We recently had a large group of friends over for dinner. Instead for cooking for close to 50 people, we took the lazy route and catered Indian-Chinese food from a new restaurant that had opened in our area (Inchin Bamboo Garden, excellent choice by the way, and it is a chain so there might be one close to you). The wife however, told me to get my act together for dessert and we decided we will have Indian-ish ice cream to go with the theme. Mango-ginger sorbet made from canned mango pulp was prepared (a separate post on that will follow) and then I decided to be a little adventurous and try my hand at making Kulfi.
Kulfi is a popular ice cream from the Indian sub-continent. Though the exact origins of the dessert are lost in time, some time between the 16th and 19th century, inhabitants in Northern India living close to the Himalayas are thought to have discovered the art of making frozen foods. It is believed that Noorjahan, emperor Jahangir‘s queen, prepared a dessert using nuts, fruit pulp, milk and ice for him. Anything remotely resembling ice cream was limited to the consumption of royalty till the invention of modern refrigeration techniques. Kulfi, is now ubiquitous and even though the classic dessert is made with just thickened milk, pistachios (and other assorted nuts), sugar and saffron, these days we are assaulted with all flavors of Kulfi.
Anyway, back to the story. Since vanilla ice cream forms the base of so many ice creams, I decided to start with that and add some cardamom to add some Indian flavors to it. Then, inspiration struck me and I went to the local Indian grocery store and got some Thandai mix. Now, Thandai (or “Coolness” in Hindi – strictly in the temperature sense, mind you), is a drink popular in North India during the summer months. You can think of it as the liquid form of Kulfi, though there are some differences. Since both Kulfi and Thandai use similar ingredients and Thandai mix is readily available as a syrup, I decided to use it as the ingredient “X” in my recipe. Not quite Kulfi but a nice little ice cream nonetheless.
Here is what I did. Do let me know if you make it and experiment with it. Would love to hear of your outcomes.
INGREDIENTS (for 12-14 people)
5 cups half and half
8 cardamom pods (smash them on the side to expose the inside)
1 vanilla bean
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup thandai mix
1/4 cup shelled pistachio
1/4 cup almonds
1. In a thick saucepan, heat the half and half, cardamom and vanilla bean on medium heat till they simmer but not boil.
2. Remove the saucepan and let it cool for 30 minutes or so.
3. Whisk the yolk and sugar in a separate bowl (TIP: Use the egg whites to make a Chocolate Mousse).
4. Slowly add the half and half mix to the egg and whisk vigorously when adding.
5. Pour this mixture back in the saucepan (it is now a custard) and put it on medium-low heat.
6. Add the Thandai mixture to the custard and cook till the mixture thickens. Keep stirring often while heating. You will know when it is done when the custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon and leaves a clear trail when a finger is drawn through it, about 6-7 minutes.
7. Pour through a medium sieve, cover and cool in the fridge.
8. In the meantime, take the nuts and roast them for 5 minutes at 400F in the oven. Cool and crush the nuts with the flat of the knife and keep aside.
9. Once the custard is chilled, pour into a prepared ice cream maker and make as per the instructions for vanilla ice cream. In my Cuisinart, it took about 40 minutes.
10. In the last minute, put in the nuts.