch to curl upon after pushing it in the dusty heat.
The Queen's Guard takes me straight into that surreal moment almost 15 years ago, where the old English world met Ancient Hindu wall hangings, amidst the flood of stained glass window light, regal teak furniture, the scent of just over-the-hill marigolds, unfortunate elephant tusks and row upon row of loungers --my tea swirling with cream, my Dad pausing to make my picture and my achy body sinking deeper into the comforts of the kind gentleman's beige chairs.
*I visited Bellocq a few months ago
1 cup Rava (Cream of Wheat or Bob's Red Mill Whole Wheat Farina will work fine and are available at most grocery storesl)
3 tablespoons butter
1 heaping tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 cup milk (dairy, soy, almond: whichever you prefer)
1/3 cup mango juice (orange, apricot, or pineapple juice would work too)
1 1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 pinch saffron
1/2 teaspoon salt
contents of one vanilla bean
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup cashews for garnish
In a small skillet, heat the cashews on a low flame until fragrant and golden brown, set aside. Heat butter in a medium-sized pot on a gentle flame, add rava and stir until you can smell a toasted, nutty aroma and some of the rave is turning golden. Add the milk, mango juice and water, stir to combine.
Add the remainder of the ingredients and cook until the rava has absorbed all the liquids, about 3-4 minutes.
Scoop the mixture into 3/4 or 1/2 cup dishes or alternately, spread the Kesari Bhaath into a cake pan and cut into slices after it has cooled slightly (very much like polenta!). Serve hot, warm, or room temperature. Garnish with the toasted cashews and seasonal fruits, if desired.