I like to think of Phirni as a sophisticated cousin of the Payasam. Also known as Kheer, Kheeri, Payesh, Payox, Payasam, Phirni is a sweet dish and a type of wet pudding, usually made by boiling milk, sugar or jaggery, and rice, although rice is sometimes substituted with dals, tapioca or vermicelli. It is typically flavoured with desiccated coconut, cardamom, raisins, saffron, cashews, pistachios, almonds, or other dry fruits and nuts and is typically served as a dessert. The word kheer is derived from the Sanskrit word for milk, ksheer and is also the archaic name for sweet rice pudding. The difference as I see between kheer or payasam and phirni is that payasam has whole rice grains cooked in it while Phirni has powdered rice, usually, Basmati added to it. Tasting great both hot and cold, we prefer it cold, but this is a personal preference.
- ¼ cup basmati rice
- 1-litre full cream milk
- ½ cup sugar or as required
- 10 to 12 almonds, blanched and peeled, keep about a tbsp for garnishing
- 10 to 12 pistachios, blanched and peeled, keep about a tbsp for garnishing
- ½ tsp cardamom powder
- A large pinch of saffron strands
- 2 tsp rose water
- Rinse the basmati rice a couple of times in water. Drain the water and dry the rice by spreading them on a tray or plate. Let the rice dry completely and keep it aside.
- Grind the rice in a grinder till the consistency resembles fine semolina or couscous and keep the ground rice aside.
- In a small bowl, add the nuts, add boiling water to it and keep aside for about 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, drain the water and let the nuts cool slightly. Peel the nuts and slice or chop them finely and keep them aside. Keep aside about 1 tbsp each of the almonds and pistachios for the garnish.
- Heat milk in a thick-bottomed broad pan.
- When the milk starts to boil, take 1 tbsp of the milk into a small bowl, add in the saffron strands and stir it until the saffron dissolves and the milk becomes a lovely orange colour.
- Let the milk in the pan reach a rolling boil, lower the heat and add the ground rice. Stir and add the sugar.
- Cook the ground rice in the milk on low to medium heat on the pan with the pan uncovered and keep stirring at intervals so that the milk is completely lump-free.
- Add In the cardamom powder, almonds, pistachios, cardamom powder and saffron-infused milk.
- Stir and cook for another five minutes, or a bit more until the Phirni thickens and the rice granules are softened and cooked completely.
- Switch off the flame and drizzle the rose water.
- Garnish it with the reserved chopped nuts and cover tightly and let the Phirni cool down.
- Once the Phirni is cool, refrigerate until it becomes cold and serve cold as a dessert. It should stay for 2-3 days in the fridge, but I doubt it will last that long!