Ground Rice and Milk Pudding (Phirni)
This ground rice kheer/pudding, which is a quick dish to make, has quite a delicate flavour and is exotic enough to serve at parties. You can increase the amount of almonds and pistachios if you want to make it richer. When more (1/4 cup) almonds (badam) are used, it is sometimes referred to as Badam Phirni. Without nuts and raisins and with less sugar, it is suitable as a baby food too.
It can be made in a pressure cooker or in a slow cooker, all equally good. It freezes well too. Freeze in portions in small jars.
1 litre milk
5 tbs. ground rice*
5 tbs. sugar (to taste)
1 tbs. pistachio.
To blanch almonds & pistachio, soak in hot water for 1-2 hours. This makes the skin loose and easy to peel off. Peel skins off. Shred into thin slices/slithers using a sharp knife. I often do it on the chopping board, using a cleaver. Make sure to keep your fingers out of the way. Thin slithers look better than roughly chopped almonds. Keep aside.
Dissolve ground rice in a little cold milk and keep aside.
Boil rest of the milk in a heavy bottomed pan. Stir frequently to avoid 'catching' at the bottom of the pan. Burnt milk tastes dreadful and has to be thrown away.
Add ground rice/milk mixture to the boiling milk and cook, stirring constantly. If you do not stir at this stage, it will ‘catch’ and burn very quickly. Phirni with a burnt smell is not edible*.
Cook until a thick texture is achieved, like a batter or a thick custard. If the milk was boiling when you added the ground rice, this only takes about 5 minutes,. Sometimes, you need a little more ground rice than given in the recipe for getting the right consistency. Do not be afraid to add more, a little at a time, until correct consistency is reached.
Turn heat off and add sugar and saffron, stir these in well.
Add 1/2 of the nuts and mix.
Place in a serving bowl, garnish with the rest of the nuts.
Chill and serve.
You can cover the chilled dish with 'chandi varak' or 'silver leaf', which is available from good Indian grocers and is edible. It gives the dish a festive look.
*You can buy it in packets from most UK grocery stores. If you can't, soak 6-7 heaped tbs. of basmati rice for a couple of hours and then grind it to a paste with water. It is better to make a little extra paste, just in case your phirni needs more than specified amount to get it to correct consistency.
Quantity of nuts, as well as sugar, can be adjusted according to taste.
Instead of saffron, this pudding can be flavoured with ground green cardamoms seeds or rose water or kewda water, according to individual taste.
For a sugar free version, add artificial sweetener, at step 8, when the pudding has cooled down.