This is one special recipe I learnt to make this from a very dear friend of mine. Once during a friends meet my dear friend F walked in with a big bowl of something so aromatic that I immediately uncovered to see that it this beautiful orangish yellow cream speckled with green & white nuts was. She smiled & said “It’s Firni, & the color is the color of Saffron“! I wanted to skip food & dive in to this right away…. But we waited & waited till dinner was over…finally when we did get to have this I was totally floored, needless to say Firni was the star of the evening… it tasted divine. Thank you so much dear one for introducing this to me, for this is one of our top favorites now.
Firni is a kind of Rice Pudding, made with Powdered Rice. It is similar to what we call “kheer” or “payasam” in India, but unlike Kheer/Payasam, it does not use whole rice grains. Firni is flavored with lots of Saffron & Cardamom & adorned with a lot of Nuts & sometimes Dry fruits too.
The Consistency of Firni varies from thick- where one has to really scoop out with a spoon to creamy -where it will gently coat a spoon. Traditionally in India Firni is served Chilled in Earthenware/Clay cups called Matkas. It tastes better when the flavors are allowed to mature for 6-7 hours or even for a day. Some versions of Firni are baked in the cups after they are cooked, then chilled & served. I do not bake the Firni. My hubby likes his Firni the creamy way.. not too thick & lumpy. So this version is the creamy & of course an easy version of Firni.
This dish probably would have been an influence of the Mughal invasions to India. Along with them came the rich fragrant food and thereafter mingled & planted their roots the Indian cuisine to form a part of it. Similar kind of Rice Pudding desserts, with little variations are also a part of Turkish, Lebanese, Greece, Afghan, African & many other European & Mediterranean cuisines.
Below are the different kinds & names of Rice Puddings around the world…. (info taken from WIKI):
- Kheer (Nepali/Indian/Pakistani) with slow-boiled milk
- Payasam (South Indian) with slow-boiled milk, sugar/jaggery and lots of nuts
- Firni (Tajik) and (Pakistani/North Indian) with broken rice, cardamom and pistachio served cold.
- Moghlie (Arab) with anise and ginger
- Riz bi haleeb (Eastern) or ruz bil-laban (Egyptian), (lit. “rice-in-milk”) (Arab) with rosewater and occasionally mastic
- Shola-e-zard (Iranian) and (Tajik) with saffron
- Shir-berinj (Tajik) and (Iranian) Rice pudding
- Arroz Doce or Arroz de Leite (Portuguese) with rice, sugar, milk, cinnamon and lemon
- Budino di Riso (Italian) with milk, eggs, raisins and orange peel
- Arroz con leche (Spanish) with milk, sugar, cinnamon and lemon
- Сутлијаш (Macedonian) – Лапа – typical rice pudding with black poppy seeds
- Milchreis (German) with cinnamon or cherries
- Mlečni riž (Slovene)
- Mliečna ryža (Slovak)
- Mляко с ориз (Bulgarian) with milk and cinnamon
- Orez cu lapte (Romanian) with milk and cinnamon
- Rijstebrij (Dutch) or Rijstpap (Flemish)
- Rizogalo or Ryzogalo (ρυζόγαλο ‘rice milk’, Greek) with milk and cinnamon.
- Riža na mlijeku (Croatian)
- Sutlijaš (Bosnian/Serbian)
- Sytlijash (Albanian)
- Sultjash (Albanian) Dialect
- Tameloriz (Albanian/Kosovar)
- Sütlaç (Turkish < sütlaş < sütlü aş ‘rice with milk’), served either hot or cold; often browned in a salamander broiler and garnished with cinnamon. May be sweetened with sugar or pekmez or not.
- Teurgoule (Normandy)
- Oriz na vareniku (Montenegrin)
- Tejberizs (Hungarian) with milk, cinnamon or cocoa powder
- Сутляш or Мляко с ориз (Bulgarian)
- Sutlijas (Bosnian)
- Молочная рисовая каша (Russian)
- Молочна рисова каша (Ukrainian), also can appear as “кутя” for Christmas (served with dried fruits and nuts)
- Arroz con leche (Latin American) with cinnamon and condensed milk
- Arroz con dulce/Arroz con coco (Puerto Rican) with coconut milk, sugar and cinnamon
- Arroz-doce (Brazilian) with milk, sugar and cinnamon
Now here is Firni, the Indian way….
- 1 cup raw Basmati Rice
- 3/4 gallon whole milk
- 1/2 gallon Half and Half (part cream and part whole milk): you may use all whole whole milk and in that case reduce the milk until it is less than half the amount to get that creamy consistency
- 3/4 cup slivered almonds
- 7-8 small green cardamoms (seeds only)
- 1.5 cup sugar or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon very good quality saffron
- usnsalted raw pistachios for garnish
- 1 teaspoon rose water
Wash the rich thoroughly & soak in water for about 2 hours. The grains will get longer & whiter. Drain the water & spread all the rice in a thin layer on a paper towel. Set aside till completely dry to touch. The best way would be to leave it overnight.
Soak the almonds in the water overnight. Peel the almonds. Separate 1/2 cup and slice them fine. Set the sliced almonds aside.
Peel the cardamoms & take out the seeds.
Take the dry rice, & the cardamom seeds & dry grind till the rice becomes a powder. It should NOT be as fine as confectionary sugar. It should be grainy like regular sugar or like rawa/semolina. Keep aside.
Take 1/2 cup of warm milk, saffron & the rest of the un chopped almonds & blend till the almond is all blended with the milk.
Take a thick bottomed pan. Combine all the milk (including the part blended with saffron & almond) & half & half and simmer at low heat till it reduces a little bit in amount (the amount of reduction will depend on how thick you want the pudding. For a thicker and creamier pudding, you will need more reduction. We like our Firni to be a bit runny and not as thick as it can be scooped out with a spoon; however that is the right kind of consistency for a traditional Firni).
Add the sliced almonds. Now its time to add the dry rice powder. This has to be done in little batches.
Take a tablespoon of rice powder & slowly add it to the boiling milk, while stirring vigourously to prevent the powder from forming lumps. It should all blend it smooth with no lumps at all.
Continue the same process till all the rice powder is added to the milk.
Boil the milk with everything in it while frequently stirring it, till it starts getting thick & the rice is all cooked. Once cooked the rice grains will look like small cooked semolina/rawa.
Add the sugar & boil some more. If you want the Firni thicker, keep on boiling till it reaches the desired consistency.
Switch off the heat, & add the Rose water.
Top it with more saffron strands if you want. Chill or atleast 4-5 hrs(overnight is better) before serving it.
Garnish with pistachios or whatever nuts & dry fruits you would want. The pictures above have been taken right after I made it….it has not yet absorbed the color of the saffron. If you let it settle down atleast overnight, it will have that light orangish tinge of the saffron. Letting it mature also enhances the flavor.
Enjoy a chilled bowl of Firni after your dinner. This is for JUST FOR U hosted by Alka of Sindhi Rasoi - for my dear hubby who could eat all of these I make & also for my friend F from whom I learned to make this awesome dessert!!