From creamy kulfi lollipops to an India-meets-Italy chai tiramisu, beat the heat - day or night - with these cool Indian sweets.
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16 Jan 2020 - 3:47 PM  UPDATED 22 Jan 2020 - 8:08 AM

Whether you're after a creamy popsicle, an ice-cold granita or an indulgent dessert with lashings of chilled sugar syrup, India has you covered when it comes to a cooler dessert offering for those hot days and nights.

One of our new faves is Parveen Ashraf's cool, creamy popsicle. "Anyone who knows me will tell you that I have such a sweet tooth, in fact when I go out to eat the first thing I do is check out the dessert menu before I even order my main - that way I can leave room for it!" says Ashraf, a cooking teacher who loves passing on the recipes handed down to her by her mother and grandmother. The ice-cream lollipops were a recipe she created for her colourful and engaging TV show, Parveen's Indian Kitchen, where she takes viewers on a tour of Indian and also shares many of her favourite easy Indian dishes. "For the show, I designed the gorgeous Kulfi lollies. They are a short cut on how to make real Kulfi  - Indian ice cream - but believe me when I say there was no compromise on the taste. I usually make it in small tubs, but for the show, I thought I would go all 'cheffy' and make lollies," she tells SBS Food. 

Inspired by Ashraf's enthusiasm for sweets, we've put together a collection of our favourite SBS Food Indian dessert recipes, including her short-cut kulfi. Put the fridge or freezer to good use and enjoy these chill-out sweets!

Honey, pistachio and saffron kulfi

With honey, saffron, pistachio and cardamom, too, this milky treat can be made as individual serves or one big impressive dessert. 

Honey, pistachio and saffron kulfi

Kulfi lollies

For a fun take on kulfi, try Parveen Ashraf's sweet lollipops. "Traditionally kulfi takes hours and hours to make ... I’ve found a really good shortcut, using condensed milk," she says when making them in Parveen's Indian Kitchen. Her recipe makes two kinds - pistachio and mango - but as she says, it's endlessly variable. "Once you’ve mastered the technique of making the kulfi, and you’ve made mango, pistachio, you can diversify. Sometimes [I make] maybe just plain rosewater. Other times I make a plain almond one. Whatever the flavour, I promise you it’s going to taste good."

Kulfi lollies

Mango mess

This is another of the desserts from Parveen's Indian Kitchen, this one showing how adaptable the flavours of the Indian kitchen are. "My mango mess is a real fusion of 'East Meets West' as it is my take on the quintessential English dessert, Eton Mess. I just swapped the English strawberries for Indian mango, and it has a beautifully fluffy, melt in the mouth texture and tastes divine," Ashraf tells us. 

Mango mess

Cardamom-scented white chocolate phirni with strawberries

Phirni is a popular Indian and Middle Eastern milk pudding found in endless variations, that can be served warm or cold and has a thick texture that is similar to panna cotta. It's usually made by boiling milk with rice flour, wheat, vermicelli, fresh corn or other starches. Here, a mixture of cream, cardamon, white chocolate and rice flour tops a rich layer of white chocolate ganache. 

Paneer balls in saffron sugar syrup (rasgulla)

It's hard to decide if the syrup-soaked balls or the thick, sweet syrup itself is the best bit of this delicious dish! Made throughout the Indian Subcontinent, but particularly loved by Bengalis, this dessert consists of fresh cheese balls which are simmered in water until light and spongy, then soaked in a sugar syrup. The paneer balls rest the in chilled syrup for a couple of hours, so you can make this ahead and then enjoy. 

Carrot kheer

A common fasting dish from the Indian province of Gujarat, carrot kheer is a sweetened milk dessert with sugar, carrot and cardamom that's delicious served warm or cold. 

Cheat’s rasmalai (ricotta balls soaked in fragrant sweet milk)

We love this recipe for many reasons: you can make it ahead and keep it in the fridge for up to two days (hello, cool sweet dessert whenever you fancy); it's a quicker version of a classic recipe, so it's great if you're short on time; and TV host and cookbook author Anjum Anand's version of her favourite Indian sweet is creamy and sweet, with the evaporated milk scented with cardamom and saffron. 

Cheat's rasmalai

Shikanji granita with lemon crème fraiche

This granita takes its flavours from shikanji, a popular Indian lemon drink that is both sweet and tangy and very refreshing. "It is really subtle and delicious served as a granita and perfect at any time on a hot day," says Anjum Anand. 

Ginger chai tiramisu

India meets Italy in this clever dessert by Anjum Anand. "For me, my daily ginger chai is reviving, soothing and relaxing all at the same time. So combining my personal pick me up with the Italian classic, replacing the Italian coffee with Indian tea, makes complete sense to me," she says. This cool dessert - which can be made up to a day ahead - can be tweaked to suit your level of love for ginger. Go all-in with freshly grated ginger in milky tea used to dip the biscuits, ginger liqueur in with the mascarpone (rum makes a great substitute, or leave out the liqueur altogether for a non-alcoholic version) and crystallised ginger scattered in while layering the ingredients. Creamy and cool, and utterly delicious, however, you build your version!

Almond milk, saffron and cardamom kheer

"You can serve this cold or hot, but I like mine cold," says Diana Chan, of her version of this classic Indian rice pudding. Chilled in the fridge, this creamy pudding thickens up and is great summer comfort food topped with fresh fruit. Her recipe uses almond milk, so it's a great choice for those who don't eat dairy, too. 

Almond milk, saffron and cardamom kheer

And a bonus: Bombay lemonade (nimbu sharbat)

Okay, it's a drink, not a dessert, but we couldn't resist including this of-so-refreshing recipe as a bonus suggestion! "Summer days were hot in Bombay (Mumbai), but at the end of the school year, I'd get a little pocket money each day from my mother, which I would diligently invest in some sort of snack. My preferred cooling agents were tall glasses of freshly squeezed sugarcane juice, limeades or lemonades, and each of these babies would be flavoured with a combination of spices and fresh herbs, making them the perfect thirst quencher and refresher. This is my version of lemonade from those happy summer days," says Nik Sharma. 

Watch Parveen's Indian Kitchen Saturdays at 5.30pm 25 Jan to 28 Mar on SBS Food. Episodes will be available on SBS On Demand after they air. 

Find more Indian dessert ideas in SBS Food's Indian recipe collection, including these:

Apple funnel cakes (jalebi)

Apple jalebis are batter-coated rings and India’s answer to lovely melt-in-the-mouth funnel cakes, those fried crisp cakes served with sugar syrup.

Saffron and cardamom milk pudding (shree khurma)

This milk and rice vermicelli pudding is spiced with saffron and cardamom and sweetened with dates. Pistachios, cashews and almonds add texture. The Chefs' Line

Indian fudge (burfi)

Burfi or barfi is a sweet, fudgy Indian confectionary. Quite like its Western counterpart, it is made with loads of sugar and milk, but here it is flavoured with cardamom, saffron, fruit extracts or rosewater. Traditionally, milk solids, ground nuts and different types of flours are also used, but now even fancy versions with chocolate and cheese are hugely popular. For me, Diwali is incomplete without gulab jamuns and some kind of burfi.

Pistachio kulfi

Delicately flavoured with Indian spices, such as cardamom, saffron and cinnamon, and sometimes other ingredients like rose and mango, kulfi has a dense, rich texture that will have you coming back for more.