Most cultures have their own version of a rice pudding. With simple
ingredients like rice, milk, sugar and cinnamon, whipping up a rice pudding is not so difficult. A rice pudding can be thickened with eggs and baked too. This wholesome rice dessert can be prepared in advance for parties and family gatherings. Phirni or Firni is a milk-based creamy dessert popular in the Northern and Frontier regions of India. It is a kind of rice pudding with a twist!
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Step 1: Introduction to Rice Based Desserts
While most rice puddings use rice in its original form, in firni, rice is ground to a paste. You can whip up some phirni quite easily in a few minutes. It then needs to chill for a while in the refrigerator and you can enjoy it. Ideal for warm sunny climes of the Indian subcontinent.
Step 2: Recipe for Phirni
What you need :
Fragrant Basmati Rice - 1/2 cup
Granular sugar 1 1/2 cup
Nuts of your choice : cashews, pistachios or almonds 1/2 cup
Garnish: crushed cardamom - 2 tablespoon
Get some fragrant Basmati rice, about 1/2 cup. Wash and soak in water for about 15 minutes.
Then coarsely grind it to a paste in a blender with a bit of milk. Take about 6 cups of milk and put it to boil. Add the ground rice paste and keep stirring to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the saucepan.
When the mixture begins to thicken, it is time to add the sugar. A test for this is to check if the mixture coats the back of the spoon.
About 11/2 cups of sugar should do well for this batch. Don't forget to keep stirring to avoid lumps. Add crushed cardamom and chopped nuts such as cashews, pistachios and almonds.
Pour this creamy mixture into earthenware bowls. Set it to cool for about an hour. You can cover the bowls with foil to allow the firni to set. In fact, after few hours, firni tastes really good when the flavors acquire a mature level.
You can prepare variants of this basic recipe with ground almonds. Another option is to add rose water instead of cardamom for flavor. Kesar phirni can be made with saffron strands added to the cooking mixture. It adds a heady flavor and color. Mango firni is an all-time favorite during summers when mangoes are aplenty. Silver foil paper is sometimes added on top for a festive look.
An interesting feature of phirni is that it is served in earthenware bowls called shikoras or khullars. Other than helping the firni to set, these khullars impart an earthy flavor to the dish.
Note: The above recipe is inspired by the collection of recipes from the West coast of India as given here: West Coast of India - recipes