Celebrate Diwali with these fusion Phirni Tarts (Indian Rice Pudding Tarts)! ❤
The Indian festive season is here, and though I live in the Middle East, all around me there are fairy lights and lanterns twinkling in windows. It’s a real delight, little flashes of gold and crimson dotting the scape as we drive down. Walk up the stairs of apartment buildings, and diyas (oil lamps) line doorsteps with delicate flames dancing with the wind.
It’s almost time for Diwali, the Indian festival of lights; let the celebrations begin! ❤
When I think of life as an expat, I always find it heartwarming how we all bring pieces of our home country in the way of festive traditions, recipes, music and dancing back with us to our places of residence. Though sometimes unnerving, it’s fun to watch the older, more traditional folk get all animated about celebrating ‘the right way’, as they did when they were kids in India. It moves me, the way we pass on the best parts of our cultures so effortlessly, to our kids; they to theirs… and to the world.
Every year, for Diwali, I make a fresh, frolicking fusion dessert, marrying the beauty of cakes, cheesecake and tarts with aromatic desi delights that have long-since sweetened festive celebrations in India. Speaking of which, you guys are really showing the Rasmalai Tres Leches Cake and Gulab Jamun Cheesecake a lot of love on Pinterest right now. Thank you! ❤
This year, I bring you these divine Phirni Tarts with a flaky, crisp tart shell filled with phirni, an Indian rice pudding made with coarsely ground rice cooked in sweetened milk and flavoured with saffron, cardamom and rosewater. If your brain is playing tricks on you by creating all those sweet scents around you, I’m right there with you! 😛
This recipe makes 6 single-serving tartlets. Here’s what you need:
For the Pastry:
- All Purpose Flour – 1 cup (150 g)
- Salted Butter – 113 g, cold and cubed
- Icing Sugar – 35 g
For the Phirni:
- Full Fat Milk – 1 l
- Basmati Rice – 100 g, soaked for 30 minutes and drained
- Sweetened Condensed Milk – 3/4 can (300 ml)
- Ground Cardamom – 1/2 tsp (3-4 pods, deseeded and crushed)
- Rosewater – 1/2 tsp
- Saffron – 20 strands
- Pistachios & Almonds – 100 g, roughly chopped
Here’s how you make these festive Phirni Tarts:
- Get the Pastry going: Preheat the oven to 180 ºC/ 356 ºF. In a large bowl, sift in the flour and icing sugar. Add in butter and using your hands, knead the mixture till it attains a crumbly, sandy consistency. Then press the dough into generously greased mini-tart moulds.
- Bake the Tart Shells: Prick the pastry all over with a fork, cover with cling wrap and pop into the freezer for 15 minutes. Then bake tart crusts for 15 minutes until they are light golden and crisped up. Leave to cool.
- Prep the rice: Place the soaked, drained rice in the food processor/mixer-grinder and whizz until rice is coarsely broken up. Set aside.
- Make the Phirni: Bring milk to a slow boil. At this point, reserve about 3 tablespoons of hot milk and soak saffron in it. Turn off the heat and add in the coarsely ground rice while stirring vigorously to ensure rice doesn’t clump up. Place the pot back on the heat and cook the pudding, stirring continuously. Pour in the sweetened condensed milk, saffron and cardamom and keep stirring until the rice is cooked through and appears like little bubbles, and the pudding attains a thick, custard-like consistency (it will thicken further as it cools). This should take about 20-25 minutes. Take the Phirni off the heat and add in the chopped nuts and rosewater. Allow to cool completely, then place in the refrigerator till chilled.
- Serve: When ready to serve, spoon chilled Phirni into golden tart shells, garnish with some chopped almonds, pistachios and a few strands of saffron. Dig in!
Full disclosure; up until I was 21 years old, I had no idea what Phirni was. I was well-acquainted with Kheer (Indian milk pudding), Shahi Tukra & Rabdi (fried bread slices soaked in sugar syrup and smothered in a flavourful evaporated milk pudding) and Jalebis (spirals of wheat batter piped into hot oil, fried to a crisp, then dipped in fragrant sugar syrup, my favourite!)
I was introduced to phirni by the fiancé when we first moved to Mumbai, India, and spent the next few years detesting it. Not because there’s something wrong with this particular rice and milk pudding. But because it is almost never prepared well, commercially. Most restaurants, mithaiwalas (Indian sweet shops), eateries and kiosks that serve phirni get it so wrong; always too sweet, saffron overpowering the flavours, rice bits almost non-existent and way too much food colour! Go easy on the yellow stuff!
I love how these Phirni Tarts come together. Crackling, mildly sweet, golden pastry shells filled with chilled, luscious pudding, with the most wonderful texture, like bubbles bursting in your mouth; sweet, fragrant and fabulous. And those crunchy pistachios and almonds are the perfect garnish! ❤ A dessert that floats between a myriad of flavours and textures that are wow, wow, WOW!
I’m not going to lie, making these Phirni Tarts is a time-consuming affair. The pastry comes together fairly quickly, but the pudding requires you to stir consistently while the milk simmers down and thickens. Quite a process, but 100% worth it.
I have to admit, though I loved everything going on in this dessert, I was a bit skeptical about how the family would receive it. Would they love it or dislike the twist? But they LOVED it! They thought these Phirni Tarts worked like a charm, and I know you will too. 😉
This Diwali, mix things up a bit with these Phirni Tarts; an ode to tradition, peppered with a hint of novelty, simply perfect for the festivities!
Dear Reader, here’s wishing you and your dear ones a very Happy Diwali! May light shine on you, and may it bring into your life goodness, benevolence, knowledge, patience and joy! ❤
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