When friends invited us for pizza night at their home yesterday, I decided to stop whining about the weather and cheer myself up by making one of my favorite summer desserts, kulfi. Kulfi, an Indian frozen dessert, is traditionally made by evaporating the heck out of whole milk, constantly stirring it for hours, until it reduces to a thick slurry, then adding sugar and spices like cardamon and saffron, or nuts or fruits. Unlike custard-based ice creams, kulfi does not contain eggs. The taste is sublime, rich and creamy, closer to Italian gelato than to aerated ice cream.
My happiest kulfi memories are from Chowpatty beach in South Bombay, where my family loyally patronizes one tiny kulfi shop. Their malai kulfi, the most basic flavor, is sublime but I really enjoy the mixed kulfi, where you get to enjoy small slabs of different flavors- kesar pista (saffron pistachio), orange, strawberry and mango- all on one dish (like one of the plates in this pic).
The traditional method for making kulfi is very labor intensive, and certain short-cuts have been devised to make the process easier on the home cook. You can start off with evaporated milk, sold in cans in supermarkets all over the US, and also use cornflour (cornstarch) as a thickener to help the process along, like in the rose kulfi I posted before. In the US, people have come up with kulfi recipes that use supermarket ingredients and don't involve any cooking at all, and that's the method I used when I made this fig walnut kulfi.
Kulfi is usually just poured into molds and frozen, without using an ice cream maker, which is very lucky because I don't own one anyway. But I did blend it a few times during the freezing process to get rid of most of the ice crystals since my milk mixture was not as thick as it could have been.
PS: I am going through an unfortunate food phase where I want to add rose water to everything. That's why this particular kulfi has Persian flavors reminiscent of falooda. But add saffron for a more traditional version.
Pistachio Kulfi(for about 6 servings)
1) In a heavy pan, combine
1 12 oz. can evaporated milk
2 cups milk (I used 2%)
2) Bring to a boil, then simmer, stirring often for 20-30 minutes or until the mixture is reduced by a third or so. Be sure to scrape all the milk solids at the side of the pan into the mixture.
3) Dissolve 2 tsp. cornstarch (cornflour) in 2 tbsp. cold milk. Stir it into the boiling mixture and let it cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring often, until the mixture thickens.
4) Turn off the heat. Stir in
2⁄3 cup sugar (more or less to taste)
1⁄3 cup pistachios, toasted lightly and ground to a fine powder
1 cup cream
1 tsp. cardamom powder
1 large pinch of saffron OR 2 tsp. rose water
5) Let the mixture cool. Pour it into a sturdy lidded container and place in the freezer. Let it chill for 2 hours, then remove it from the freezer every hour and churn it with a spatula to break up the ice crystals. Do this 4-5 times, then let the kulfi freeze until you serve it.
For a variation, set the kulfi in popsicle molds instead.
The homemade pizzas that our friends served were more delicious than anything I have eaten in a pizzeria- they made 3 delicious variations, including an unusual one with barbecue sauce and a topping of onions and peppers. The cool creamy kulfi was an enjoyable end to the meal.
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I read this interesting article today that talks about something that's on my mind a lot- thinking of how much trash I generate while going about everyday life when so many things we touch are thrown away within minutes. The post mentions the "psychological hurdle" of doing things that are different from the norm and I found myself nodding in agreement. For myself, I believe that every single little thing does count. I am not naive enough to believe that I am saving the planet by mopping spills with a dishcloth instead of a paper towel. And I am not cynical enough to think that small everyday habits don't accumulate to make us more aware and more conscious of our actions.
I still can't get myself to bring containers everywhere. When I bought a cup of hot chocolate on Friday, it did come in a lidded cup that I tossed in the trash. I have a long way to go.
But here's one action that has become second nature for me- taking my own bags to the grocery store and to produce markets. My pet peeve used to be those thin plastic bags that you use for produce. I knitted myself a sleeve (pattern here) to organize all my produce bags, and now I reuse them. If a bag gets soiled after a few uses, it gets one final use, to pick up after the dog, and then ends up in the trash.