Persian Rice Pudding, as Explained by a Persian.
Having a Persian mom means always having amazing food and never having to ask twice for her to cook something. I can literally call her on the phone and tell her what I’m craving, and the next time we’re together, she’s in the kitchen before I can stop her. Do I feel guilty about letting my mom take care of my 30 year old self? I should say yes, but it’s just the best feeling, so…no. AND her food is mouthwatering. My mom is one of those people who can cook from memory. I’m not talking about memory as in she looked it up in a recipe book one time and remembers the words on a page. No. My mom tasted food growing up in Iran and decided to recreate dishes from her childhood without the ability to call her mom and just knows what ingredients to put in. I literally stand in my kitchen texting her for every step when I cook. And I still forgot to add baking soda to my sabzi coocoo this Iranian New Year, but that’s a story for another time.
This summer, I randomly got a craving for Sholeh Zard (aka Persian Rice Pudding). It’s a delicious blend of rice, saffron, cardamom, rosewater, slivered almonds, and pistachios all cooked together with the most unspecific directions ever, topped with cinnamon, almonds, and pistachios, and served cold (but I like it right out of the pot). To top it all off, it’s dairy free. If you care, which I don’t because I love dairy. I just thought I’d throw that in there if you were wondering. So anyways, I told my mom I’d been thinking about it and how I just happened to buy these cute ice cream bowls to photograph food in like normal people do all the time. It’s normal, right? No? Okay, moving on. Needless to say we headed to the Persian store, bought way more than just the ingredients (including Persian Ice cream that we ate with our tea while we made the rice pudding. I’m super healthy guys), and we set to work making the pudding. Okay. My mom made the pudding, and I made the process a billion times longer by insisting that I shoot it while we worked. But it was so worth it. Sofie loved it. I loved it. Of course, Ben loved it, but we’ve already joked way too much about how he only married me for my mom’s cooking. It’s not true, Ben, is it? We’re only joking. We’re only joking…We had it for breakfast some days after my parents went back to Dallas, no big deal.
Like I said before, the directions for making this are pretty vague. But then, that’s the way most Persians I know cook their food. You might want to read the whole thing first before beginning the process as I stumble through the recipe a bit.
2) Short grain rice
3) Cardamom seeds
4) Slivered Almonds
5) Rose Water
What you’ll need:
1) Mortar and Pestle
2) Probably not a measuring cup
3) a small bowl
4) a medium sized container or bowl
5) a pot. What size? A good size. I’m totally quoting Iranian Comedian K-Von here.
6) A stove
Add your rice to the container and rinse until the water runs clear. In a decently good sized pot, add your rice and water. How much? However much you want. This is up to how much you want to make, and I can honestly say, I have no clue. My mom uses a container to measure it out that has no measurements on it. The water should come up to the first knuckle of your finger? I don’t know. So random guys. I usually just pour the water until it looks like maybe half an inch to an inch above the rice line. Boil. As it boils, start mashing the rice with a wooden spoon, OH! I forgot to add wooden spoon to the “what you’ll need” list.
7) Wooden Spoon
Keep Mashing. Keep letting it boil down. Do you think it might need more water? Maybe you should add some. Meanwhile, grind your saffron with your mortal and pestle if it’s in the strand form. If already a powder, you’re good to go. Boil some water in your kettle. Did I add kettle to the list? Probably not. Here it is:
Boil the water, add it to your ground Saffron. Why do I do this? Because Saffron is crazy expensive, and I want it to last longer. Adding water makes it go farther. You can still get the flavor and color in your rice, but you don’t have to use up all that precious spice you spent $30 on five minutes prior to starting the meal. You can add the water to the saffron in your small bowl. And you might want to have a small, sealable container on hand to put this in when you’re done with it so you don’t use up the whole stash. You’ll really want to use a tiny amount. definitely not as much as I have pictured here. This is my entire stash. Add your sugar to the rice on the stove. We don’t add that much, maybe half a cup? Then add more to taste. I find that it’s not good if it’s too sweet. So once that’s added… keep mashing. You’ll add in your rose water, again to taste, your slivered almonds once the rice is mashed enough. You want it to have a creamy texture, so just keep mashing those rice grains. You don’t want to rice to look like rice anymore. Add cardamom seeds, just one or two ground up. Add the saffron water, just a smidge, just enough for the pudding to turn yellow.
Once the rice is cooked, pour the mixture into the vessel or vessels you want to serve the pudding in to thicken. Then you can decorate with cinnamon, pistachios, almonds and place in the refrigerator until cool. Or you can eat it right away like I do.