Alka Joshi: The Palace Recipe for Royal Rabri from The Henna Artist

Alka Joshi’s family recipe for rabri, a sweet, thick milk dessert, that appears in her novel THE HENNA ARTIST.


  • 10 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 6 saffron threads
  • 1 cup sugar (or less, if you prefer)
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom seeds, crushed (try a coffee grinder for this)
  • 2 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted and sliced
  • Raisins or other dried fruit (optional)
  • Pistachio or other nuts (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon rosewater or kewra essence (optional, see note)


  1. Combine milk and cream in a deep saucepan. Boil for 2 hours in a saucepan on low heat, stirring slowly and continuously. As cream starts to form along the sides of the pan, scrape it gently back into the milk mixture. Do not mix it or break up the layers. Do not let the milk burn.
  2. Set aside 2 tablespoons of the hot milk mixture in a bowl. Add saffron threads and allow to soak.
  3. When the mixture in the pan is reduced to half its volume, add sugar to the saucepan and stir. Remove the pan from heat. Let cool.
  4. Fold in the saffron milk mixture, crushed cardamom seeds, and your special ingredients (raisins, pistachios, almonds, dried fruit, and rosewater or kewra essence).
  5. Chill for 4 hours and serve cold. When ready to eat, the dessert is a milky mixture with ribbon-like layers of cream and lovely orange saffron threads floating on top.