Phirni or Firni is creamy smooth ground rice custard flavoured with aromatic rose water. Served in small, shallow, wide-rimmed terracotta bowls, these never fail to transport me to lavish Muslim functions we celebrated with our friends in India. A bowl of fragrant firni was the most apt finale to a ghee-laden biryani, kebab and paratha meal. Saying that, I like to whip these up as a quick desert and teatime treats for unexpected visitors. With mangoes in shops aplenty in spring and summer, a topping of the fresh Alphonso, the King of Fruits, adds to the decadent feel of this dessert. As they are highly fragrant, I’ve omitted the rose water. Stir through two teaspoons when the custard is cooked, if you decide on a version without the mango layer. See my other recipes for the London Evening Standard newspaper here.
First stir the rice flour into 200 ml of the milk, making a thick paste. Crush the cardamoms in a pestle and mortar.
Bring the remaining milk to boil in a heavy bottomed pan on a medium high heat. Use a whisk to keep stirring.
When it starts bubbling, lower the heat to a simmer, and stir in the rice and milk mixture, as well as the sugar to your preference. I found three tablespoons added enough sweetness. Use your whisk to stir the mixture. You want the rice to cook slowly without burning the milk.
In about 5-7 minutes, you will see the mixture thickening to a custard that coats the whisk. Now, turn the heat off, stir in the cardamom and pour into six little bowls. Let the firni cool slightly then pop them into the fridge.
While they are setting, wash, peel, slice and puree the mangoes. Get your pots out of the fridge, and carefully spoon even amounts of the puree on top of each firni layer. Crush and sprinkle the pistachios and chill covered until you’re ready to eat.
The Mango Phirni will keep for three to four days covered in the fridge. Try smothered with chopped berries instead of mangoes for a change.