Mama’s Punjabi Recipes: Saddi Khoye di Burfi (Plain Congealed Milk Squares)

Khoye di burfi_IN

Every city in India has a halwai di dukan (sweet maker’s shop or confectionary) and most have now become fancy air-conditioned shops with glass display cases and tables to sit at. You can order from the huge variety of popular sweets that Indians love as well as many types of savory and spicy snacks aloo tikka (potato cutlets) and masala chaat (spicy layered mix). But the largest variety of sweet sold has to be burfi (milk squares), in many flavors, which is a favorite of kids and old.

Burfi is usually made layered with pista (pistachio), badam (almond) or kajju (cashew) and the plain one usually has a coating of warak (a very fine film of real silver or gold, though this is now only for special occasions) which astounds young second generation overseas Indians who they can’t believe you can eat a metal film!

Old-fashioned, traditional burfi is made letting heavy cream whole milk boil on a stove till it has evaporated down to a thickened congealed layer called khoya, which is the basis of making all burfis. It’s a time consuming process that requires patience, the ability to stand over a hot stove for long hours and continually stir the milk so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot and burn.

In the days when we made khoya at home – and especially when my two sons were little in London when you still couldn’t find many Indian shops – the kids would clamor and fight to get a chance to scrape the delicious residue off the bottom of the pot! I would leave an extra amount just so that they both would feel satisfied!

In India you can get ready-made khoya to use in making burfi, but in the US it’s not readily available. So, instead of standing over a pot of milk for hours, this is a recipe to make a tasty saadi burfi that can match the store made ones. It is quick and easy to make – in about 30 minutes – and those who eat it will never know the difference!


• 1 cup non-fat milk powder

• ½ can condensed milk

• Natural food color of your choice


Pour the milk powder in a bowl, then slowly add the sweet condensed milk and four drops of coloring and mix thoroughly.

Coat your hands with some vegetable oil so that the mixture will not stick. Then, knead the mixture with your hands and form into a ball.

Coat a large, clean dinner plate with a thin film of vegetable oil so that the mixture will not stick.

Take the ball out the bowl and place on the dinner plate.

Coat a velna (rolling pin) with some oil so that it won’t stick. Then use it to spread the ball on the plate into a ½ thick flat pancake.

Cover with some wax paper and place the plate in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Remove from fridge and then cut the pancake into 1.5 inch square or diamond shapes and serve at room temperature.


If you live in The South as I do, then you understand what a nuisance those pesky mosquitoes and other flying bugs can be when you sit outside, especially in coastal and swampy areas. These pests get really bad after the rains when they have a chance to lay their larvae on ponded water. Spraying the lawn and plants only helps for a little while and doesn’t always eliminate all the types of bugs that can bite you.

There are many home remedies for controlling mosquitoes and many plants like citronella, marigolds, ageratum, catnip, rosemary, basil, sage or lavender that can repel the bugs with their aroma. As Indians love chutney, I have found that the second benefit to planting peppermint is that it also controls mosquitoes and can be planted indoors too, in a pot by a sunny window.


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Shakuntla Malhotra is a skilled cook of Punjabi dishes made in the old-fashioned style that she learnt as a young woman in her ancestral home in Lyallpur, India (since renamed Faisalabad) before it became part of Pakistan after the Partition in 1947. People have often admired her cooking for its simplicity and taste that comes with each mouthful. Even in her late-eighties, she continues to cook daily and agreed to share her delectable Punjabi recipes for future generations.