Tuesday, 23 June 2015

rose & cardamom phirni - not your average rice pudding

If you haven't tasted Phirni, you're in for a treat. It's the refined cousin of rice pudding and makes appearances at weddings, Eid and other special celebrations - often anointed with saffron and rosewater, sometimes dressed in silver leaf and bejewelled with pearly almonds and emerald pistachios. Phirni is always served chilled and set in individual portions, far too special to share a dish!

I made Phirni on Sunday as a treat for Iftar, the breaking of fast during Ramadan and also to subtly mark Father's Day as my dad dislikes fussy celebrations that have anything to do with him. He does however love good food. Being obsessed with food, I had planned to make this for Eid but couldn't resist. Mum had already cooked every delicious savoury dish imaginable so I took charge of dessert. As any Bengali will tell you, life is lived to eat. There's no such thing as too rich, too heavy or too sweet. Just keep the food coming.

Although Iftar is meant to be a simple affair, centred on discipline and restraint, it very rarely is. Come sunset, food is piled high on the table and the breaking of fast begins with dates and water, followed by kichuri a savoury dish of rice and lentils cooked to a porridge like consistency, flavoured with subtle spices and fried onions. The Iftar feast also includes an array of dishes such as samosas, a variety of fritters, kebabs and biryani. There's always fresh fruit and juices and lassis (a yogurt based drink made with mangoes, or plain with a touch of salt or sugar). As is the custom, food is also shared with family, friends and neighbours so there’s always something different to taste and something to send over to someone during the course of the month. So you get the picture - It literally is a thirty day feast.

My version is of phirni is infused with cardamom with a kiss of rosewater. I just love this combination of earthy warm and floral in Asian/middle Eastern sweets. Phirni really does bring the humble rice pudding to centre stage with it's extremely simple yet elegant flavours. Because it's made from milk and not cream, it's also surprisingly light. If you want to serve it for dinner, make sure to make it very early that day or even the night before so that it has time to set and is cool. 


Ingredients (serves 8)
I ¼ litres full fat milk
60g ground rice
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
100g sugar
2 tsp rosewater
2 tbs flaked almonds for garnish

Method
Gently rinse the ground rice in a bowl and set aside. The best way to do this is to add cold water, stir with a spoon and let the rice settle. Then carefully tip out water and repeat.

In a large pan bring milk to the boil with the crushed cardamom seeds.

Reduce heat to a very low flame and add the ground rice and sugar and stir continuously so that the mixture does not stick to the bottom of the pan.

After about 20 minutes the mixture should thicken to the consistency of custard. At this point add the rosewater.

With a ladle scoop the mixture into small bowls/dishes and leave to cool at room temperature for about 30 minutes before transferring to the fridge. Chill for at least 2-3 hours.

Garnish with flakes of toasted almonds and a few cardamom pods.



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