1/2 cup fine semolina flour [suji/sooji] [available in indian stores]
1 tbsp ghee [substitute with clarified butter/unsalted butter]
4 cups evaporated milk [ Substitute with half n half /whole milk/soy or almond or coconut milk for vegan version]
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp white granulated sugar [ adjust to taste]
2 tbsp rose-water [use 1-2 drops if using rose essence]
1/2 tsp green cardamom powder
1/2 cup chopped pistachios & almonds [Or any nuts of choice] + Extra for garnish.
For the Strawberry Sauce:-
Add the chopped strawberries and sugar to a sauce pan and let cook on low heat for about 5-8 minutes till they are soft.Once they are soft, I used my spatula to mush them in the pan itself,you can blend them to make a smooth sauce if you like.Once cooked, let cool to room temperature, if you feel that the sauce is runny after cooling, you may need to cook it little more to achieve a thicker consistency.Tip the sauce into the glasses or serving bowls and let chill.
For the Phirni :-
[While the strawberry sauce is cooking]
In a skillet, on very medium heat,toast the semolina flour along with ghee till its light golden in color.You will need to continuously stir the flour as it roasts and keep a watch because semolina burns easily.Takes about 5-8 minutes.
[While the semolina flour is toasting]
In a wide-mouthed, heavy bottomed utensil, let milk come to a boil on medium heat.Stir once or twice midway to prevent milk from sticking to the bottom of the utensil.
Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and start adding the toasted semolina flour to the boiling milk and whisking thoroughly with the other hand.This is a very important step, if you do not whisk continuously, semolina will form lumps within seconds.
Within 5 minutes you will see that the milk starts to thicken as the semolina granules swell up and absorb milk.Continue whisking for about 3-4 minutes until you get a thick but runny consistency similar to ketchup.
Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.Add the granulated sugar, nuts, cardamom powder and rose-water to the semolina-milk mix and combine thoroughly.You will see that as the sugar dissolves the pudding will thin out.Note that it is important to add the sugar while the pudding is still warm.
Let the pudding cool to a room temperature and then add it on top of the already cooled strawberry sauce.Cover the bowls/glasses with cling film to avoid formation of skin on top and let set in the refrigerator till set [About 2-3 hours]
Garnish with chopped nuts or strawberries and serve chilled.
I used canned evaporated milk because we like the taste and the caramel color that it lends to the pudding.In case you will use milk and half n half, you wont get the same color.
Instead of strawberry sauce, try pureed mango , sliced bananas or any other kind of fruit.Please do not use citrus fruits because that may lead to cuddling of the milk in the pudding.You can avoid the fruit sauce completely & make the pudding on its own only.
The same recipe can be used to make phirni with ground rice or cornmeal.In case of rice flour,do not toast it.
Kewra Jal or Screwpine water is used to flavor a lot indian curries,biryanis,drinks and desserts particularly those which are milk based.It is also used in lot of indian sweets made out of squashes and dried milk.Drinks prepared with Kewra are said to be have a cooling effect on the body during the scorching summer months.Similar to rose-water or orange blossom water, the essence is more concentrated than Kewra water.The essence may be yellowish or transparent in color.
Other than food, if you happen to visit the beach destinations of India, you can indulge in Kewra water bath and spa sessions at many of the resorts and hotels.Perfumes and body lotions containing essential oils made with Kewra are also popular as stimulants to cure headaches and provide general relaxation to body. Ayurveda,the ancient form of medicinal cure with natural products is known to use Kewra for healing joint pains and bone related problems.All in all Kewra is supposed to have cater to those senses of your body which provide calmness to mind and soul.
Talking about “Makhana” or Foxnuts, these are used a lot to make curries and desserts.These are nothing but puffed seeds of the foxnut plant.Some people like to add foxnut seeds to the daily cereal to increase fibre in their diet.In indian cooking, it is widely used as a natural thickener in crushed or powdered forms.When toasted with butter/oil and sprinkled with salt and dried herbs, puffed foxnuts make a great snack with evening tea.Eating a handful of foxnuts daily is considered to strengthen the heart and is very useful in anemia.
Dont get the impression that the rice pudding that I have prepared using all the stuff above is healthy, but it is certainly rich and flavorful.Anyhow, after all that overdose of knowledge, let me come to the recipe which is nothing but “Kheer” or indian rice pudding made by cooking crushed foxnuts and basmati rice with whole milk and flavored with green cardamom powder and kewra water.It is the most luscious and exotic form of dessert for us.Indian kheer is different from the pudding recipes around the world in the sense that it is not egg based.Some people like to add condensed milk to rice pudding for fast thickening, I normally don’t do that and stick to the traditional way of thickening the milk via slow cooking.It is considered auspicious to offer Kheer to God during festivals.I prepared this recipe last week.Below goes the recipe:
Ingredients [Serves 4]
1/2 cup uncooked basmati rice
5 cups whole milk [or half n half]
1/4 cup crushed foxnuts [makhana, available at indian stores]
1 cup granulated white sugar [or adjust to taste]
1 tbsp Kerwa water [If using essence put, 1-2 drops only] [Available at indian stores]
1 tsp green cardamom powder
handful of golden raisins
1/4 cup chopped almonds
For Garnish- chopped almonds, raisins,toasted foxnuts,pinch of cardamom powder, shredded coconut [optional]
Wash the rice under 2-3 streams of water and let soak in 1.5 cups of water for one hour.
In a pot with heavy bottom, pour the milk and let come to a boil.Once boiling,reduce the heat to low, drain the rice and tip into the pot.Tip in the crushed foxnuts also along with rice.
Cook the milk and rice mixture on low heat for about 30-40 minutes on low heat stirring at intervals, so that the rice does not stick to the bottom.
Cook until rice is soft and broken and milk has reduced to about half the quantity and is thick.
Add chopped almonds,raisins and cardamom powder and cook for 10 minutes more.
Remove from heat and let sit for about 5-8 minutes to cool down a bit.
Stir in the granulated sugar and kewra water. Make sure that when you add the sugar the pudding is not very hot.
Serve garnished with almonds or any nuts of choice.
You can use rose water in place of kewra water.
This pudding can be prepared with foxnuts only also.