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
- Makes 10 small bowls
sweetened condensed milk
freshly ground green cardamom
each of crushed pistachios and edible rose petals for garnish
- 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.
- In a saucepan, heat the milk and the condensed milk so that the liquid is warm but not boiling (about 5 to 6 minutes).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- Set the firni is glass or terra-cotta bowls and refrigerate, covered. Garnish with crushed pistachios and edible rose petals.