True rabdi is simply milk that has been brought to a boil and then simmered until most of the water evaporates, and it is thick and creamy. Mixed with sugar, nuts such as almonds and pistachios, and flavorings, rabdi is a dessert in itself. It is also used to make other Indian desserts. Rabdi is incredible when served as a sauce over grilled, stewed or poached fruits — try it with pineapples, apples, pears, mangos, peaches and nectarines. When frozen, it transforms into Kulfi (Indian ice cream.) To make flavored kulfi, start with the recipe for Traditional Thickened Milk Pudding, which is more time-consuming but more authentic, then choose any of the following flavors. Freeze as directed in Quick and Easy Indian Ice Cream. This green-tinted kulfi is one of the most popular. The ground pistachios add to the overall taste and the chopped ones, a delicate punch.
To make the pudding: Place the milk in a large, heavy wok or skillet and bring to a boil over high heat. Continue to boil, stirring, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring and scraping the bottom and sides of the wok often, until the milk is reduced by at least 3/4, about 45 minutes. You should be left with about 2 cups of condensed milk. (It should have a few lumps.)
Mix in the sugar, cardamom seeds, ground pistachios and food coloring, if using, and cook, stirring, until the sugar melts and thins down the pudding, and then the pudding thickens again, 5 to 7 minutes.
Transfer to traditional kulfi molds or disposable 5 1/2-ounce plastic souffle cups. Cover and place in the freezer until completely frozen, at least 4 hours.
To serve, dip each mold in hot water about 10 seconds, run a knife around the inside of the mold and transfer immediately to a dessert plate. Serve whole or cut into smaller pieces, garnish with chopped pistachios, and serve.
Recipe courtesy of Neelam Batra, 1,000 Indian Recipes, Wiley Publishing, Inc., 2002