Hira’s Shrikhand

This refreshingly cold, sweet, slightly tangy, saffron and cardamom-infused yogurt is loved in India as shrikhand–a rich, thick, velvety, well-chilled yogurt served in the summer. For me shrikhand is as good as ice cream. It is a really easy preparation for a party, though it is eaten as part of regular meals as well as served at celebrations. As Indian meals traditionally are not served in courses, the sweet dishes are served with the main meal. Puris (puffy fried bread) are often served with shrikhand and people enjoy scooping up the thick yogurt with pieces of puris!

We have adapted my mother’s recipe for store-bought yogurts found in Western grocery stores. Typically, some add sour cream to yogurt and eliminate the step of draining the water. For a no-drain recipe, sour cream is often used. Greek yogurt would be a more healthful choice and it is my preferred one. A traditional shrikhand is a lot sweeter than this recipe. We prefer ours less sweet and without sour cream. It is a matter of what mouthfeel you like.

Growing up, we did not have the concept of dessert eaten separately, Western-style. Indians called it a “sweet” and it was eaten alongside the main meal. Sometimes the “sweet” was papaya or a melon macerated with sugar and lime juice, or bananas coarsely mashed into milk with sugar and cardamom served chilled. Sometimes it was yogurt (called curd) mixed with sugar and cardamom. All quick and easy preparations as a typical household cooked three meals a day.

The yogurt can be flavored with anything you like.  A little rosewater and pistachios is a refreshingly different flavor. Honey and berries will make a berry shrikhand. Mixed fruit makes a fruit shrikhand, or a pineapple shrikhand. 

This is a really easy and delicious dessert that involves no cooking.

Ingredients

  • 1 32 oz. full fat yogurt (preferable though you can use any kind–we like Siggi’s 4 percent fat Icelandic skyr which comes in a 24 ounce container and I use 1/3 cup sugar for it)
  • 1/3 cup white granulated sugar (or to taste)
  • 1 large pinch saffron threads (crushed between a finger and thumb)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon (or to taste, as they develop more flavor with time and most Indians love the flavor but others may want it milder) coarsely ground cardamom seeds (do it in a coffee/spice grinder or pestle and mortar)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped pistachios and almonds (optional)

Steps (The first two steps are if using regular yogurt. If using Greek yogurt or Icelandic skyr, go to step 3.)

  1. Line a large colander with a large, clean dish cloth. Place the colander in a large bowl so that there is 2-3 inch gap between the base of the colander and the bowl. The bowl should fit in the fridge.
  2. Spoon the yogurt in the lined colander and put it in the fridge for 6 hours or overnight. This will drain the water from the yogurt.
  3. Scoop the yogurt into a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar, saffron, cardamom, half the nuts (if using them). Stir well, beating it for a couple of minutes. Cover and chill for at least 4-6 hours, preferably overnight, before serving. It stays well in the fridge for 3-4 days. (The golden hue of the saffron develops over time. To speed up the color infusion, the saffron can be steeped in a tablespoon of hot milk for 5 minutes and then whisked into the yogurt. Saffron is expensive and it can be left out.)

Use the drained water for making chappati or paratha dough, or use instead of water to make lassi, or cook rice–if you happen to go through the first two steps.

Serves 4. Preparation time: 5 minutes plus overnight chilling and draining time.

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