Scenario #1: Its insanely hot. Well, where I come from, when is it not? We've been shopping at the fancy airconditioned market that we only go to occasionally, and now we're tired, cranky and thirsty. A cool bowl of kulfi, delicately flavored, would go down really well.
Scenario #2: Its a lazy Sunday afternoon, and the entire family is at Nani's (my maternal grandmother) for lunch. She's finished feeding us pillow like luchis with spicy potatoes, raita, and peas pulao. Its time for dessert. She serves kulfi, frozen into cones in aluminium and plastic molds, an individual helping each. With practiced hands, she uses a knife to unmold each one. Studded with pistachios and oh-so cold and creamy, they're the perfect way to end a summer meal.
Kulfi is India's answer to all manner of frozen desserts popular over the world. No special equipment or molds are needed to make and serve these delicious treats. Often flavored with saffron, nuts or cardamom, fruit flavors, frozen and served in the fruit peel have also become very popular. With the heat wave of the past few weeks causing me to pant like my pup, I had to try to make some of my own.
Normally, a kulfi is a pretty high calorie dessert, made with whole milk and sugar. I tried hard to find a recipe for a healthier version online and failed. My mother never made these, and since nani is no longer around to offer advice, I just went for broke and made up a batch using my own recipe. My version is free of added sugars and open to customization. You can even use 2% milk!
Cardamom kulfi recipe (serves upto 6)
1 pint whole or 2% milk
1 cup half and half or light cream
1/4 tsp cardamom powder
few crushed cardamom seeds (optional- discard shells if using)
sweetener of choice, to taste. I used a Splenda/stevia mix
Boil the milk in a heavy bottomed pan, making sure it doesn't boil over, stirring constantly to ensure the milk doesn't burn. Once it boils, reduce the heat, add the cream and cardamom and let simmer slowly till almost halved in quantity. Add the sweetener and taste (use caution- its hot!). The frozen product will be less sweet, so make sure the milk mass is almost too sweet.
Cool for a few minutes before pouring into molds or freezer safe bowls. Don't wait too long before freezing as otherwise a skin will form on top of the milk. Freeze until solid, a good 4+ hours. To unmold, rinse your container with hot water for a few seconds.
This is how kulfi is traditionally made. I also made a batch of almost instant kulfi, but that recipe will come later.
You can skip the cardamom and add saffron, pistachios or almonds. Or even fruit purees! Just enjoy and beat the heat!