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Firni ground rice pudding with apple compote and rose petals

This recipe is from Pukka Paki and is reproduced with her kind permission. Sumayya is passionate about teaching traditional and contemporary Pakistani cooking and holds classes across the UK.

"If there is one emotion that is conjured up every time I recall my Nani’s kitchen – the feeling of complete safety – one that isn’t usually synonymous with a kitchen! But it was the aromas, the warmth and the love with which the food was prepared in her tiny kitchen that would be the only time I remember  feeling protected, at home and truly adored. There isn’t one occasion I can remember where my Nani didn’t make me this simple ground rice pudding called Firni. Such a staple on a Pakistani dessert menu but there always is something comforting about the earthy sweet scent of rice cooking with hot milk, with the essence of rose water and cardamom bringing the simplicity of the rice to life. The smell would waft through the kitchen into the warm veranda where we would wait for this with salivating palates only to devour this (then cooled), silky yet grainy pure aromatic sugar rush that would have probably left my parents wishing they hadn’t’ sent me to grandmas, but was it worth every stolen moment, every moment of feeling complete utter love from someone who was forever nurturing just like her sweet rosy dessert.

Something borrowed from Persian traditions of simple yet aromatic rice based desserts, this version with the addition of the nuttiness of ground almonds adds earthiness and elegance. This is a simple recipe, one that resonates the dessert culture of Pakistan, that of combining  grain, sugar and spice. I have added an apple cinnamon  compote, something I picked up from my time in England – compotes reign a winter dessert, there’s nothing quite like warm gooey fruit on a cold frosty day. Firni, traditionally served at many weddings or at roadside restaurants, topped on special occasions with edible silver leaf, in unglazed terracotta pots, which are used as you would disposable crockery – it’s the raw terracotta that adds a distinct flavour to the dessert, it’s like you can taste the earth, the land of Pakistan itself – the aroma you breath in after a Monsoon shower, the humid earth in all it’s glory….  it is that taste on my palate that transports me home to a happy, cherished time. However you serve this, it is the purity and elegance of this dessert that makes you crave this homely sweetness every time…

 

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time:
20 minutes
Total time
: 30 minutes plus 1 hour refrigeration before eating
Makes: about 6 bowls of Firni

Main ingredients:

1/2 litre whole milk
100 g caster sugar
200 ml condensed milk
4 tbsp Ricotta cheese
60 g ground rice
200 ml water

 Nuts, spices and fruit:

35 g ground almonds
½ tsp cardamom powder
1 pinch of saffron

4-5 drops of Steenberg’s rose water or 3-4 drops of rose essence
1 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and cut into small cubes
1/2 cinnamon stick

2 tbsp chopped pistachios  and rose petals from Steenbergs for garnish

Utensils:
2 lidded saucepans
4 unglazed terracotta bowls or glass bowls for serving

Method:
1. Boil 50 g of the sugar with the water and cinnamon stick once melted add cubed apple. Stew these until the sugar syrup is absorbed. Dis-guard the cinnamon stick.

3. In another saucepan heat the milk and bring the milk to the boil. Then turn down the heat and bowl the milk for a while until it gets thick. (about 10-12 minutes, stirring continuously)

2. Add the sugar, condensed milk and rice flour. Let the milk boil for another 10-15 minutes and keep stirring.
3. Before it thickens too much, add ricotta cheese and cardamom powder into this and let it boil until the milk attains thick custard like consistency. Keep stirring to as this will avoid the Firni from burning. Turn off the heat and stir in the saffron and rose water essence and the stewed apples.
4. Cool for a few minutes before pouring the Firni into the terracotta bowls or glass bowls and top with chopped pistachios.

5. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

 

 

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