Friday, October 7, 2011

Diwali party: starring Kesari Phirni!!

It's the season again. If we've just started thinking about Dussehera in past tense, can Diwali be far behind? The countdown to India's brightest festival has begun: clean and shine.
Meet and greet.
Feast and diet.

Lost and found!!
I'm talking about this picture now, if you're wondering. This picture from last year's Diwali season resurfaced a couple weeks ago as I was cleaning up my desktop to make a move out of my then-job. As I looked at the picture, I remembered how proud I'd been the day I clicked this. It was for a Diwali potluck at A's friend's. I
usually make moong dal halwa for Diwali. But that takes quite a bit of time in planning and execution. Plus I couldn't make it to feed 40 people. So I decided on Phirni - a creamy rice dessert that is so similar, yet so distinct from it's better known cousin - the rice pudding or kheer.  I picked up this recipe from some website...I forget which now...and  practised it 3 times before the party. There were problems all three times, but the day of the potluck, it was such a success.....

So before I lose the picture again, here's my version of Kesari Phirni.

Kesari Phirni
(Saffron flavored creamy rice dessert)

Rice   3Tbsp, soaked, dried on a paper towel and ground coarse.
Half n half  400ml
Milk 2 cups
Sugar  1 and 1/2 cup
Cardamom/ elaichi powder 1tsp
Saffron/kesar strands 1 generous pinch (about 15-20 strands)
Crushed cashews
Badam Feast powder 1tsp (optional) 

  1. Soak the saffron in a Tbsp of cold milk.
  2. Mix the rest of the milk and half n half , and warm it. Take  a 1/4 cup (approximately) of luke warm milk mixture in another bowl and bring the rest to a boil. Turn down the heat to simmer.
  3. In the 1/4 cup of milk-half n half mixture, stir in the rice powder making sure that no lumps form. Then slowly, pour it into the rest of simmering milk while stirring. Avoid lumping.
  4. Next add the sugar, cashews, saffron, elaichi and badam feast powder. Keep stirring.
  5. The whole mixture needs to be cooked and stirred for at least 30 min. By then, the phirni will have thickened to a pudding like consistensy (sticking to spoon without falling off).
  6. Pour into a serving bowl, and chill before serving.
My two cents: The difficulty level and cooking time for this recipe is somewhere in between a kheer and a moong dal halwa. The biggest challenge I feel is to avoid forming lumps of rice paste. You really need it to be creamy and cooked all the way through. I found that premixing the rice powder in a little bit of warm milk was the best way to do this.
   Another friend's mom, who was visitng, suggested that she dry roasts the rice before powdering it. I tried that, but that sort of prevented the phirni from thickening as much as I wanted it to. If you like your dessert a little runny, you can try this.
   The measurements here made...probably like 20 small servings.
  And finally, phirni is traditionally a cold dessert...but don't let thatstop you from licking off your pan and spoon! Enjoy!!
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