In this post, I celebrate the season’s bounty of mangoes with a mango phirni – a coconut and mango rice pudding that’s 100% vegan. No dairy at all. If you’re familiar with kheer and phirni, you’ll know that they are Indian, milk-based rice puddings. Now purists may turn up their noses but this phirni is made without so much as a drop of milk. Neither does it use non-dairy milk such as almond or soy. And yet it is creamy and feels rich without being so.
Summers in India are sweltering with heat and humidity rising daily. But even this boiling climate has its charms – loads of mangoes and litchis to gorge on. Just the mangoes makes the heat worth enduring. Countless varieties hailing from different regions of the country tempt us with their intoxicating fragrances and juicy, sweet flesh. At this time every Indian home is busy devouring kilos of the king of fruits and whipping up mango-based dishes to make the most of nature’s seasonal gift. With this mango phirni, I’ve tried to create light, clean, fresh flavours with minimum cooking required in the hot weather.
“ Pray how is a phirni made without milk?”, you ask. The answer is coconut, fresh coconut flesh has a milky juice of sorts that gives this pudding it’s silky richness. Phirni is typically made with basmati rice coarsely pounded or ground to a mealy texture; a kheer on the other hand is made with whole grains of rice. For this phirni, it’s important to use basmati rice since we want an aromatic dessert. Although a very small amount of rice is used here, it makes all the difference to the cooking time, taste and aroma of the phirni.
Since this is a mango phirni, the mango, needless to say, has to be of a certain quality; since mangoes come in countless varieties each with its own very distinct personality. They can be pulpy or fibrous or just 80 per cent juice, they may be sweet and sour or just sweet with varying degrees and types of perfume not to mention the thickness and colour of the skin, shape and even the size of the seed inside. Colours can range from light yellow to vivid saffron to blushing red-yellow to shades of green. Anyway, whichever type of mango you choose, make sure it is pulpy and sweet with soft flesh, that’ll give thick, bright, puree when buzzed in the food processor. Excessively juicy fruit will yield a thin puree, which is not what we’re looking for since it’ll thin out the phirni’s creamy consistency. Alphonso (Hapus), Banganapalli, Badami, Sundari are some that fit the bill.
At the very height of summer, mangoes are intensely sweet and as such your phirni may not need sugar. My suggestion is to add a little sugar and let the mango do the rest. Basically it’s your choice. I don’t care for overly sweet desserts and generally cut down the sugar. You can add or minus the sugar as you see fit – just remember to taste your mango before you decide on your sugar quantity.
A phirni, in my opinion is best eaten chilled, straight out of the fridge. And this one is no different. Every once in a while I work with a recipe that gives me 100% satisfaction. It ticks all the boxes – simplicity, easy-to-find-ingredients, deliciousness, and healthy. This mango phirni fit the bill very well. Try it and see if you feel the same.
- 60 g rice, preferably basmati
- 200 g fresh coconut, grated or chopped into small pieces for easy grinding
- 60 g sugar
- 1 large, ripe mango, peeled and diced
- 25 g pistachios, cut into slivers and lightly toasted
- 4-5 powdered green cardamoms,
- A pinch powdered nutmeg
- Wash and soak the rice for 1 hour, covered in enough water.
- Drain the rice and grind it with the coconut in a food processor (using a little water, not too much) till you get a thick, slightly grainy, batter-like paste (it should not be completely smooth).
- Transfer this mixture to a large saucepan, add 500 ml water and ground cardamom, and cook on a low-medium flame for 10 mins (stirring constantly), till the phirni is cooked to a creamy, gruel-like consistency. If your phirni thickens too much, thin it out with a little water.
- Turn off the heat, stir in the sugar and the ground nutmeg, stir well and set aside to cool.
- Meanwhile, peel, dice and puree the mango with 2 tsp lemon juice (to help retain the bright colour).
- Once the phirni has cooled completely, stir in the mango and mix well. Toss in the pistachios, chill for at least 2 hours and serve with fresh mango.