Each year, every year at the dawn of the first day of the year, I woke up to a quiet house with busy kitchen. BadI mummy (my grandma) standing right infront of the stove, rice boiling on one side and aroma wafting through a pot of simmering whole milk to which cloves, cardamom and nutmeg had been added. These blonde looking rice, she remarked were an incoming of prosperity into the house. In those days, we lived in a joint family and with few guests added on the new year eve along with distribution to all house help, the quantity of zarda to be cooked would be thrice the amount than usual. Speckled with ground cardamom and streaks of strong-smelling kashmiri zaffran(saffron) all through it, a bowl of it was so delicious garnished with a handful of nuts or raisins. Much like today, in those days saffron was exuberantly priced, so it came to life in cooking a few dishes on special occasions only. New Years day was one.
Ingredients (Serves 3-4)
- 1 cup long grain basmati rice
- 1 green cardamom, break open
- 3-4 cups water to par boil the rice
- 1 tablespoon ghee (substitute with coconut oil for vegan)
- 1 cup whole milk (use unsweetened cashew/full fat coconut milk for vegan)
- 3 tablespoon ghee (substitute with coconut oil for vegan)
- 2-3 green cardamom, break open
- 2 cloves
- 1 heaping teaspoon good quality saffron
- 1 generous pinch of fresh ground nutmeg
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar (can go upto 1 cup)
- 3 tablespoon roasted, unsalted nuts (almonds, pistachios, cashews) + more for garnish
- 2 tablespoon golden raisins + more for garnish
- Use good quality spices in this recipe.
- Different varieties of saffron have different sharpness and strength. Adjust the quantity depending on the brand you are using.
- To make the zarda more rich, instead of using roasted nuts, you can fry them in a small pan in 1/2 tablespoon of ghee and add on top.
Wash the rice under running stream of water 2-3 times until the water runs clear. Soak the rice for 45 minutes in enough water (add a green cardamom to it) required for parboiling. You can soak rice in the same pot that you will use for cooking.
Once the rice has soaked. Parboil the rice until 80% cooked (takes about 10 minutes).The cooking time will depend on quality of rice. To check the rice, take a grain and press it between the index finger and thumb. The rice grain will we brittle (break easily) and you will feel & see hard whitish bits in the center of the grain. Once the rice has parboiled, immediately drain it and gently mix a tablespoon of melted ghee in the warm rice.
While the rice is boiling, add milk, 3 tablespoon ghee, cardamom and clove to a small pot and set it to simmer on a medium low flame. Let milk simmer for 5-7 minutes on low heat and then put the stove off. Once the milk has cooled off a bit and is warm(not hot) to touch add sugar, saffron and nutmeg to it. Let sit.
In the same pot in which you parboiled the rice, add the warm spiced milk sugar mixture. Very gently add the drained rice to the milk. Add the nuts and raisins. Cover and let cook on medium low heat for 10-12 minutes until all the milk is absorbed and the rice is completely done. Put the stove off.
After 15-20 minutes of sitting, gently fluff the rice with the help a fork.Garnish with more nuts and raisins if you want.
Serve warm or at room temperature.