Ferni – Rose water rice pudding

فرنی

This is Ferni, one of the most comforting and familiar dishes in Persian cuisine; a smooth and creamy dessert that is loved by both the old and the young. Though to call it *just* a dessert really doesn’t capture the essence and significance of this dish.

Ferni is so much more than a sweet rice pudding; it is a cultural phenomenon which requires more explanation. But first let’s talk about it as a culinary creation.

Though the ingredients list and method of assembly are simple, this pudding is not for the impatient. If you are looking for a quick microwavable pudding, you will no doubt be frustrated and disappointed!

The impatient cook might mix the ingredients, crank up the heat, get the flour to thicken the milk, and believe the pudding is cooked and ready to serve. But that would not allow the rice flour to soften, or the subtle flavors to develop and combine. Any Iranian grandmother, through her skill and intuition, would be able to discern your mistake! Too much heat would also risk the formation of a crust at the bottom of the pot, or of lumpy clumps of rice flour.

In recent conversations with my mom, she shared how my grandmother would test the pudding. Dip a spoon into the pot after the pudding has been cooking for a long while, and then blow on the back of the spoon. If you can blow the pudding to the side and see the center of the spoon, the pudding is done! However, if the center doesn’t clear, the flour has not been fully cooked yet. How great is that?!

Ferni as a cultural phenomenon

I rarely remember having Ferni as a stand-alone dessert or just for the heck of it. Growing up in Iran, dessert had a very different meaning to us than I imagine it has today. There was probably not a single occasion when I called out to mom to ask what was for dessert.

The truth of it was that desserts were mostly reserved for celebrations, dinner parties and significant events such as Persian New Year, fall equinox, winter solstice, etc.

What I most associate Ferni with is fasting and the month of Ramadan, which in Farsi we call Ra-meh-zan. During this period, those who participated in this fasting ritual would make huge quantities of this pudding for their families and neighbors. Typically you would break the fast at sunset with a small bowl of Ferni, followed by other dishes, beverages and desserts. This time at sunset when the meal is consumed after a day of fasting is referred to Iftar.

For me, I love Ferni because it brings back so much fondness and nostalgia. I love the creamy texture, the gentle notes of rose and – best of all – the little crust that forms on top! It’s like a cream-top yogurt, except that it’s a satisfying layer of Ferni crust!

Ferni garnished with rose powder and pistachio marzipan

Making Ferni recently, I stood over the stove for nearly an hour without skipping a stir, and was reminded of the virtue of patience. I thought of the generations ahead of me who have made this pudding for centuries, stirring up a connection to my roots. I celebrated the fact that laboring over food preparation is a Persian virtue that I intend to uphold and respect.

Values!

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Ferni

Rose water rice pudding
Cook Time1 hr
Total Time1 hr
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Persian
Keyword: rice pudding, Rose water
Servings: 8 4 oz servings
Author: Omid Roustaei, The Caspian Chef

Ingredients

  • 4 cups milk, whole
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup rice flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar, adjust to your taste
  • 3 tablespoons rosewater

Instructions

  • Bring milk to a gentle simmer over medium heat, about 5-7 minutes.
  • Add water, flour and sugar and mix with a whisk to integrate the sugar and flour into the milk.
  • Reduce heat to low and stir continuously with a wooden spatula for 30 minutes.
  • Add the rosewater and continue to stir for 15-25 additional minutes or until the pudding has visibly thickened. Taste the pudding to make sure the flour has softened and no longer feels gritty.
  • Remove from the heat and using a ladle divide the pudding into individual serving bowls.
  • Place the pudding in the refrigerator and serve chilled.

Notes

Ferni can be garnished and served with slivered pistachios and rose petals. 
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3 thoughts on “Ferni – Rose water rice pudding

  1. This recipe was SO DELICIOUS. I made it one day when I was kind of bored and wanted to do something that wasn’t too mentally taxing. Strangely enough, I found it very pleasant to stand at the stove stirring the pudding and zoning out while listening to music. And the end result was worth all the work… sweet and silky with that perfect hint of rose. It was pure comfort food, and I can’t wait to make it again! Though next time I think I’ll break up the stirring responsibilities with the rest of my family so that we can each take a 15-minute shift babysitting the pudding 😉 Thank you for posting this recipe!

    1. Oh, Alanna! You have no idea how much joy I received from reading your comment!

      I can just picture you standing by the stove and stirring the pudding seemingly endlessly. Yet with a purpose and an end goal.

      I have always believed laboring over food is truly a Persian virtue and by making this rice pudding you have also joined a long line of men and women who stood patiently over their pot of Ferni and found a moment to stand still and ….think, listen, dance, and love!

      Enjoy, my friend!

      1. Yes, I love that thought… how the process of cooking can connect us across generations and cultures. Maybe it’s the investment of time that makes what seems like such a simple dish feel so special (and taste so good!). It sure was refreshing to embrace the stillness for an hour and have a delicious reward at the end 🙂

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