Sholeh Zard is a traditional Persian dessert used in holidays like Persian New Year (Nowruz), but I just happen to like it around the Christmas holiday as well.
Traditionally made with long grain fragrant rice, like basmati, saffron for color and flavor, sugar for sweetness, and rosewater (used in many Persian and middle eastern desserts), it truely is an easy and beautiful treat.
Like a lot of my cooking I tend to take a twist on the classic. My Sholeh Zard doesn’t deviate much from the traditional rice saffron and rosewater concoction.. but it does differ.
I like using orange blossom water in my rice pudding.. only because I am not a huge fan of rose water in all my Persian sweets. Kind of like how I am not a fan of Poultry seasoning in all of Thanksgiving recipes. It’s expected and after awhile all the desserts start tasting the same... namely grandma’s fancy hand soap she only put out when company came.
So I deviate a bit with Orange Blossom Water... and I add chopped dried apricot to the rice while cooking. The result is a slightly beautiful twist on a delicious classic, perfect for this time of year. A little In The Kitchen With Scotty seasoning doesn’t hurt either.
Sholeh Zard: Persian Saffron-Rice Pudding
2 cups dried Basmati rice, rinsed and soaked in cold water for 1 hour
1/2 cup chopped dried apricot
3 cardamom pods cracked open (optional)
1/4 cup Orange Blossom Water
6 cups water + 2 cups boiling water to add towards the middle of cooking
Pinch of Kosher salt
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground saffron
In The Kitchen With Scotty “More Than Pumpkin Pie Spice” or ground cinnamon
Slivered or chopped pistachio
Slivered or chopped blanched almonds
Dried rose petals (at any Mediterranean store or in OKC at Savory Spice Shop on Western Ave.)
- Rise and drain your rice several times with cold water until the water is clear. Cover with cold water and let the rice soak for one hour. After an hour drain the water. And set aside.
- In a heavy bottom pot, add the 6 cups of water and pinch of kosher salt. Bring to a boil. Add two cups of the soaked rice and cardamom pods. Mix around once just to break up the rice and do not mix again. Turn the heat way down and let the rice gently cook uncovered for 45 minutes or until the water is all but gone and the rice is fluffy, long, and tender. Remove the spent cardamon pods of used.
- Add the additional 2 cups of boiling water to the pot of rice, followed up with the ground saffron, chopped apricot, sugar, and orange blossom water. Raise the heat up slightly just enough to simmer the rice. Stir gently often so that the rice does not stick to the bottom. Gently simmer 8-10 minutes or until the pudding is thickened, golden, and fragrant.
- Pour into a large high sided dish, or individual bowls, and let cool to slightly room temp. You may refrigerate after it cools to room temp or start decorating the pudding then serve. If you let it chill in the fridge, decorate the pudding after you remove it from the fridge and are ready to serve. Do not decorate then chill before serving… the nuts and rose petals will become soggy.
- Decorate your pudding with scrolls or lines of More Than Pumpkin Pie Spice (or ground cinnamon). Next with the slivered pistachio and/or almonds, followed up with the dried rose petals. Serve and get ready for an exotic explosion of holiday wonderfulness in your mouth!