Off the Menu: Eric Nigg's Kulfi
Local comedian Eric Nigg isn't a renowned culinary authority, but he deserves to be considered one at least vis-a-vis the Indian ice cream-style dessert kulfi. He brought this stuff over to my place to follow a meal of homemade chicken tikka masala, and it was cool, refreshing, subtle and damned delicious.
8 cups milk
1 cups cream
A generous pinch of saffron, about 8-12 strands
1 tsp. ground cardamom (best if freshly ground)
1 cup sugar
A few tablespoons shelled pistachio nuts, coarsely ground with a
pinch of salt and a heavier pinch of sugar
Additional pistachio for garnish, if desired
Bring the milk, saffron and cardamom to a gentle simmer. Stir regularly as the milk simmers until the volume of milk is reduced by half. Add sugar to dissolve. Add cream, and refrigerate until chilled, generally several hours or overnight.
Pour mixture into an ice cream maker with a 6 cup capacity (if your machine
is smaller, the recipe can easily be halved). After 20-25 minutes, stir in most of the seasoned pistachio mixture.
I reserved some of the pistachio mixture for a nifty silicone mold I generally leave, neglected, stowed above my kitchen cupboards. I simply sprinkled the pistachios into the bottom of the mold before pouring in the ice cream mixture. Freeze the molds overnight. Unmold and serve, perhaps with some additional broken pistachios.
If you don't have such a mold, sprinkle the pistachio over scoops of ice
cream after it's hardened in the freezer overnight.
In place of pistachios, almonds work quite well.
This kind of kulfi is ordinarily poured straight into a mold and frozen, rather than using the intermediary step of an ice cream maker, but the ice cream maker results in a smoother, softer texture. The extra cream, generally not used in Indian recipes, makes the ice cream extraordinarily rich and indulgent.
Although it's also not typical in Indian recipes for kulfi, the small hint of salt in the pistachio helps bring out all the other flavors in the ice cream. Like the great salted peanut butter ice cream at Seattle's Veil, one of the most remarkable items I've sampled there, it may evoke some strong reactions: At Veil, people either love it or hate it. I don't use as much salt as Veil does in my pistachio blend, so nobody who has tried my version was terribly shocked, but getting the balance might be tricky. Start with just a little pinch.