Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Barfi, Barfi, Barfi!!!


(Indian) A dessert made from milk that has been cooked slowly and reduced to a fudge like consistency. This sweet is flavoured with either saffron, vanilla essence, cocoa, rose water etc. Sometimes nuts and fresh coconut is added. Eaten and served in bite sized pieces 'Barfi' is a very popular after dinner dessert. Just like bringing a bottle of fine wine when you visit someone for the first time, a decorative box filled with different kinds of 'Barfi' is a traditional gift in India.

OK, so it makes sense to start with my personal favourite Indian sweet - Barfi! A traditional sweet dish from the northern part of the country but with many regional varieties it is most often made by boiling milk and sugar until a thick consistency is reached. It is then left to cool and set before being cut into pieces, decorated with silver leaf or nuts and then enjoyed. It can be flavoured with pretty much anything your heart desires - from the more traditional saffron and cardamom, to almonds and pistachios, all the way across to chocolate and mango!

The name 'Barfi' is rumoured to be derived from the Hindi word 'Baraf' which means ice and this refers to the appearance of the unflavoured sweet - white cubes which look similar to blocks of ice - a common feature up in the cold heights of the Himalayas!

I think the best way to describe Barfi is that it is more or less the Indian equivalent of fudge. The cooking processes are very similar as are the consistency and taste. The presence of Barfi in Indian culture can be compared to that of chocolate in Western culture - one would often take a box as a gift when visiting friends or open a box to share on a special occasion and the different varieties and colours make it much the same as opening a selection box of chocolates!

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