Make Ahead

Pakistani Firni (Ground Rice Pudding with Cardamom, Saffron & Rose Water)

February 17, 2017
1 Ratings
Photo by Sarah Jampel
  • Makes 10 small bowls
Author Notes

Firni is a recipe that has found its way into our cuisine from Persia and the Middle East, and into the ancient kitchens of the Muslim emperors of India. A perfect dessert for the royal dining table, though made with seemingly simple ingredients, this was a dessert served cold, adorned with expensive spice such as saffron, rose water and topped with nuts and silver leaf, it has been a traditional dessert of festivity and celebration in our part of the world ever since.

In my recipe for firni, I replace the need for slow cooking the milk down to thicken, with condensed milk and this also adds the sweetness without using additional sugar. The addition saffron is just a substitution, and is my way of celebrating my memories and firni's regal heritage. —Sumayya Usmani

What You'll Need
  • 6 tablespoons basmati rice
  • 1 liter whole milk
  • 400 grams sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground green cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon rosewater
  • 1 pinch saffron threads
  • 1 tablespoon each of crushed pistachios and edible rose petals for garnish
  1. Start by soaking the basmati rice in the water for an hour. Strain and reserve all the water except for just 1 tablespoon, then grind the rice with this remaining water in a electric spice grinder until you have a fine paste.
  2. In a saucepan, heat the milk and the condensed milk so that the liquid is warm but not boiling (about 5 to 6 minutes).
  3. Add the rice paste and mix it with a whisk so as to ensure that no lumps remain. If it starts to thicken too much, add the reserved soaking liquid.
  4. Cook on a very low heat, stirring it all the time, until the milk forms a custard-like consistency. [Editor's note: We transferred the liquid to a wide saucepan; the mixture took between 20 and 30 minutes to thicken.] Now add the ground cardamom, rosewater, and saffron.
  5. Cool the firing completely, stirring frequently as it cools. You can place the firni over a bowl of ice water to aid the cooling (or you can eat it warm).
  6. Set the firni is glass or terra-cotta bowls and refrigerate, covered. Garnish with crushed pistachios and edible rose petals.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Momenat Sohaib
    Momenat Sohaib
  • Sumayya Usmani
    Sumayya Usmani
  • ghazala
Sumayya is a food writer and cookery teacher who grew up in Pakistan, but has now found home in Glasgow. Sumayya is passionate about sharing the flavours of her homeland with a view to highlight Pakistani cuisine as a distinct one. The author or two cookbooks: Summers Under The Tamarind Tree (Frances Lincoln) and Mountain Berries and Desert Spice (Frances Lincoln, out April 2017), her writing reminisces about food and memories growing up in Pakistan. She writes for many publications, appears on television, and co-presents BBC Kitchen Cafe weekly, on BBC Radio Scotland.

3 Reviews

ghazala November 19, 2020
Thank you for the delicious, quick, and upgraded version of the old fashioned firni which the people in the past took forever to make (probably because they didn’t have anything better to do). After all who has time these days to spend hours in the kitchen making it the good old “slow” way. In this day and age when there’s a quick version of almost everything available, why not go with the expedited way of making “Firni” aka rice pudding?
These oldies could only do one thing at a time, moving at a snail rate. What do they know about today’s world?
Good Job, Sumayya. Please share more of your quick recipes after all they taste better as well as cuts cooking time in half because I have other things to do and don’t give a crap about how un-authentic something is.
Momenat S. March 15, 2017
I just went over the firni recipe that's posted here, being from the subcontinent I would like to tell you that the recipe from the tamarind kitchen is really un authentic. She's put a completely different recipe for the world to see. Firni is basically whole milk cooked down, with cardamom added, to less than 1/2 of what you start off with, then you add the bit of ground rice, throw in some additional water, and then add the sugar. No body adds the condensed milk. This version is really putting down the real "firni".
Just wanted to bring this to your knowledge.
Sumayya U. March 16, 2017
Thanks for your input. The addition of condensed milk is my way of substituting khoya and additionally authenticity is achieved from the memory of how my grandmother made it. Many "authentic" Firni recipes use hand ground rice and this does need to cook with cardamom to infuse it. But thank you so much for sharing your authoritative knowledge . .