Sholezard, a traditional Persian rice pudding, is a culinary gem deeply rooted in the rich tapestry of Persian culture. This cherished dessert holds a special place in the hearts of many, especially during significant occasions like Shabe e Yalda, the winter solstice celebration. Its preparation and consumption transcend mere culinary experience; it is a tradition that carries the warmth of family gatherings and the whispers of cherished memories.
For me, Sholezard is not just a dessert; it’s a nostalgic journey back to the comforting embrace of my grandmother’s kitchen. I fondly remember her preparing this golden-hued delight on special occasions. Watching her transform simple ingredients into a dish that exuded both elegance and tradition was a mesmerising experience.
I can still picture her as she carefully plated servings of Sholezard, either in communal dishes for sharing or in individual bowls, each adorned with a sprinkling of fragrant cinnamon powder and delicate almond and pistachio slivers. It was not merely a culinary ritual but a beautiful expression of love and tradition.
But what made the experience even more enchanting was the hushed, reverent moments that accompanied the preparation. As my grandmother lovingly stirred the pot, she would softly whisper words of prayer, invoking blessings upon this cherished dish. This act added a profound layer of significance to the recipe, connecting it to our family’s heritage and faith.
Sholezard is a dessert that transcends seasons and temperatures. While I adored it fresh and piping hot, its versatility allows it to be equally delightful when served cold or at room temperature. This adaptability is a testament to the enduring appeal of this dessert, making it a beloved treat that can be enjoyed year-round.
Sholezard is more than just a dessert; it’s a vessel that carries the stories of generations, the traditions of a culture, and the love and prayers of those who prepare it. As I share this recipe with you, I hope you can feel the warmth and significance it holds, as a delightful treat and a cherished connection to our past, heritage, and loved ones.
Basic Ingredients for Sholezard (Saffron Rice Pudding)
Basmati or Jasmine Rice: The choice of rice is essential in Sholezard. Basmati or Jasmine rice is favoured for its aromatic qualities, which contribute to the overall fragrance and flavour of the dessert.
Water: The main cooking liquid for the rice. It is used to boil and later simmer the rice until it becomes soft and creamy.
Salt: A pinch of salt enhances the flavours in the pudding and helps balance the sweetness of the sugar.
Sugar: The sweetness in Sholezard comes from sugar, and the quantity can be adjusted according to personal preference. It provides the dessert with its signature sweet and creamy taste.
Rosewater: Rosewater adds a delightful floral note to the pudding, creating a subtle and fragrant backdrop to the dessert. It’s a quintessential flavour in many Persian sweets.
Ground Saffron: Saffron not only lends a beautiful golden colour but also infuses the pudding with a unique earthy and slightly floral flavour. It’s a precious spice often used in Persian cuisine.
Cardamom Powder: Cardamom contributes a warm and aromatic quality to the pudding, enhancing its complexity and depth of flavour.
Butter: Butter adds richness and a creamy texture to the pudding. It also helps prevent sticking and adds a delightful, subtle richness.
Slivered Almonds: Almonds provide a pleasant crunch and nuttiness to contrast the creamy texture of the pudding. They are often used as a garnish in many Middle Eastern desserts.
Milk: Some variations of Sholezard use a combination of milk and water to cook the rice, creating an even creamier texture.
Nuts: While almonds are traditional, you can experiment with other nuts like pistachios, cashews, or walnuts for a unique twist.
Preparation Tips for Sholezard (Saffron Rice Pudding)
- Soaking the rice is crucial to ensure it cooks evenly and becomes tender. Aim for at least 1 hour of soaking time.
- Stir the pudding regularly while it’s simmering to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pot and to ensure even cooking.
Serving Tips for Sholezard (Saffron Rice Pudding)
- Sholezard can be served warm or at room temperature. It’s a matter of personal preference.
- Garnish generously with ground cinnamon, slivered pistachios, and almonds to add visual appeal and enhance the flavour profile.
- Leftover Sholezard can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days.
- If it thickens in the fridge, you can thin it out by adding a bit of milk or water and gently reheating it on the stove.
Sholezard (Saffron Rice Pudding)
- 1 cup basmati or jasmine rice
- 8 cups water
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 ½ cups sugar, adjust to taste
- ⅓ cup rosewater
- 1 tsp ground saffron, dissolved in ¼ cup hot water
- ½ tsp cardamom powder
- 3 tbsp butter
- ½ cup slivered almonds
- 1 tbsp cinnamon, ground
- 2 tbsp pistachios, slivered and roughly ground
- 2 tbsp almonds, slivered and roughly ground
- Wash and soak the rice for at least 1 hour, ideally overnight. Drain and keep to the side.
- In a large pot, add water, rice and salt, bring to a boil on high heat, and then then leave to simmer on low heat for about 45 to 60 minutes. Occasionally stir to stop the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- Once most of the liquid has evaporated, stir in the sugar, rose water, ground saffron, cardamon powder, butter and slivered almonds. Continue simmering for an additional 30 minutes on medium-low heat until the sugar has fully dissolved and any excess liquid has evaporated. Make sure to stir occasionally to avoid the rice from sticking on the pot of the pot.
- Spoon the rice pudding into individual cups and leave to cool. Garnish with ground cinnamon, pistachios and almonds.