Zarda – Indian Sweet Rice Pilaf with Saffron and Nuts is a traditional Indian rice dish that’s absolutely aromatic and infused with saffron, dry fruits, ghee, sugar and rose-water. Every bite is filled with so much flavor that not only satisfy’s your taste-buds but the soul too. It’s popular for weddings, festivals or special occasions, is gluten-free and can be made vegan.
“Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul – Dorothy Day” and every bite of this ‘Zarda – Indian Sweet Rice Pilaf with Saffron and Nuts’ feeds not only our taste buds but also the soul. Hello Everyone, today I’m sharing one such traditional Indian recipe that’s specially made for celebrations, be it a festival, wedding or just about celebrating life. I’ll be making this very shortly for a ‘Festival of Holi’ brunch at our place. As many of you would be aware, Holi is one of the biggest Indian festivals and also know as Festival of Color / Festival of Love all over the world and this time it’s on Monday – March 13, 2017. And every year, I try to cook 1 or 2 recipes that are as colorful as our festival but using all natural ingredients. So, this year, it’s ‘Zarda’, is actually a Persian word which means the color yellow and the recipe evolved during the Mughal period in India. Now, since, it’s a Mughal period dish and like most dishes of that time, it’s also made using lots of ghee, milk, and nuts. But we are definitely going to make a slightly healthier or a lighter version. This dish is very popular in the Northern States of India like UP, Punjab, Bihar, Uttarakhand and more. In earlier years, it was also a sort of mandatory/very popular dish in weddings/festivals because of its of three main things – Color (Saffron/Turmeric) considered pure and auspicious, Rice – considered to be holy/prosperous and Sweetness (Jaggery/Sugar) – again considered auspicious and supposed to be the first meal in such occasion. So, you can imagine, every wedding that our great-grandparents would have attended, they would have tasted this sweet preparation. I feel it was also popular those days cause there was no electricity or fridge to store sweets (that goes bad easily) and this recipe can easily be kept outside for 1-2 days. Now, let’s get to the recipe and make this delicious Zarda – Indian Sweet Rice Pilaf with Saffron and Nuts. As the name suggest, we need rice, basmati preferably but you can use other long grain rice too (I wouldn’t recommend any thick sticky rice as this will turn all mushy). Next, comes saffron and a little bit of turmeric to achieve this gorgeous yellow color (you can add/remove as per your choice), then we need ghee and milk or khoa to saute the nuts + spices. Lastly, we need some rose-water to give it this delicate flowery fragrance and also adds to that fresh taste. Now, since I’m making it for Holi and needed some more color, I’m topping it with pomegranate seeds, but you may completely skip this step if need be or if unable to find pomegranate. Once we have all the ingredients, let’s talk about the cooking method and you can cook it 2 ways:
Cooking the rice in a deep dish or dutch ovens/pan : you boil the rice in water and saute the nuts separately in the mixture of ghee+milk. Then add the cooked rice to this mixture and cook for 10 minutes.
Cooking the whole dish in a pressure cooker : you saute the nuts in ghee, then saute the rice in the mixture, add water and steam till 3-4 whistles.
I usually prefer ‘ Method 1’ as it adds much more flavor to the dish and the rice comes out all separate but I’ve cooked using the ‘Method 2’ as well when I’m in a hurry. So pick your choice of method and this festive season or for any of your celebrations, try this ‘Zarda – Indian Sweet Rice Pilaf with Saffron and Nuts’ as I’m sure it will guarantee you tons of applauds and some very happy – satisfied souls.