Kulfi is a popular frozen dairy dessert from the Indian subcontinent. It is often described as traditional Indian ice cream. It is popular throughout India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Burma (Myanmar), and the Middle East and widely available in Indian restaurants in Australia, Europe, East Asia and North America.
As popularly understood, kulfi has similarities to ice cream in appearance and taste, however, it is denser and creamier. It comes in various flavors. The more traditional ones are cream (malai), rose, mango, cardamom (elaichi), saffron (kesar or zafran), and pistachio. There are also newer variations such as apple, orange, strawberry, peanut, and avocado. Unlike Western ice creams, kulfi is not whipped, resulting in a solid, dense frozen dessert similar to traditional custard-based ice cream. Thus, it is sometimes considered a distinct category of frozen dairy-based dessert. Due to its density, kulfi takes a longer time to melt than Western ice cream.
The word Kulfi is derived from the Persian word used for the covered cup. The dessert likely originated in the Mughal Empire in the 16th century. The mixture of dense evaporated milk was already popular in Hindu sweet dishes. During Mughal period, this mixture was flavored with pistachios and saffron, packed into metal cones and immersed in slurry ice, resulting in the invention of Kulfi. Ain-i-Akbari, a detailed record of the Mughal emperor Akbar’s administration, mentions the use of saltpeter for refrigeration as well as transportation of Himalayan ice to warmer areas.
Kulfi is garnished with ground cardamom, saffron, or pistachio nuts. It is also served with faloodeh (vermicelli noodles made from starch). In some places, people make it at home and make their own flavors.
Traditionally in India kulfi is a dessert classic for holi festival, person or vendor sold kulfi called kulfiwala, who keep kulfi frozen by placing the molds inside a large earthenware pot called matka, filled with ice and salt. It is served on a leaf or frozen onto a stick. It can be garnished with pistachios, cardamom, and similar items. Often it is served as falooda kulfi, which is kulfi with rice noodles, rose or any flavor sugar syrup and other ingredients. Popular flavors include pistachio, mango, vanilla, and rose.
A rich frozen dessert that is made with reduced full-fat milk and flavored with either cardamom or saffron. Milk is slow cooked on low flame over a long period with constant stirring till it reduces to one-third of its original quantity. The reduced milk is slightly thick rabri with bits of malai (cream) or top of the milk.
Kesar Pista Kulfi
Kulfi is a popular frozen dairy dessert from the Indian subcontinent. It is often described as traditional Indian ice cream.
- 2 cups 2 cups full fat milk (240 ml cup used)
- 1 cup Milk to mix with corn flour/ starch or arrowroot powder (240 ml cup used)
- 2 tablespoon Corn flour/ starch or arrowroot powder (I used arrowroot powder)
- 1/4 cup Organic Sugar
- 1/4 tablespoon Cardamom Powder (Elaichi)
- Pinch of Saffron strands (Kesar) (optional)
- 10 to 15 Pistachios (pistas)
- 1/4 cup Fresh Cream or Mawa or Khoya (optional, tastes rich) (240 ml cup used)
- 4 Pistachios (pistas) for garnish
- Step 1 Bring 2 cups milk to a boil. Allow it to boil further for 10 mins. on a medium flame. Keep stirring often to prevent the milk getting scorched at the bottom.
- Step 2 Meanwhile add pistachios along with saffron to a blender jar and make a slightly coarse powder and set this aside.
- Step 3 After 10 mins. of boiling milk, add sugar and continue to boil for another 10 mins. Keep stirring often to prevent the milk getting scorched at the bottom.
- Step 4 Add Corn starch or arrowroot powder to 1 cup milk and stir well. Make sure there are no lumps. Lower the flame completely and pour this to the pot. Keep stirring and boil.
- Step 5 Add nuts powder and cardamom powder. Mix well and make sure there are no lumps. Add cream if using and cook for 10 mins. more and keep stirring. Under 10 mins. it turns thick. It should be of pouring consistency. Switch off the stove & cool this completely.
- Step 6 The mixture thickens further upon cooling. Pour this to kulfi molds, steel cups or popsicle molds. Cover with a foil and gently insert a ice cream stick. Freeze overnight.
- Step 7 Take out molds from freeze, immerse these in a bowl filled with water for 1 min. or rub the moulds in between your palms for 30 seconds. Gently hold the stick and demould it. Sprinkle chopped pistas and serve kesar pista kulfi immediately.