There are always flowers for those who want to see them.
– Henri Matisse
When the occasion is pious. The mood festive. The spirit convivial. The ambience contagious. And the mind, harmonious – it is then, we make something sweet.
It’s exactly in these times, we don’t squirm to eat a cupful of our favourite dessert and amiably let our loved ones stuff our mouth with saccharine stuff. We relish every bite, enjoy every moment. It’s for these times that I reserve my quota of desserts or Indian mithais/sweets.
On one such radiant day, I put milk to boil, stirred in some ground fragrant basmati rice and lovingly flavoured it with cardamom, rose essence and saffron. Sounds divine, doesn’t it!?
The milk and rice simmered and nonchalantly thickened away, gloriously dancing with the aromatic spices. The result was this thick rice pudding, mildly sweet and abundantly gratified with chopped nuts and essence of roses.
Phirni or Firni is a mughal inspired North Indian/Pakistani milk-rice dessert, typically set in small clay pots and garnished with saffron and rose petals! How exotic does it sound!
So, I was calling for some flowers, marigold and jasmine to be exact, required to decorate my little temple. But then added a few roses at the last moment. Soon, my house emanated such dizzy whiffs of flowers, cardamom and boiled sweetened milk, that the effect made everyone say “whats cooking?” :)
He never cared for roses, still doesn’t. But I have a special affinity towards them. Roses are the ultimate romantic meridian of my firm belief in hope and love. And when I set up my shoot area with props and phirni cups and jars, the flowers hold a special place.
They brought such joy and beauty that John Keats ‘Endymion’ kept popping in my head. I played with the colours, the placements. I took innumerable shots(which were not so pleasurable when I sat down to edit ;) ) The little girl danced about offering me any assistance that I called for. I was in my own space.. a very happy space indeed. It seems weird how something so trivial and ephemeral can lift my spirits and make me dream incredible dreams if only for some fleeting spell.
A couple of teaspoons of rose-water or essence and tiny petals from the roses take this dessert to really another realm. It’s not the taste of the petal though …it’s the perfume from the flower that lingers on your taste buds and make the entire ensemble so inviting.
I served the rice pudding with chopped fresh fruits green apples, pomegranate and orange segments. I wish had some berries, I can only imagine the tartness and all that juice from the colourful berries complimenting the cardamom and saffron!
Grind soaked rice to a rava like consistency. Use few drops of milk if required. Keep aside. Heat milk in a thick bottomed pan or kadai. When it starts boiling away, lower the flame and stir in the ground rice. On a low flame, cook the ground rice in milk till it starts to thicken.
It is imperative to stir in intervals to prevent burning and from lumps being formed. Once the rice is cooked and the mixture has thickened considerably, stir in sugar, saffron strands and ground cardamom. Add chopped nuts. Simmer again for a while. Once done. Add rose-water or essence. Give it a good mix. Cool the pudding. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours.
Serve with rose petals, chopped nuts and fresh fruits.
Note: Fruits like apples, banana, pomegranate, oranges, berries, kiwi, custard apple go very well with phirni.
This creamy dreamy dessert goes to Angie’s 31st Friday Fiesta - a weekly Visual Potluck.