To make the rabri, heat the milk over a medium heat, then boil until it reduces to a cream. It’s best to use a wok, karahi or a sturdy casserole for this – you want the milk to reduce quickly so that it retains its creamy colour without browning. Stir continuously, scraping down the sides of the pan as it cooks.
After about 20 mins, the milk will have reduced by two-thirds and have the consistency of double cream. Stir in the caster sugar and continue cooking until the sugar has dissolved. Add the saffron strands along with the soaking milk and the rosewater. Spoon the cream into a bowl and leave to cool, before transferring to the fridge.
To make the malpua batter, sieve the flour and salt into a medium bowl and mix in the milk powder and fennel seeds. Make a well in the middle of the flour and whisk in enough milk to make a smooth batter – aim for the consistency of double cream. Cover and leave it to rest at room temperature for 20 mins.
To make the syrup, put the sugar in a pan with 300ml water, heat gently, stirring, to dissolve (do not let the water boil). Add the cardamom pods, then simmer for 5 mins. Turn off the heat and gradually stir through the saffron along with its soaking water. Cover the pan and keep the syrup warm while you make the pancakes.
Heat enough ghee in a deep-sided frying pan to create a depth of 3cm when melted. Whisk the batter – it will have thickened slightly and should now have a coating consistency. Add a little more milk if needed.
Once the ghee reaches 130C, or when a cube of bread dropped in browns in 1 min, carefully drop in tablespoons of the batter, leaving room for them to spread. Each pancake should be about 7cm in diameter when it spreads. Take care not to overcrowd the pan.
Cook the pancakes in batches for 2-3 mins. Once the batter has set, increase the heat slightly, and continue cooking until the pancakes are golden. Remove from the oil using a fish slice and drain on kitchen paper.
Add the hot pancakes to the warm syrup in batches, letting them steep for 2-3 mins. Drain the pancakes, then transfer to a serving plate and cover to keep them warm. Repeat the process with the remaining batter and syrup – there should be 14-16 small pancakes.
Spoon any extra saffron and cardamom syrup around the pancakes and top each with a generous helping of chilled rabri. To serve, scatter with chopped pistachios and rose petals, if you like.