Firni/Ferini (Afghan Custard)
Custard is a universally loved dessert and is incorporated into most cuisine’s repertoires. Firni/Ferini (Afghan Custard) is THE custard dessert served at special occasions in Afghanistan and the recipe I used was kindly given to me by Ms Gazal Gailani from the Embassy of the I.R. of Afghanistan in London.
How would you describe Firni/Ferini (Afghan Custard)? In essence it is an eggless milk custard, where milk and sugar are thickened with cornflour and lightly spiced with ground cardamon and flavoured with a dash of heady rose water and topped with a sprinkling of nuts, either almonds or pistachios or a combination of both, finished off with an optional scattering of pomegranates. The texture is creamy, smooth, rich and refreshing.
The custard is made without eggs making it a fantastic dessert for friends with egg allergies, vegetarians and vegans. The custard is made ahead of time cooled, refrigerated and is always served chilled, which makes it a great get ahead recipe.
If you are making this recipe for vegans, I would veer towards using the same nuts as the nuts that sprinkle on the top of the custard. Almond, Cashew or Coconut Milk would work well. Steer away from soya milk as when heated it tends to have a beany flavouring, which overpowers the custard. I tried the recipe with lactose free milk and it worked perfectly too.
It is fascinating to see how all national food history is intertwined. In fact the dessert ingredients are very similar to a Cypriot dessert that we make called Mahalepi, a thickened milk custard without sugar, however the Cypriot dessert is set, thickly cut and served in a bowl with a light rosewater syrup and plenty of ice. It is refreshing in the debilitating Cypriot summer heat.
The Firini/Ferini is quick to make, something different to try and is also a time saving make ahead recipe, that can be topped with your own favourite fruits and spices.
- 2 cups of full fat milk or nut butter
- ¼-1/2 cup sugar
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- ¼ cup slivered almonds (optional)
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ⅛ teaspoon saffron threads (optional)
- ⅛ cup finely chopped pistachio nuts (optional)
- 1 teaspoon of rosewater (optional)
- Put all but ½ cup of milk into a medium size sauce pan.
- Take the remaining ½ cup milk and mix with ½ cup of cornstarch.
- Add the milk and cornstarch mix into the pan with the rest of the milk.
- Over medium heat, stir the mixture constantly until mixture begins to thicken (about 10-15 minutes).
- (Optional) Add almonds and keep stirring until mixture thickens and bubbles. Use a whisk if mixture becomes lumpy.
- Add cardamom and rosewater and stir. Cook on low heat for 10 minutes, allowing the ferini to simmer gently. Stir occasionally.
- Pour into platter, spreading evenly. Sprinkle pistachio nuts and cardamom on top and around the edge of the ferini.
You can top the plain custard with fresh fruit or a fruit compote.