This particular rice flour pudding was by all means the result of keeping a box of rice flour and a tin of condensed milk side by side in my kitchen drawer for weeks with no inkling that the two could be combined in a single creamy dessert. Originally from Northern parts of India, phirni is a well loved milk dish traditionally served in small earthen pots. Its preparation is somewhat similar to kheer, which is made from whole rice, whereas phirni is prepared using ground rice or rice flour. Best served after it has been chilled for a couple of hours, the traditional recipe calls for full cream milk though I wanted to go along with the condensed milk to make it thick and smooth.

Rose water and saffron are usually added to enhance flavours but please do not omit the freshly ground cardamom to maintain its authenticity. In contrast to the classic semolina pudding we always prepare for puja ceremonies, this light rice flour pudding was my offering to Lord Shiva for Maha Shivratree. Celebrated with unwavering devotion in honor of one of the main deities of Hinduism, the great night of Shiva is preceded by the pilgrimage to Ganga Talao. Every year, thousands of Mauritians undertake the journey on foot, some carrying heavily decorated kanwars and chanting the powerful Om Namah Shivaya mantra as they make their slow progress towards the sacred lake.

PHIRNI

Ingredients:

500 g fine rice flour, sifted

392g condensed milk

2 1/2 cups full cream milk

2 cups lukewarm water

1/4 cup unrefined sugar

2 teaspoons cardamom powder

1 1/2 teaspoon rose water/ gulab jal

Small pinch of saffron strands

3 tablespoon almonds, chopped

3 tablespoon pistachios, chopped

Method:

  • Sift the rice flour into a large mixing bowl to remove any large lumps. Add the condensed milk and stir.

  • Slowly add milk and water till a batter of dosa-like consistency forms and place in a heavy bottomed pan.

  • Cook on low heat, stirring continuously for 10 to 12 minutes. The texture should be coarse and little thick.

  • Add the unrefined sugar to the mixture and mix well. Continue to cook on low flame the sugar dissolves.

  • Before removing the pan from the heat, add the cardamom powder and rose water and give it a good stir.

  • Leave to cool to room temperature then chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before serving time.

  • Serve phirni in small bowls and garnish with chopped almonds, pistachios and saffron strands. Serves 6.

Phirni – Rice Flour Pudding

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