The decadent and royal Shahi Tukra with a flavourful twist

Published: May 11, 2015
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Shahi Tukre is a sublimely saffron-infused, milky and egg-free bread pudding – the flavours and aromas are best described as decadent and royal. PHOTO: SUMAYYA USMANI

Bread pudding is one of the most frugal yet comforting and heart-warming desserts ever created. Though most people choose simplicity with their addition of spice, it should be known that those creamy oozing layers of custard can do with and compliment any spice in the cabinet. Here I have used traditional saffron and cardamom.

In my home in Pakistan, my nani (maternal grandmother) used to make Shahi Tukre every Sunday for lunch amongst the biryani and accompaniments. Even though it’s a heavy dessert, there are ways to make it more suitably lower in calories – use skimmed milk and less sugar – though you compromise the authenticity.

Shahi Tukre is a sublimely saffron-infused, milky and egg-free bread pudding – the flavours and aromas are best described as decadent and royal. It’s a dessert that comes from the Mughals and is as popular today in India and Pakistan as it was then. Of course, nowadays it’s rather a dessert than a privileged, as it was in the Mughal era. Shahi Tukre itself translates to ‘a slice of kingliness’ which explains its regal name.

In an attempt to create my own twist on a classic Mughal recipe, I couldn’t resist buying this unassuming yet sweet nutty marzipan cholla (chickpea) bread from Gail’s and rushed home, hoping to create a real fusion of cultures in the form of a marzipan cholla Shahi Tukre dish.

I patiently waited for a day for the bread to be slightly stale and voila – it became a beautifully fragrant creation, staying true to its Mughal roots yet crossing borders and flavours. The marzipan gave the dessert an enhanced nuttiness and sweetness.

Don’t be daunted by having to make the ‘khoya’ – thickened milk which takes ages to prepare – as I have included a quick recipe below. This is used in many Pakistani desserts so it’s a recipe worth learning!

This recipe makes enough for three to four people and takes about 30 to 45 minutes to prepare.

Ingredients:

Large marzipan cholla bread or any other soft bread – ½ loaf

Ghee – ½ cup

Whole milk – 2-3 cups (can be substituted with almond or soy milk)

Dry powder milk – ¾ cup

Water – 1 tbsp

Caster sugar – ½ cup

Saffron – 1 pinch (soaked in hot milk for about 15 minutes)

Cardamom – 2 pods (bruised and seeds removed)

Almond and pistachios – Handful (sliced, for garnishing)

Method:

1. First prepare the khoya by making a thick paste using the powdered milk and water. Cover and heat in microwave on full power for about one minute or so until it looks like stage two in the picture below. Then give it a stir and heat again for about a minute and a half and it should look like stage four below.

You now have khoya (thickened milk) ready.

2. Slice off the bread crusts and heat one to two tablespoon of ghee in a frying pan and fry the pieces of bread on both sides till they are golden brown. Place the bread slices in a shallow dish and pour in two cups of milk to soak the bread slices and leave for about two to three minutes. Press on the slices to spoon out soaked milk and keep that milk in a bowl.

Carefully set the bread aside.

Make sure not to press on the bread slices too hard or excessively as that might spoil the bread.

3. In a saucepan, heat the milk spooned out from the soaked bread, along with another cup of milk, khoya (which should be half a cup), one to two tablespoon of ghee, saffron, cardamom and caster sugar, and cook on medium heat while stirring it constantly until it turns thick and yellow in colour.

4. Once the yellow custard is ready, pour half of the mixture into a shallow serving dish and place the bread slices on top, carefully overlapping each other. Pour the remaining custard on top of the placed bread slices, making sure all the slices are covered evenly. Sprinkle with sliced pistachios and almond and bake in an oven on medium heat for about 20 minutes or so until the top is crusty and brown and the custard is bubbling away.

5. Serve with more fresh nuts and some plain vanilla ice cream, or just by itself either warm or cold. For a more elegant and royal touch, sprinkle some beautiful pink rose petals!

All photos: Sumayya Usmani

This post originally appeared here

Sumayya Usmani

Sumayya Usmani

She is a writer and cookery teacher based in London, UK, specialising in the cuisine of Pakistan, where she was born and raised. She blogs at www.mytamarindkitchen.com/ and tweets as @MyTamarindKtchn (twitter.com/MyTamarindKtchn) She is also the author of a cookbook, Summers under the Tamarind Tree.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.