Shrikhand is one of the most popular desserts in India. Some reference sources say that it can be traced back to Persian origins. Try it and you will understand the reasoning behind this thinking. I was fortunate enough to have been introduced to Shrikhand by the most respected authority on Asian cuisine, Charmaine Solomon, and tasted her version often when she and her dear late husband, Reuben, visited Canberra.
Charmaine says that Shrikhand is her favourite dessert and in her Encylopedia of Asian Food writes that it is easy to make, in that 'it needs no cooking, being thick yoghurt flavoured with saffron, cardamom and rosewater, then sprinkled with blanched unsalted pistachio kernels and, for a romantic touch, a few (unsprayed) fragrant rose petals'. My recipe is adapted from Charmaine's recipe in that book. Ester, this one is for you.
2 cups thick natural yoghurt*
2-3 tablespoons caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon rose essence or 2 teaspoons rose water+
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon saffron strands
1 tablespoon of boiling water
1-2 tablespoons unsalted pistachio kernels, finely chopped or ground in a mortar and pestle
Combine the yoghurt in a bowl with the caster sugar, rose essence or rose water and ground cardamom. Mix well with a spoon. Toast the saffron briefly in a small saucepan over a low heat, taking care not to burn the delicate strands. Transfer the saffron strands to a small mortar and pestle^, and crush them gently, then add a tablespoon of boiling water and stir. Add the saffron mixture to the yoghurt mixture, spoon into pretty dishes (or glasses). Cover and chill in the refrigerator. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios just before serving. This quantity serves 4.
*Naturally sweetened yoghurt, such as the award winning Lush from Country Valley Dairy, works brilliantly. In fact, I think that one is the best. Just use less caster sugar (i.e. 1-2 tablespoons maximum). Also, if using other brands, make sure you have drained your yoghurt, you don't want it watery.
+Rose essence is stronger than rosewater. Less is more with either, so add a little to begin with and adjust to taste.
^If you don't have a mortar and pestle, do as Charmaine advises and crush the saffron with the back of a spoon.