Friday, March 19, 2010
Stirring up Sweetness
We celebrated Gudi Padva this week. One of the many fond memories I have of my childhood is that of festivals being celebrated. One didn’t really care about whether or not you belonged to a particular community or practiced a certain religion, those special days were all enjoyed with equal gusto.
It saddens me now that somewhere in the daily grind of life, this spirit of celebration has somehow lost its meaning. A festival that comes by is welcomed more for the holiday it brings than for what it actually signifies :-( The camaraderie of family & friends getting together, the joy of donning new clothes, the pleasure of exchanging gaily wrapped presents and of course, the gleeful devouring of all those lip-smacking goodies ….. sigh…where have they all gone?
A common tradition in most Indian households, on any festive occasion, is to make a special sweet or dessert. Now that is something, I have resolved to keep alive, if nothing else!
My father-in-law loves Firni. So that is what I chose to make this Gudi Padva. This is a classic North Indian specialty very similar to rice pudding. While it uses a few ingredients and is pretty simple to put together, the process of continuously stirring the milk is a tad laborious. In fact, A and I were wondering as to why is Firni so called? And we laughingly concluded that it probably comes from the Hindi (or is it Urdu?) word “Firna” which means “to go round in circles”. That said, a special occasion rightfully deserves a little more effort … and the end result is so worth it. Cold and creamy, it made for the perfect after lunch dessert that sweltering afternoon.
(makes 6 servings)
Milk - 1 litre
Sugar - 6-7 tablespoons
Raw rice - 3 tablespoons
Salt - 2 pinches
Cardamom - 10 pods, peeled
Unsalted Pistachios - to garnish
1. Pour the milk into a wide, preferably non-stick pan
2. Bring to a boil without letting the milk spill over
3. Quickly turn heat to medium - the milk should simmer as vigorously as possible without boiling over - and cook, stirring now and then, for about 15-20 mins or until the milk has reduced to 750 ml (1 1/4 pints)
4. In the mean time, while the milk is coming to a boil, grind the rice and cardamom finely
5. Sprinkle the ground rice slowly into the pan, stirring as you go
6. Add the sugar and salt as well
7. Stir now and then cooking for 7-8 mins or until the pudding has thickened to a creamy consistency, turning the heat down a bit towards the end.
8. Turn off heat and set aside to cool
9. When the pudding has cooled to lukewarm, ladle into individual serving cups
10. Sprinkle the top with finely slivered pistachios
11. Cover and refrigerate for 2-3 hours until cold and set