Easy After Dinner Sweets for a Crowd: Kulfi

Kulfi ice cream with cardamom and pistachios. Photo by Kim Salzwedel.

Kulfi ice cream with cardamom and pistachios. Photo by Kim Salzwedel.

I am dessert challenged. I want to offer my guests something that is delicious and different,  easy to prepare for a non-baker like myself, can be done ahead, and of course, isn't a service nightmare with too many dishes and serving implements.  While looking for a cold shrimp dip idea, I saw a recipe for Kulfi, a south Asian ice-cream based dessert, and thought, hmmm, what's being done here for a small group could be multiplied, even with my poor math skills, to feed a big crowd. The hardest part would be clearing a shelf in the freezer for a tray of 24 portions.

Actually the hardest part turned out to be doing the math on how many ounces for the portion and the proper size plastic cup. The restaurant supply store near me sells many sizes and shapes of plastic serving items. Do you know how many ounces are in a half gallon of ice-cream and that it's rare to find a half gallon anymore? It is the same situation as the shrinking pound of coffee that now weighs 12 ounces. I had no idea. Figuring out a mixing bowl work around when nothing I had was large enough to hold the total volume ran a close second. But it can be done and didn't take long at all.

When it was time for dessert I whisked the tray out of the freezer and put it on the table where everyone could help themselves and grab a spoon. That would be the quickest I have ever gotten a dessert out. The kulfi also pleased me very much with the slightly exotic aroma and flavor of cardamom and the crunch of pistachios. It was not bone chillingly sweet and as incredible as it may seem, the whipped cream lightened up the ice-cream. My crowd of 20 ate 22 servings so I counted it a big success.

Cardamom is expensive and not well understood. Consult your favorite reliable source about purchasing to avoid imitations, storing and grinding to make your own much more powerful ground product than is typically available. I lean on Charmaine Solomon's Encyclopedia of Asian Food. It is OED quality. Reference books and web sites are personal. Who do you trust? Let me know who you think does a better job than C. Solomon.

Kulfi ice cream with cardamom and pistachios

This recipe makes more than 24 servings of 5-ounces each. (adapted from Heavenly Fragrances by Carol Selva Rajah)


1 gallon premium vanilla ice-cream, half-thawed

1 quart heavy whipping cream, whipped with confectioners sugar

1/4 cup confectioners sugar

2 tablespoons ground cardamom  

4 cups coarsely chopped, roasted, unsalted,  pistachio nuts

In a very large container combine the half-thawed ice cream with the sweetened whipped cream. Stir in the cardamom and one half of the pistachios (reserving the rest for garnish). Pour into dessert molds and freeze until firm. Garnish each serving with pistachios.