How to make firni, an Indian creamy smooth pudding made with rice flour and slow cooked milk flavoured with saffron and cardamom, garnished with crushed nuts.
Firni, also spelt phirni, is a North Indian dessert made with rice flour, sugar and milk flavoured with aromatics such as saffron and cardamom.
It is a thick, creamy, rich pudding with a smooth texture similar to mohallabiya from Middle Eastern cuisine.
Firni is a popular dessert usually prepared for celebrations such as Diwali and Eid and a perfect way to round off a spicy meal.
In India it is traditionally served chilled in earthenware bowls which gives a wonderful earthy flavour, absorbing some moisture and helping it set.
Firni can sometimes be confused with another popular milk based dessert called kheer, which is prepared in a similar way but rather than using rice flour it is made with boiled rice giving a chewier texture (similar to Turkish sütlaç).
Firni came from Mughal cuisine and gave rise to regional variations such as payasam from Kerala which is made with vermicelli and jaggery and payesh from Bengal which uses a local short grain rice for a slightly different flavour.
Our firni recipe is flavoured with cardamom and saffron, two flavours which work extremely well with milk based dishes.
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About the ingredients
Some information about the ingredients you will need:
- saffron – bloom the saffron to extract their flavour. Use medium to long strands then crush and soak in water to extract their flavour.
- milk – use whole milk for great texture and creaminess.
- cardamom – stewed in milk gives a wonderful flavour.
- rice flour – if unavailable, make your own by grinding raw rice grains in a spice or coffee blender.
- sugar – use granulated or caster sugar so it dissolves easily. (We haven’t tested this recipe with sweeteners but if you have we would love to hear from you in the comments below.)
See recipe card for quantities.
Step by step instructions for making firni.
Bloom saffron to extract the flavour by crushing the strands and soaking in water for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile bring milk to a boil with the cardamom pods and simmer on low for 20 minutes.
Whisk in the rice flour, sugar, saffron and water (not shown) till blended.
Cook on low, stirring frequently, till the mixture thickens then remove from the heat.
Pour into individual bowls or a serving dish then set aside to cool before covering to chill in the fridge.
Garnish with crushed nuts before serving.
Make ahead and storing leftovers
Firni can be made ahead and kept covered in the fridge till ready to serve.
Cover and store leftovers in the fridge for up to 3 days or freeze for up to a month. Thaw in the fridge before serving.
Your questions answered
Firni is a thick, creamy, smooth pudding made with rice flour while kheer is made using rice and has a slightly chewy texture.
Use butter or vegetable oil to grease the inside of the pan before using for easy cleaning and to prevent the milk from sticking to the bottom. Frequent stirring with a wooden spoon and cooking on low heat should also prevent it sticking.
Once the pan has cooled add a dishwasher tablet and water so the tablet dissolves. Leave to soak for 1-2 hours. Pour the soapy liquid away, scrub the milk away with your regular dishwashing sponge and rinse well.
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- 20 medium to large saffron strands
- 2 tablespoons water cool
- 75 g rice flour 6 tablespoons
- 1200 mls whole milk 5 cups
- 2 whole cardamoms
- 100 g sugar 7 tablespoons, granulated or caster
- 10 pistachios shelled, or almonds
Bloom the saffron
- In a small bowl crush 20 medium to large saffron strands with your fingers, add 2 tablespoons water and set aside for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, pour 1200 mls whole milk into a medium saucepan add 2 whole cardamoms and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to minimum and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes.
- Remove the cardamom pods and whisk in 75 g rice flour and 100 g sugar till there are no lumps of rice flour left (use a stick/immersion blender or spoon to crush any large lumps). Stir in the saffron strands and their water. Then stir occasionally using a wooden spoon till the mixture has thickened.
- Remove from the heat and pour into a serving dish or individual bowls. Leave to cool on the counter then cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge. Before serving roughly crush 10 pistachios with a pestle and mortar or use a plastic bag and a rolling pin and sprinkle over the firni.
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Nutritional information is calculated automatically and accuracy cannot be guaranteed. The information above is an estimate per serving.
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