Garam Masala Tuesdays: Kavita Massi’s Mango Kulfi

Its getting hot- quite hot here in our small town. Back in India, its getting even hotter. Thus, its only apt that I post this for today’s GMT- a sweet treat to beat the escalating summer heatKulfi. And since ’tis the season for mangoes, I thought of taking it up a notch and made Mango Kulfi :)!

In India, kulfi – a frozen milk-based dessert- is a street-vendor food. Sellers keep the frozen treat cold in a special ice and salt filled big pot called a matka. Although the usual way to serve it is with a simple garnish of nuts, some vendors also serve sweetened vermicelli rice noodles with Kulfi. Some serve it in small earthernware pots called matkas– and this kind is called Matka Kulfi. For me the name Kulfi always reminds me of this vendor who used to sell kulfi outside Moet’s in Defence Colony, Delhi. I loved his Kulfis. I am not a falooda fan, so would just have the stick of Kulfi. Kulfi is also quite a popular menu item at Indian weddings, especially summer weddings.

Unlike western ice cream, Kulfi is not whipped, resulting in a solid, dense frozen dessert that takes a long time to melt– hence the perfect treat during a hot summer day- you have no worries of it melting it on your shirt or ruining that new summer dress you bought!

It is believed that the first Kulfi was made by freezing Rabri (reduced milk and sugar) in ice. During the Mughal empire reign in India, the ice was brought in from Hindu Kush to Delhi. For a long time the privileges of having Kulfi were limited to royalty and upper levels of aristocracy in India until modern day refrigeration technology reached South Asia.

Traditionally, Kulfi is prepared by evaporating the heck out of milk by slow cooking it and stirring it continuously so that the milk does not stick to the bottom of the vessel and burn. This is done until the volume of the milk is reduced by more than half and you get an extremely thick milk. This takes hours. After the milk is reduced, sugar is added while still hot. Nuts like pistachio or almond and flavorings like saffron, rose water, kewra are added. The mix is then frozen in tight sealed molds that are then submerged in ice mixed with salt to speed up the freezing process. The ice/salt mix, along with its submerged kulfi molds, is placed in earthen pots or matkas that provide insulation from the external heat and slow down the melting of ice. Kulfi prepared in this manner is hence called ‘Matka Kulfi’. Kulfi, thus prepared by slow freezing, also renders a unique smooth mouth feel that is devoid of water crystallization.

I also read that aging the mixture overnight (about 12 hours) in the refrigerator prior to start freezing, gives a better Kulfi.

Now, now, I would not dream to suggest you all to be in the kitchen for hours at a stretch especially in this heat. Of course you could do all that I mentioned above, but one of Vikram’s relatives whom I fondly call, Kavita Massi, gave me a “cheat’s version” for making Kulfi. And it’s pretty easy with fabulous results!

The best part of the recipe is that it can be assembled in minutes. You don’t have to slave for hours to make this dessert. And the beauty of any Kulfi recipe is that it’s flexible to any addition. If you do not have mango on hand you can omit it (of course, you will need to add a few tbsp of sugar but do not go overboard with the sugar as it affects the creaminess of the kulfi). You can also omit the pistachio, instead you can choose to add rose water, cardamom or go a little on the wild side and add avocado, strawberry or orange! No matter what flavors you choose, you will have a wonderful treat to bite into!

I had made these treats when we had a few of our friends over and had quite a few left over as the recipe yields quite a lot. V was quite happy because he loved the kulfi. As I have already mentioned before, on occasions more than once, V is not much of a sweet fan. More often than not I have to ask him whether he wants something sweet, and after a lot of contemplating, he says a very disheartened “ok”. But, not with this dessert. (I think I have stumbled on something great here.) V actually asks for this Kulfi (and let me also mention here, he hardly used to eat Kulfi back in India. So he must really like it!) Even if I am full and assume that he is too and as such don’t serve any sweet, he actually suggests that we should have a Kulfi each! That should be evidence enough to convince you to try this recipe. This is the biggest testimonial that the dessert is good if V asks for it. (He had it twice yesterday- and both times I did not even have to remind him that there is Kulfi in the refrigerator).

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