Eating a hearty rice pudding is always one I associate with warmth, comfort and winter. But when it comes to Phirni a chilled bowlful of this delicious pudding made with ground rice and creamy rich milk was the only way I liked it. I remember attending a wedding in Lucknow a few years back and amidst the lavish feast of Awadhi food; ending the meal with Phirni seemed not just fitting but also much needed. Served in little clay pots it was creamy, aromatic and had the essence of floral flavours. Spices such as cardamom give it that required warmth and are delicious in Indian desserts. With Awadhi influences, many communities across India cook and serve this pudding and there are various versions too including those with added fresh fruit.
A slow cooked rice pudding made with coarsely ground rice, Phirni includes floral flavours of cardamom, saffron and rose water. (I love all three!) While much is known about ‘kheer’ Indian rice pudding; this version uses broken/ ground rice which gives it a grainy texture and thickens the mix well. Traditionally it is ideal to let it cool and refrigerate for a creamy consistency although even at room temperature this is a delight. The list of ingredients isn’t exhaustive but feel free to leave out rose water if you prefer.
In a mixer grinder coarsely grind the rice to a grainy mix. Add 50 mls of the milk to the ground rice and set aside. This will soften the rice and let it soak while you get on with the rest of the prep.
In a wide heavy bottom sauce pan heat the remaining milk over a medium flame for 10 minutes. Stir frequently. Add most of the saffron leaving some behind to garnish. Lower the heat and simmer the milk. Scrape the side of the pan and reduce the milk for 25 minutes. Make sure to keep stirring so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
Add the rice mix and continue to cook over a low heat for 15-17 minutes. Stir well as the mix begins to thicken ever so slightly. Now add the sugar and ground cardamom powder. Stir and make sure the sugar is dissolved in the phirni. Simmer for 12 minutes. Turn the heat off and let the phirni cool slightly.
Serve with a garnish of crushed pistachios and remaining saffron strands. Or if you prefer refrigerate the Phirni and serve chilled with the garnish or fresh fruit.