Firni (Broken Rice Pudding)
Posted by fourclankitchen on February 13, 2011
My son had been cut off from his annual Valentine’s day/week sugar orgy because he had eaten in a single sitting, 16 (no misprint) pieces of chocolate that a gracious student brought over for our superbowl party last weekend. But the rice pudding craving hit me this weekend, and I knew I was going to make it and eat it. I also knew that I was not going to enoy it, unless I lifted the moratorium and allowed him to enjoy some as well. Rather than torture both of us with the Amy Chua school of discipline, I caved immediately. I had to, I am no tiger mom, and it was delicious.
Since rice pudding is eaten and served at many religious festivals, the Indian version is not thickened with eggs. Instead the milk is reduced till its approximately half its original volume, and rice, nuts and raisins are added to further enrich the dessert. No vanilla here. The pudding is flavored with saffron and cardamom instead. Some people also add bay leaves and cinnamon. This particular version called Firni, is eaten in Northern India and Pakistan and is made from rice ground into a coarse paste or powder. Since the flavors are the same, it is only different from regular Indian rice pudding in texture, but its an interesting difference.
1/2 Cup Basmati Rice
1/2 Gallon Whole Milk
1 12 oz can evaporated milk
1/4 cup almond meal (Red Mills) or finely ground blanched almonds (see below)
1/2 tsp Cardamoms seeds
1 Cup Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon Saffron threads
1/4 cup almonds, slivered
1/4 cup raisins
Wash rice thoroughly & drain in a colander for 15 min. Transfer to a paper towel and allow the rice to dry thoroughly- 30 min or longer.
Crush the cardamom seeds very gently in a coffee grinder so that they are partially ground. Ideally, this is done with a mortar and pestle, but then who cares about ideally?
Now grind the rice in a coffee grinder, again very gently. The end-consistency of the rice should be like instant tapioca pearls or grape nuts.
Blend almond meal, saffron and 1/2 cup of milk, until smooth.
Using a medium flame, bring this mix, the remaining 1/2 gallon milk, the evaporated milk and cardamom to a boil (with constant stirring) in a heavy bottom pan. The pan will scorch badly if you don’t stir and use low-medium heat.
Now turn the heat to very low and allow the milk to reduce for about 1/2 hour. Stir the pot on and off, this does not have to be very frequent.
Now add the ground rice, a tablespoon at a time, blending well so that the rice does not get lumpy. When all the rice is added, bring to a boil with constant stirring. Continue to cook until the rice is soft, or if you prefer, al dente.
Add the sugar, almonds and raisins and cook down the milk till your pudding is of a desired consistency. You can go anywhere from a fairly liquidy pudding to a custard-like consistency. For the former, you need to cook about 15 more min. For the latter, my guess would be another 1/2 hour (I did not do this). Remember that the pudding will thicken considerably as it cools, particularly after you put it into the fridge.
Once it cools, transfer to bowls of you choice and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight., Cover the puddings with a saran wrap directly on the pudding surface if you don’t like pudding skin. Garnish with saffron and slivered almonds before serving.
Note: I used almond meal, instead of the traditional soaked and peeled almonds in this recipe, but I have to say that the almond meal was not very almondy. I think a 1/2 tsp of almond extract might be good here.