A morsel of royalty. The khansamas, the Royal chefs of the Mughal kitchen, are recognised for inventing this dessert. The key ingredient in this recipe is bread which, come to think of it, is a staple in a poor mans’ diet. On paper it is, quite simply put, a bread pudding.The nobility, perhaps, was achieved with the elaborate process of frying bread triangles in pure ghee. Further progressing its status was milk, sweetened and boiled clotting like cream. This Rabri was flavoured and perfumed with the crushed whole spices and saffron imparting its hue. Certainly not a dessert to be taken lightly (pun intended).
Credits for this recipe goes to Gul. My best friend, Saman, and her cousins used to operate a fashion boutique in Abu Dhabi and Gul used to work for her. She hails from Lucknow, and for that very reason, doesn’t diminish the authenticity of this easier much lighter version of this recipe. Saman mentioned how her sister-in-law made this dessert for a family gathering and how shamelessly easy it was to make.
When I asked her for the recipe, she sent me a text message with five ingredients and a ratio of sugar to water. This was close to three years ago when I was inexperienced in the kitchen. I could only cook if I had precise measured ingredients accompanied with detailed step by step instructions. This was a four line text message. I nervously prepared the recipe and halfway through panicked seeing the consistency of the milk. It was a far cry from thickened milk and I wondered how it would finally set. I texted a photograph of the pan on my stove which she then texted to her sister-in-law who confirmed I had it right. More about this consistency later.
A month ago, I was anxiously dug through my phone for this recipe. Weirdly enough, entering ‘milk’ pulled out the message history from the archives. We moved to Dubai earlier this year and I was hosting a farewell dinner for my uncle and aunt returning to Kerala having recently retired. I was cooking for 17 family members. Nervous as I was, I wanted to go all out for this special night. And that meant I was had two desserts on the menu. Dessert no. 2 was a layered dessert which meant it needed a little more prepping. This Shahi Tukra would come together quick enough to prepare the remaining of my menu.
For starters, the bread isn’t deep-fried. Yes, there is Ghee involved but a little goes a long way. Put teaspoons full just enough to crisp the slices to golden. Not having to fry the bread saves a lot of time which makes it a perfect contender for dessert for larger dinner parties. Secondly, there isn’t any Rabri for the bread to soften in. A simple sugar syrup is what does this. Milk is added to the syrup and boiled for not more than fifteen minutes. At this stage, the milk has just started thickening but still loose enough for dipping.
This is the star technique to this recipe. The triangles are dipped in th milky sugar syrup and any remaining syrup is poured over the arranged bread slices. How simple is that?
A generous pinch of the above is a step is not to be skipped. Ali loves working with the mortar and pestle and had a hearty (and deafening to me) time pounding these large green cardamoms to fine powder. This powder is fried in a little ghee right before you make the sugar syrup ensuring the flavour deepens in the cooking process. I had to add saffron threads for colour right before I took the milk syrup off the stove.
A handful of slivered pistachios. Dried rose petals. Just a few more things to mask this effortless recipe. Putting the final touches to my dessert placed a huge smile on my face. And why wouldn’t it?
Have a good food day.
- 1 loaf white bread (milk bread preferred) - cut off crusts and cut into triangles
- 5 cardamom pods finely crushed
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 cup water
- 1 cup fresh milk
- Saffron threads
- Pure ghee
- Chopped pistachios - to garnish
- Dried rose petals (optional)
- In a frying pan, melt a tablespoon of ghee and toast bread slices till golden and crisp.
- Keep adding ghee as needed to toast the bread slices.
- In a saucepan, melt a teaspoon and quickly fry cardamom powder over low heat.
- On a medium heat , add sugar and water to the saucepan and stir.
- Let it cook for close to 10 minutes stirring occasionally.
- Add the milk to the saucepan and bring it to a boil.
- Once the syrup boils, lower the heat.
- Stir occasionally and cook the syrup for not more than 15 minutes.
- Add saffron threads, stir briefly and take off heat.
- Quickly dip toasted bread in the syrup. Be careful not to burn your fingers.
- Arrange dipped bread slices in your serving dish.
- Pour remaining syrup over the bread slices.
- Garnish with nuts and rose petals.
- Let it sit for an hour before serving to ensure the bread becomes soft.
- If you like your desserts cold, let the dessert chill in the refrigerator once the dessert has cooled to room temperature for a couple of hours.