Basundi was the Dusshera special dessert at home yesterday. For those who haven’t heard of it before, Basundi is a made by cooking milk on a low flame for a few hours till it reduces by half. It is very close to Rabdi, but a lot thinner.
I think Basundi is a seriously under-rated dessert. For some reason, its rarely ever an item on the menu of Indian restaurants in Mumbai, even the authentic Maharashtrian ones. It is sweet, milky and not overly heavy. I can easily polish of a couple of bowls of Basundi even after a good meal.
My mother makes the best Basundi ever! Her recipe is really simple (given below) though a tad bit time consuming. But the results are absolutely worth the effort.
I usually like the Basundi quite plain with some Chironji nuts and a little saffron thrown in. This time my mother decided to make it rich and went all in with the garnish and added loads of sliced almonds, shredded pistachios and a few strands saffron. And it turned out heavenly! The thin, crunchy slices of almonds along with a tiny bit of pistachio here and there were a perfect contrast to the creamy thickened milk. The fragrance and flavor of saffron completed the dish.
Recipe (Makes about 2 liters of Basundi)
4 liters Milk
4 tablespoon Sugar
2 small pinches of Saffron Strands, soaked in hot milk
Sliced Almonds and Shredded Pistachios as per taste
1. Pour the milk in a non-stick pot. Cook on a low flame while stirring every 3 to 5 minutes till the is reduced by half. (This takes about 3 hours for the above quantity. You can turn up the heat a little if you are an anodized pot, slightly speeding up the process.) Stirring ensures that malai (cream) doesn’t form at the top.
2. As the milk reduces, it will turn pinkish. Once the milk is reduced by half, add the sugar and cook until it dissolves. You can add more than 4 tablespoons if you like your desserts to be very sweet. (An advantage of adding sugar after reducing the milk is that the milk has already turned sweeter with all the cooking and you don’t need to use a lot of sugar.)
3. Remove from heat and add the saffron strands (along with the milk used to soak them), almonds and pistachios for garnish.
4. The Basundi can be served hot. Or it can be chilled in the refrigerator for a few hours before serving. (I prefer the later.)