I loved going to London’s south-Asian centres like Wembleyas a kid. Not for the endless sari shopping, but because it involved snacks I wouldn’t often get at home: crispy potato bhajia, samosas, chaat, mogo, dokhla and falooda – a rose-flavoured dessert drink. It’s rare to get a really good falooda because it’s such a fine balance of rose syrup, generous quantities of basil seeds – which bloom into a frogspawn consistency when soaked – vermicelli noodles and vanilla ice-cream. In short, a thing of magic.
Falooda (Indian rose dessert drink)
Don’t skimp on the rose syrup. It can usually be found in litre bottles in international supermarkets. You will need four tall glasses for serving.
Prep 40 min
Cook 10 min
Chill 4 hr+
140g rose syrup
1.2 litres whole milk (or an alternative like oat milk)
20g basil seeds (AKA tukmaria), or chia seeds
25g falooda sev or corn vermicelli
40g caster or granulated sugar
1 tsp agar agar (vegetarian gelatine supplement)
4 scoops vanilla ice-cream
Chopped pistachios (optional)
Make the rose milk: pour 120g of the syrup into the milk and mix well. Set this aside or in the fridge if you’re making it ahead.
Rinse the basil seeds in cold water and put them in a large bowl with enough water to cover. Set this aside for five minutes; you will notice that they will “bloom” and start to look like frogspawn. (These can be kept in a container in the fridge for three days and strained before use.)
Put a medium pan of water over a medium heat and bring to a simmer. Add the vermicelli and simmer gently for five to 10 minutes, until softened. Strain and set aside to cool. I like to keep the vermicelli relatively long for falooda, but not so long that they are hard to eat. Use a pair of scissors to trim them to your desired length – I cut them to 10cm.
In a separate pan. make a sugar syrup : heat 60ml water and stir in the sugar. Once it has a syrupy consistency, add the strained vermicelli, remove from the heat and let them steep for half an hour.
For the rose jelly, heat 350ml water with the remaining 20g rose syrup in a medium saucepan. When it has reached a gentle simmer, add the agar agar and whisk well. Remove from the heat and pour into a shallow heatproof container lined with clingfilm.
Leave this to cool to room temperature, then put in the fridge to chill completely and set – about four hours.
To assemble, take four tall glasses. Put a teaspoon of the basil seeds in the bottom of each glass, followed by a heaped tablespoon of the soaked vermicelli. Add the ice in large chunks on top (I like quite a lot – up to half the glass) and mix briefly. Add a tablespoon of the rose jelly, then the milk, and mix briefly. Finish with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream on the top of each glass. Garnish with chopped pistachios, if you like. Serve with a long spoon and a large straw.