Saturday, 22 August 2015

Sholeh Zard - شله زرد - Saffron Rice Pudding

The other day someone asked me how much is saffron and where should one buy it.  Well, not all saffron threads are created equal and choosing the right saffron is very technical, as saffron is a graded product. The standards for each grade of saffron is set by ISO and is based on intensity of colour, flavour and aroma. In short, the highest quality saffron is the Iranian sargol (equivalent to the Spanish coupé) - only the red stigma tips with high concentration of colour and flavour.  Low quality and strength saffron is a mix of red stigma and yellow style.  Saffron threads should not be too old, must be dry and brittle and best kept in an air tight container in the freezer. 

Persians don't use dry saffron threads in cooking.  Saffron threads or ground saffron should be brewed into a deep crimson coloured tea and can be kept in the fridge for a few days.  Personally, I prefer the rustic look of saffron threads in my food.  If you are after an exotic and fragrant rice pudding then this saffron and rosewater rice pudding is a must try.   



1 Cup Sushi or Arborio rice, soaked overnight
6-8 Cups water
1/2 Cups Slivered Almonds, soaked for a few hours 
1 - 1.5 Cups sugar
3-4 tablespoons brewed saffron
1/4 Cup Rosewater
75g Butter
Cinnamon and extra almonds for serving

  1. In a large pot, add the rice, water, half of brewed saffron and bring to a boil.
  2. Simmer on low heat, until the rice grains completely break into pieces and when tasted, it should be very creamy.
  3. Add the almond pieces and keep simmering until the pudding starts to thicken.
  4. Add more water if the pudding is not very smooth and creamy.
  5. Add the rosewater, saffron, butter and sugar.
  6. Simmer for about 10 minutes or until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  7. Serve with cinnamon and chopped almonds and pistachios.
Traditionally, this pudding is served warm.  It thickens when cold and some people love it cold.

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