Saffron Pistachio Kulfi Pops

Kulfi and I have history. One that has roots from high school! I honestly don't remember much of my school days. Looking back, I realise I went most of it a haze of self-defense. I never fit, so I choose to exclude myself voluntarily, thereby creating a myth of control and years of no nostalgia. 

But amidst all of that barrenness are a few flickers of bright memories, the few times, I indulged in life and life ruffled my hair and said you can laugh and have fun. Kulfi is one of those few happy memories I retain from that time of my life. And, through it the longest friendship of my life. Although, I haven't been a good friend most of the time in that relationship and the tenuous connection continues only because of the other person. I am sorry for that. And, I am kinda hoping to make up for that, by dedicating this recipe to her.

It was like this.

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In my last year of school, I lived around 45 minutes walking distance from school. My routine was to walk to school every morning and take a public bus back in the evenings. Taking a bus did not really shorten the commute. It simply was the lazy way out. Now, here comes the important part. A bus trip costed Rs. 1.50 (2 cents US) one way. I was given exactly Rs. 1.75 everyday. That was all the money I ever had on me. The buffer of 25 paisa incase, for the sake of emergency!

There was also a small convenience store by the school where we typically bought last minute supplies - charts we forgot for homework for geography class, stationery and occasionally some thing to cool off with. Back then, the store carried a kulfi on stick made by the quintessential Indian ice cream brand, Kwality. Looking back, there was nothing particularly great about it. Although I still hold on to it being the best kulfi I have ever had.

Because, I somehow associate those kulfi experiences with being naughty and therefore nicer! You see, the kulfi costed Rs. 2. Now I only had Rs.1.75 on me. Therefore, in order have one kulfi experience I had to forego two days of commuter bus luxury. It felt rather a big and entrepreneurial choice then. And naughty because none was the wiser at home! ;-) But, more importantly, it is cherished because it was always a shared experience. I never ever had kulfi on my own. In my rather lonely childhood those times stand out in stark reflection.

My friend and I would buy the occasional kulfi and walk back home, chatting, about I have no idea what. Probably about how annoying school was! {Sad irony!} She lived halfway between the school and my house. So, typically, I would walk back to hers and then find some inside roads to get to mine. But, that time walking on my own and walking all the way was perfect trade off for having that experience, kulfi included.

I also ended up building up my hoard for future kulfi purchases. After all, every two days and one kulfi later, I still had Rs 1.50 extra. Until the meagre stash was discovered and I went back to zero. Sometimes, I managed to sneak in an extra kulfi before then. Ooh La La! Glory be with me! ;-)

I have clung to that memory for several years now. I graduated high school, moved cities and countries, and moved on in life. But, I have had few kulfis since. Probably a couple and they never tasted quite as good. I certainly never attempted to make my own. Sub-consciously, it has been a conscious choice. Those school kulfi days are special and I did not want to clutter my kulfi experiences and sully the memories. So, I felt.

Recently, I realised holding on was not a good idea at all. Letting go is essential to moving on. Somehow, in holding on to those few scraps of memories, I felt I was justifying what wasn't in those years. And, that is not a great idea. Neither is it a bright idea to not create new experiences around those objects because, the later ones are just new, and in no way supplant the cherished past. Thinking or rather hoping otherwise is very silly, I realised...

So, finally this Summer, I decided to make kulfi. I decided to do it right. That meant the laborious process of reducing milk. But, I also took a shortcut and thickened it slightly with sweet condensed milk. A lot of pistachios swirled in because that was the flavor I used to have. And, for added luck, the kiss of saffron.

It was decadent, show stopping and dangerously addictive. It was awesome. I enjoyed every lick of it. I will make it again. It is probably one of the best kulfis I have tasted (discounting modesty here!). 

And, that kulfi I used to have with my friend 18 years ago, still rules my heart! <3


Saffron and Pistachio Kulfi Pops

Making kulfi is really easy. All you need is some patience and good milk. The most work is in reducing the milk and thickening it. Using sweet condensed milk speeds the process. But, if you want to go all traditional, you would use more milk, sweeten it with sugar and reduce the volume by a third. Either way, the reduction essentially creates the rich, creamy caramelly note that makes it decadent and more-ish. There is simply no substitute for the reduction and there is lies the love of the process... :)

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2 cups whole milk

1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk

pinch of saffron

1/4 cup pistachios, ground (some coarse and some fine

In a heavy bottomed pan, bring the milk to a boil. Lower the heat to simmer and cook the milk until it thickens and reduces to half the volume, while stirring occasionally to prevent a layer from forming at the base.

This part takes about 30 minutes of semi-active oversight.

Stir in the rest of the ingredients and heat through for 5 more minutes.

Cool to room temperature and then pour into molds and freeze for atleast four hours.