If I close my eyes and think back to my earliest Diwali memory, I’m greeted by a seven-year old girl decked out in Radha (of Radha-Krishna fame) fancy dress. Every year, our local Hindu temple would host a Diwali event and for me, this meant dressing up in colourful satin clothes and feasting on more Indian sweets than you could shake a pair of dandiyas at.
It was 1995 and I had begged my dad for a costume tiara from Bombay Stores in Bradford all summer. He finally caved in after some heavy persuasion and a nice daal kachori pick up from Kaushy Patel’s Prashad. This was pre-Gordon Ramsay declaring it his Best Restaurant and long before it even became a dine-in restaurant. In those days, we would be treated to some Indian snacks from Bradford’s only vegetarian mithai shop one Sunday a month. Kaushy aunty would always sneak me Gulab Jamun freebies as I peered through the glass counter. She was always wore kajal around her eyes and a smile on her face.
After loading the car boot up with savoury snacks, mithai and fruit and veg from the abundantly-stocked Pakistani shop, Al-Halal, we’d head over to Bombay Stores.
My happy place
Passing through the doors of Bombay Stores like stepping into the set of a Bollywood movie. A labyrinth of colourful saris and lenghas, glass counters filled with glimmering costume jewellery, and Indian shoes as far as the eye could see. I’d have the “Bombay Stoooooores” jingle from Zee TV adverts playing on loop in my head. The lingering scent of Indian newspapers would follow you around like the mythological ghost, Betaal clinging to King Vikramaditya’s shoulders in Mahakavi Somdev Bhatt‘s Baital Pachisi. The smell of the newspaper ink came from the saris they were folded inside to keep the fabric straight and it permeated every fibre. I took long, deep breaths and revelled in anticipation of finally getting that tiara.
Playing dress-up was always the same after that day. My go-to persona was a princess. Finally, I was no longer “Little Diesel”, a wresting protégé my older brother had fashioned based on the infamous WWF (now WWE) character. Why? Because now I wore a tiara. I had arrived.
The first time I wore it outside the house was to the temple’s Diwali fancy dress.
One half of Radhe-Shyam
I dressed up as the gopi, Radha. In Hinduism, she is a milkmaid and dear consort of Lord Krishna. Decked out in an shiny aubergine-coloured skirt and top and my mum’s maroon lipstick, I felt like a million dollars. She gave me a faux beauty spot à la Cindy Crawford and painted my nails with her best bottle of Revlon nail polish.
I lost the fancy dress competition to my brother.
He was Shankar bhagwan (Mahadeva, an incarnation of Lord Shiva). He held a trident made of cardboard crisp boxes wrapped in tin foil and a large rubber snake around his neck. Mum did an amazing job on his costume. I was happy with second prize, a box of Milk Tray and my tiara still firmly on my head. Third prize went to my cousin who wore a long, grey school sock on his nose to resemble Lord Ganesha. It’s a day I’ll never forget.
Afterwards, we all filled up on dinner and mithai. The ones that appealed to my inner magpie were the ones covered in shiny silver leaf.
Much like these Pistachio Burfis, they had a delicious, milky fudge flavour and simply melted in your mouth. Here, I’ve recreated a version of the burfi I enjoyed when I was growing up. It has true pistachio flavours (not just food colour or pistachio essence) and of course, gold and silver leaf on top. Some things will never change.
Can I make Pistachio Burfi ahead of time?
Yes. Technically it lasts a week in the fridge so make it in advance and keep refrigerated. I’d recommend keeping it sealed in a container with a tight-fitting lid. Keep it away from anything strong smelling.
Do I have to use pistachio butter?
For this recipe, I recommend you do. It gives a perfectly-textured burfi with a delicious melt-in-the-mouth feel. Either order it online, find it in speciality food shops, or if you have a Vitamix-style blender, make your own. Ensure you are using a pistachio butter that is 100% pistachios, and with no added sugar.
Can I use any other nut butters?
As long as they smooth and mostly pure nuts. Any added ingredients may affect the texture of the burfi. If in doubt, always check the label. You’re looking for 100% nuts of your choice for the best results. I’ve tried it with almond butter, cashew butter and peanut butter, all with fantastic results.
How do I to cut burfi into perfect squares?
Always cut burfi at room temperature. Cutting it fridge cold could cause it to crumble and chip. Use a very large, very sharp knife to cut the burfi and wipe the blade clean after each cut to reduce crumbs and streaks.
Can I add any other masalas to this Pistachio Burfi?
Absolutely. If you like, you can add the ground seeds of 3-4 green cardamoms. I would not recommend adding saffron because it will significantly change the colour of this pistachio burfi. Saffron would however, be a great addition to cashew or almond butter burfi.
Is gold/silver leaf vegetarian?
Some methods of producing gold and silver leaf are not vegetarian friendly, due to the use of animal byproducts in the metal-beating process. However, there are many brands of vegetarian gold and silver leaf available. Check the packaging before using it if you’re concerned about this. I use these ones.
Do I have to use food colour?
Of course not. Keep the colours natural if you prefer. Without food colour, the burfi will be an off-olive/beige colour due to the combination of pistachio butter and caramelised sugar and milk powder.
Why do you use blue food colour?
The tiniest speck of blue colour will neutralise yellow hues from caramelisation one the burfi mixture, bringing it back to a natural pistachio shade. You can then add a touch of green to bump up the pistachio colour so it’s obvious what flavour the burfi is.
Can I use pistachio flavouring?
If you like it! I haven’t found one I love just yet as no artificial flavouring has given me the true pistachio flavour I get from 100% pistachio butter. However, if you have found one you enjoy the flavour of, there’s not reason why you can’t add it.
Can I melt chocolate on top of this Pistachio Burfi?
Absolutely. I’d recommend keeping it thin so it doesn’t overpower the pistachio flavour.
How to tell if burfi is cooked
The easiest and most accurate way of checking if the burfi is done is to use a sugar or food thermometer. Although, if you do not have one, there is another way of checking if it is ready. Before you start cooking, place a small plate in the fridge. It needs to be cold. Once you think the burfi mixture is done, place a small blob of the mixture onto the fridge-cold plate. Finally, allow to cool for a minute and if you can remove it from the plate easily and roll it into a ball between your fingers, it’s ready to pour into the tin. If it’s not ready, continue to cook and check again using a cold plate.
Why won’t my burfi set?
If the burfi will not set after coming down to room temperature (3-4 hours), it has not been cooked long enough. Return it to the pan and continue to cook, stirring all the time until it reaches soft ball stage.
Why is my burfi hard?
Hard burfi is an indicator that the mixture has been overcooked.
Ingredients you’ll need for Pistachio Burfi
- Full-fat milk powder
- Whole milk (or pistachio milk – I use this brand)
- Icing sugar (powdered/confectioners’ sugar)
- Pistachio butter (not ground pistachios). I use this brand.
- Any neutral oil
- Green and blue food colour (optional)
- Gold/silver leaf (optional – check labels to ensure they are suitable for vegetarians). I use this brand.
- Pistachio nibs or sliced pistachios, to decorate
- 23 x 15 x 5cm (9″ x 6″) brownie tin or thali
- Large, non-stick pan
- Wooden spoon
- 500 g full-fat milk powder
- 250 ml whole milk or pistachio milk
- 100 g icing sugar
- 125 g ghee
- 2 tbsp pistachio butter
- 1 tsp any neutral oil don’t use ghee or butter
- Green and blue food colour optional
- Gold/silver leaf optional
- Slivered, chopped or crushed pistachios, to garnish optional
- Grease a 23 x 15 x 5cm (9″ x 6″) tin with oil.
- In a large, nonstick pan, heat together the ghee and milk. Bring to a gentle simmer but do not boil. Turn the heat down to low.
- Once hot, add the milk powder and icing sugar. Beat with a wooden spoon until smooth. Any lumps will disappear as it cooks.
- Cook over a low heat until smooth and glossy, about 10 minutes. Stir all the time to ensure the mixture does not burn.
- Stir in the pistachio butter and continue to cook for a further minute. The burfi is done when it is glossy and reaches 118°C/235°F on a sugar thermometer. If you do not have a sugar thermometer, place a small amount of the mixture onto a very cold plate (keep one in the fridge) and if you are able to roll the mixture into a soft ball, it is ready.
- Remove from the heat and immediately stir in any food colours (if using). I used a combination of blue and green gel good colours to achieve a natural pistachio colour. A small amount of blue neutralises yellow tones from the caramelised milk powder for a more vivid pistachio hue. Food colour is optional. You do not have to add it if you don’t wish to.
- Pour the hot burfi mixture into the greased tin. Flatten the top down using the back of a spoon. Try to get the surface as even as possible. You can lightly grease the spoon with oil if it helps create a smooth surface. If you’re not using gold/silver leaf, you can press a small handful of crushed or slivered pistachios into the surface of the burfi at this stage.
- Allow to set at room temperature for 3-4 hours.
- Top with optional gold/silver leaf for an Indian mithai shop finish.
- Use a large, sharp knife to cut the burfi into pieces. I cut mine into 12 squares but you can cut these as small as 1cm x 1cm if you like. These tiny squares are perfect with coffee after dinner.
Pin it for later!
If you like this Pistachio Burfi, you’ll love my Sweet Boondi recipe