Firni (Rice Pudding) : A Gluten Free Eid/Festive Dessert
One of many things that a person on gluten restriction learns is how to modify regular food items and I don’t mean creating Gluten Free Bread or Gluten Free Pizza or Gluten Free Roti either because such things take a lot of search for a perfect recipe, planning what special flour to buy and most importantly time to experiment. In my personal opinion it is far easier to pick, plan and prepare a dish naturally gluten free particularly when there is time crunch or when you are cooking for a bunch of people or its a special occasion like Eid or even birthdays. Although sweet and milky Vermicelli/Sawaiyan are must for eid but definitely not the only sweet dish for eid, I mean this eid is aka meethi (sweet) eid for a reason. Everyone has at least two or three varieties of desserts on their eid trollies.
You see for religious events we follow Lunar calendar which is of either 29 or 30 days and sometimes you are taken by surprise when after eight at night it is announced that moon has been sighted and eid is tomorrow. Panic mode activated. Yes there are SOME naive people who for undisclosed reasons aren’t always ready to deal with overwhelming preparations and are always hoping that they’ll get another day of the month provided the moon isn’t seen. For SUCH people pre planning is the best option and once they have everything required in their pantries it keeps unnecessary anxiety in check. Because it isn’t just about cooking.. Your clothes should be ironed and hanging in your wardrobes, last minute cleaning, final décor touches and most importantly, for girls, Mehndi/ henna. You need at least 30-40 minutes for henna application on hands and an hour wait for it to develop color meaning you can’t do anything once you are waiting for mehndi/henna to dry. My point being, time is of essence.
For me it is way more convenient to make one spectacular dessert for events like eid, to fit gluten free needs as well and if it is quick and easy that will be a huge bonus point. That is why I pick Firni over Kheer. Both are rice puddings with a just ONE difference which impacts the whole cooking process and cooking time. Kheer is made with regular white basmati rice and firni is made with white rice flour (not ground rice please). This changes everything from cooking duration to texture and taste. Let me keep kheer aside to-be-discussed later and elaborate firni elements. It requires three basic ingredients as any pudding does, starch which is white rice flour in this case, good quality, full fat milk and of course sugar to sweeten. What makes it desi and differentiate it from rice pudding is green cardamom which is present in all traditional desserts to give them a specific aroma.
Here is how to achieve the creamiest texture and phenomenal rich traditional taste in firni.
- Never compromise on quality of ingredients. Best ingredients equals to best results, simplest equation ever!
- I prefer full fat homogenized milk because it gives rich and consistent product every time. Results may vary taste wise and texture wise if fresh milk is used as it forms a thicker layer of fat when dessert is chilled.
- Use only white rice flour. Do not grind rice in a grinder. Rice flour and only Rice flour.
- Rule of thumb while making desserts with starch is to first cook starch thoroughly before adding sweetner. If you add sugar to milk first and then add starch it will simply not work. Let starch cook in milk and then add sugar.
- Though it requires short amount of time to cook but needs to get constantly stirred during the whole cooking process. I prefer using a wire whisk which prevents lumps from forming and flour does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Be very cautious.
- Firni will thicken slightly more when chilled but not much. Make sure to get the required texture while cooking before taking it off the flame. It should neither be runny nor gel like. When a spoon is taken from set and chilled firni the mark should remain there.
- The only nut that goes with rice based puddings, be it firni or kheer, is only pistachio no matter what anyone tells you. Its always and only pistachio.
- I would highly recommend adding barfi to firni when flour is thoroughly cooked. It helps with texture and enhance the flavor to a whole new level.
Special thanks to a special friend for lending her gorgeous clay pots for photography!
A traditional rich rice pudding which is served at weddings, parties and eid. It is quick and extremely easy and requires only 5 common ingredients minus the garnish.
- 1 liter full fat, homogenized milk, divided at room temperature
- 1/8 tsp crushed green cardamom seeds
- 7 tbsp white rice flour
- 110 gm burfi, preferably without nuts * see notes
- 9 tbsp sugar
- unsalted pistachio for garnish
- edible silver paper for garnish
Pour about 850 ml milk in a heavy based sauce pan. Reserve remaining 150 ml in a small mixing bowl.
Add crushed green cardamom seeds to the sauce pan.
Bring to a gentle boil over medium low flame.
Add rice flour to the reserved 150 ml milk and mix well with a whisk making sure no lumps are remaining.
When milk comes to a boil, pour in dissolved rice flour in a steady stream while keep stirring with the whisk. Do not stop mixing or there will be lumps formed or rice flour might stick to the bottom of the pan**.
Let cook for about 10-12 minutes while mixing with a wire whisk.
When the mixture thickens, add barfi and sugar. Keep mixing till everything is dissolved and firni is smooth, about 5-7 minutes.
Remove from the flame and pour in to a heat resistant serving bowl or individual serving bowls. Sprinkle with pistachio.
Let cool down to room temperature before refrigerating.
Serve chilled and garnish with good qualiy edible silver paper.
* If you don't have barfi, increase the amount of sugar to adjust sweetness.
** Firni will have best texture if whisked/stirred well throughout the cooking duration. If there are lumps formed at the end of the cooking, use a hand held blender to break them. Do it in small bursts a couple of time. Be careful... Firni may get runny if you go overboard with blending with a machine.