Kesar Pista Badaam Kulfi (Kulfi with Saffron, Pistachios and Almonds)

I have never been a Kaali Pujo/Deepavali person, in the sense it doesn't feature in my calender as gloriously as Durga Pujo does. This is primarily due to the fact that when in school, Kaali Pujo would come at the last leg of Puja vacations and more often than not would be followed by the commencement of our Half-Yearly examinations a couple of days later. So for the first 18 years of my life, Kaali Pujo was spent indoors, with a book in my hand. And I really didn't mind because a) I loved to study and b) I was never a crackers person. I loved the diyas/lights though, and every year Didi and I would decorate our balcony with candles. Thamma (paternal grandmother, about whom you can read here) would dictate to us what to place where and we would act as per her instructions. With a bare minimum of phooljhuri, electric wire, a couple of chorkis and maybe a tubri, our Deepavali fare was done.

The story, however, changed when I crossed the threshold of school and shrugged off the burden of an impending exam. following Deepavali. It was now that I started looking at the festival in new "light". I tend to spend all my festivals at Teesta's place. She stays in this multi-storeyed apartment where we have a huge community pujo culture and most of my friends whom I've grown up with belong there. And once I started going there on Kaali Pujos I became privy to all the tales of the ghosts in the 12-storey building terrace and another one in the 14-storey building lift. Kaali Pujo those days were fun. We would go up and down the lift trying to spot this imaginary ghost, bang against the door of the terrace to see if "it" bangs back and so many other random nonsensical things. We were in our late teens, mind you, but the joy you get from behaving like a 7-year old is truly unparalleled!
Deepavali is associated with food, especially sweets. Like most Indian festivals are. So to usher in Diwali this year, I chose to make some Kesar Pista Badaam Kulfi, one Indian dessert that I generally choose over anything else. I completely adore this Chocolate Kulfi you get at Delhi's Minto Road Durga Pujo, and initially thought of trying that out. But since it's a festival and we should all act classical, I decided to stick to the authentic version. I made 12 of these, had half of one for lunch and when I was searching the fridge for another one after coming back from work that night, I was told that every single one of them had been gulped down, and with glee. Very few things make me as happy as feeding people and this instance was special as it meant that I could steer myself clear from the extra load of calories that might have attacked me in the form of another kulfi. :)
Makes 12 kulfis

Ingredients

Milk, full fat: 1 litre (I used Amul Gold)
Corn flour, dissolved in 4 tbsp milk: 2 tsp
Condensed milk: 400 gm
Pistachios: 1/3rd cup
Almonds, soaked for a couple of hours and then skinned: 1/3rd cup
Cardamom, powdered: 10 pods (only the seeds)
Saffron, dissolved in 4 tbsp lukewarm milk: 2 pinches
Sugar: if needed and as much (optional)
Additional pistachios and almonds, roughly chopped: for garnish

Method:

1. Blitz the nuts in a mixer into a coarse mix. Don't blitz for a long time because otherwise the mix may turn into a sticky paste and we don't want that. Don't make it very fine either. Keep aside.

2. In a deep-bottomed pan or kadhai, heat milk. First bring to a boil and then lower the temperature and let it simmer for 15-20 minutes. Keep stirring continuously to prevent it from scalding. The milk should become thicker and reduce in volume by now.

3. Now add the condensed milk and on the same low flame keep stirring as it simmers. After 5 minutes, check for sugar. If required add as much. Simmer for another 8-10 minutes.

4. Now add the cornflour along with the milk and stir to prevent any lumps from forming.

5. After around 5 minutes add the cardamom powder and a couple of minutes later the coarsely ground nuts and saffron. Keep stirring very well and if case lumps tend to form from the nut paste, break them up by a spatula. Wait for the milk to take the colour imparted by the saffron.

6. After simmering for around 6-8 more minutes turn off the gas and let the mixture cool completely.

7. Now pour the mixture gradually into kulfi moulds (or shot glasses or flat bowls), seal the mouth and put in the freezer to chill. Keep for 12 hours at least.

8. For serving: Rub your palms against the kulfi moulds and then upturn them on a serving plate to ensure easy demoulding. Alternatively, you can also place it under running tap water for 10 seconds (and no more).

9. Serve garnished with pistachios and almonds.
I am sending this to Kolkata Food Bloggers' Diwali event.
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