This month the MENA Cooking Club is visiting Iran. Our host was Sanam from My Persian Kicthen. I have been excited to get to Iran on the list since it’s the home to one of my favorite cuisines. I had planned to make all three of the dishes (we have a main, soup and sweet), but due to unforeseen circumstances and forgetting to even buy all the ingredients I needed I had to settle for the sweet alone.
Sholeh Zard is Persian rice pudding. Most rice puddings have some sort of dairy, but not this recipe. When my husband and I first got married, we were living in Northern Virginia and renting a floor of a house in a Persian family home. I remember one Ramadan the woman of the house brought us a bowl of this and it was so beautifully decorated. She had made an entire scene of trees and flowers out of spices and nuts. I had never seen anything like that and almost hated to eat it since it was so pretty. If you’re familiar with Persian cooking, then you already know how beautiful they make each dish before serving. I appreciate that so much.
1/2 cup cleaned basmati rice
1 tablespoon butter
4 cups cold + 2 tablespoons boiling water
1/2 cup + pinch sugar
1/2 cup rose water
4 green cardamom pods, bruised
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon saffron
Cinnamon, raisins or silvered almonds for garnishing
1. In a 4-quart sauce pan on high heat, add butter, rice and 4 cups of water. Bring to a full boil, then reduce to low. Place a lid on the top that is half on and half off. Allow to cook for 25 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, add a pinch of sugar and saffron then grind. Add in a small container with 2 tablespoons of hot water and shake. Allow to sit until needed.
3. In a small bowl, add rosewater and cardamom pods. Allow to sit until needed.
4. Add sugar into the rice and stir. The rice will become thicker the more it cooks almost into a glutinous texture. Continue stirring every few minutes to make sure the rice does not stick to the pan. Add the rose water and saffron mixture and stir. Place the lid back on the pan and allow to cook a remaining 15 minutes or until thick consistency has formed.
5. Carefully add the pudding into a serving bowl and decorate the top any way you would like using ground cinnamon, nuts or even raisins.
Yields: 4 servings