Phirni or Firni is one of the most famous dessert recipes globally. It is essentially a rice pudding that is made world over in different forms and has several variations. Let’s talk about rice first. Rice has been the staple food for many cultures all over the world. How the word ‘Rice’ has originated and evolved over centuries travelling from one country to other is a fascinating tale.
It is said that ‘Rice’ that came to British land followed the normal path that has been followed by several other food items. It comes from French ‘Ris’ which comes from Italian ‘Riso’ and following the trail leads us to ‘Oryza’ is Greek.
From here things starts to get complicated. How Greeks had their first chance with rice is not known. One theory suggests that Greeks got the taste of rice when Alexander the great returned to Greece after his Indian expedition and in Tamil Language(South Indian language ) there is a word for uncooked rice known as ‘aris’. However, this theory is still doubted by many. Another theory states that Rice was first introduced to Persia from India by means of trading opportunities. This is why Old Persian word for rice is ‘Vrinj’ and today ‘berenj’ which derives from Sanskrit (Indian language) word for rice ‘vrihi’.
I tend to believe the second theory, because it gives answer to my second question that how Phirni was introduced to India. I think this must have been some kind of cultural exchange or may be Persians were trying to pay off their debt to us by stating ‘Hey look, you gave us the rice, we will show you how to make a royal dessert recipe, and we call it Fereni.’ We generously accepted that recipe, and making some modifications decided to call it Phirni.
If you are wondering why we are making this dessert, well it is a month of Ramadan which is very pious month for followers of Islam all over the world. It is the ninth month as per Islamic lunar calendar, and it is believed that Prophet Muhammad received final part of series of revelation from God, that later became the holy Koran during this month. Muslims all over the world abstain from food, drink and all physical needs during the daylight hours in this month. The Arabic word for fasting (sawm) means “to refrain”. This implies to refrain not only from food and drink but also from evil action, thoughts and words. Muslims are supposed to consume food before sunrise also known as Suhoor or Sehri. Suhoor as a morning meal is matched with Iftar as an evening meal. The Iftar is often seen as an occasion by everyone (Muslims and non-Muslims) where they can try many tongue tickling and lip smacking delicacies. In Mumbai, It is almost like a going to a food festival, where a plethora of interesting dishes are laid out and you can gorge onto them and this food festival lasts almost for a month. Places like Mohammad Ali Road, Nagpada, Bhendi Bazaar and not to forget the famous food joint Bade Miyan are swarmed by foodies coming from all over India to participate in this Iftar feast.
We are sharing dessert recipe of Phirni, which you can prepare for your Iftar party. We have given this recipe a royal touch by adding lot of pistachios. The mesmerizing and aromatic saffron strands are added to give the Phirni a subtlety that this recipe demands. Finally, we add custard apple pulp to impart natural sweetness which completes this Kesar-Sitaphal Phirni and makes it a dessert that your guests would die for. Trust me on the dying part!!
- 150 gram rice soaked in a bowl filled with water for 1 hour
- 225 gram pulp of custard apple (extracted from 700 gram custard apple)
- 1 litre full cream Milk
- 80 gram sugar
- 1 tsp cardamom powder
- few saffron strands
- Blanched and peeled Almonds
- Soak saffron strands in 1 tbsp milk
- Drain the water from rice. Grind the soaked rice with little milk to a paste thick consistency.Paste should be coarse and must be of thick in consistency.
- Make a fine paste using half of the pulp (125 gram) with 1 tbsp milk.
- Heat milk in a large pan on low flame. Keep stirring the milk.
- As soon as milk starts boiling, add saffron to the milk and mix it well .
- After 5 mins, we will add rice paste to the milk. However, as this paste is thick, add some milk to the paste and stir it well before adding it to the pan.
- Stir in the rice paste into the milk. Keep stiring the milk at the same time to avoid the formation of lumps.
- After adding rice paste, keep stirring to prevent rice from sticking at the bottom of the pan.
- In 6-7 minutes, rice gets cooked. Now add sugar, cashewnuts, almonds, cardamom powder and mix them well.Remember Keep stirring.
- In about 3 mins sugar should get completely dissolved. Now turn off the flame.Remember Keep stirring.
- After bringing Phirni off the flame, let it cool down for few minutes (we dont want it to cool down completely, just allow it to get little warm). Now add custard apple paste and mix it well.
- Now to make our dessert a bit more crunchy, add remaining custard apple pulp and mix well.
- Serve the Phirni in Kasore (clay bowls) or glass bowls and refrigerate for atleast 2 hours.Kasore are clay bowls that can be bought from potters in India. These are also available online.
- Kesar-Sitaphal Phirni is best when served chilled
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