With temperatures rising since the last few weeks, it’s time to Churn out some recipes to combat the summer heat and humidity. Here’s an attempt at making kulfi – a popular frozen dairy dessert from the Indian subcontinent, often described as “traditional ice cream”. Kulfi is denser and creamier than ice cream, though similar in appearance and taste. I prepared one of the traditional varieties using cream and cardamom, but it can also be churned out in flavors like rose and mango. Unlike ice cream, kulfi is not whipped, resulting in a solid, dense frozen dessert, that consequently takes a longer time to melt than Western ice cream, due to its density.
The word “kulfi” comes from the Persian word for “covered cup”. The dessert originated in the Mughal Empire in the sixteenth century – where the mixture of dense evaporated milk was flavored with pistachios and saffron, packed into metal cones, and immersed in slurry ice. Saltpeter was used for refrigeration at the time.
The preparation involved evaporating sweetened and flavored milk, on a slow flame with continuous stirring to prevent the milk from sticking to the bottom of the vessel. Continue cooking until the volume gets reduced by half, thereby increasing the fat, protein and lactose density and thickening the mixture. The distinctive taste is due to the caramelization of lactose from the lengthy cooking process. Ground cardamom, saffron, pistachios can be added. The semi-condensed mix is poured into moulds that are then sealed tightly. Traditionally the moulds are submerged into ice mixed with salt to speed up the freezing process. I just placed them into the freezer. For serving, the kulfi can be garnished with vermicelli noodles (falooda) or strawberry syrup or mango purée (depending on what flavor one wants.) I had them plain. (The cardamom flavor was quite distinctive.)