Afghanistan is an ancient country with a history dating back 50,000 years and has served as a crossroads to the East for millennia. Sadly, its strategic location has also made it a target of conquerors for an equal number of years, even into the modern era when the Soviets invaded in the 1980’s. The most recent history of Afghanistan is also crowned with suffering inflicted on the people by the Taliban, who have also simultaneously destroyed much of the country’s rich archaeological heritage.
As a result of all these factors, Afghanistan’s cuisine is a fusion of many different influences particularly Indian and Persian. Afghani cuisine is in many ways a milder form of Indian cooking, using many of the same spicing and culinary techniques but with strong Persian influences as well. Afghani pomegranates are justifiably renowned throughout the Middle East and Asia as some of the sweetest and juiciest available – the country is also famous for its grapes, apricots, melons, several other fresh and dried fruits, as well as nuts.
As it happens, one of my all-time favorite desserts is from Afghanistan and is called Firnee, which is basically a milk pudding flavored with cardamom and rosewater and garnished with finely ground pistachios. It is traditionally served at weddings and important festive occasions and is sweet, rich, comforting and includes two of my favorite flavors (used with abandon). I’ve gilded the lily by amping up the cardamom and also garnishing it with pomegranate seeds, sliced fruit and berries. You can certainly skip the extra garnishes if you prefer a classic recipe.
Citizens – Firnee is easy to make and absolutely delicious, I hope you will give it a try on your table soon! 🙂
Battle on – The Generalissimo
2 ¼ cups Whole Milk (Preferably From Jersey Cows and Organic)
1 cup Sugar
4 Tablespoons Cornstarch
1 ¼ teaspoons Freshly-Ground Cardamom
1 teaspoon Rose Water, Cortas brand strongly preferred buy it on Amazon
5 Tablespoons Pistachios, Finely Ground
Optional – Pomegranate Seeds, Blueberries and peeled Kiwi Slices for garnish
1. Heat milk in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat.
2. In a small cup, mix cornstarch with a few tablespoons milk. Stir to create a smooth, gravy-like consistency. This is called a cornstarch slurry.
3. Add cornstarch slurry, sugar, cardamom, and rose water to the saucepan. Stirring constantly, heat mixture until it thickens and a few bubbles break through the surface.
4. Remove from the heat and ladle into serving dishes. This recipe will fill 4 small ramekins.
5. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing lightly onto the pudding. This prevents a skin from forming on the custard.
6. Refrigerate and cool completely. Sprinkle with ground pistachios, decorate with the fruit in an attractive geometric pattern and serve.