A couple of weeks ago I received a recipe request for Shole Zard. This delicious Persian dessert is pure nostalgia for me. It reminds me of my dear maternal grandmother who made the best Shole Zard in the world. Every time I taste this sweet saffron rice pudding I think of her.
Growing up we didn’t eat dessert often. According to my mother there was no better dessert in the world than fruit. Oh mother, I would beg to differ…..I would take a slice of chocolate cake, apple pie, a bowl of ice cream, a chocolate chip cookie over a pear any day!!! But unlike my Canadian friends who had dessert every night after dinner, dessert for us was only saved for special occasions and holidays. That’s why it was such a special treat when my grandmother would make Shole Zard. My brother and I would devour bowls of it whenever we got the chance!
Like traditional rice pudding, Shole Zard is creamy and sweet, but the saffron and touch of rosewater add an elegant sophistication and the almonds add texture and crunch. The perfect ending to a Persian meal.
1 cup arborio rice (or other short/medium grain rice)
7 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup slivered almonds
3 tbsp butter (or non-hydrogenated margarine)
1/2 tsp ground saffron dissolved in 2 tbsp hot water
2 tbsp rosewater
Wash the rice four times. To do this put the rice in large bowl, cover with cold water and agitate with your hands. Drain the water and repeat.
Put the rice and 6 cups of water in a large oven proof pot and bring to a boil over high heat. When the water is boiling, turn the heat down to medium and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. You will notice that foam will form on top of the water while simmering. Skim the foam off.
Taste the rice and make sure it’s cooked. Add one more cup of water, the sugar and slivered almonds. Simmer for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally (if it’s too thick add another 1/2 cup water).
Add the butter, the saffron water and the rosewater. Simmer for another 5 minutes.
Take the rice pudding off the heat. Put the lid on and transfer to a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes (or until desired thickness). The below picture shows the thickness I like……I like it thick but still to have a bit of creamy liquid.
Stir well and pour into serving dishes. You may put it in one big dish or individual servings. Let cool and then refrigerate for at least 1 hour. If you wish, decorate with cinnamon, slivered almonds and chopped pistachios. Enjoy!