As the new moon has been sighted today, all Muslims households are busy adding finishing touches here and there for tomorrow’s grand celebration, Eid-Ul-Fitr. Though I’ll be working [on call] on this festive occasion, I would like to share this traditional recipe from Pakistan before I log off and get ready for my 31-hour shift. Zarda, a sweet dish – popularly served during Eid, weddings and large gatherings- is made by cooking long grain rice with saffron or food coloring until it turns to a rich golden yellow hue. The mixture is then combined with hot sugar syrup and topped with raisins, almond flakes, pistachios, cashew nuts, candied fruit peel or crumbled khoya before serving. The following recipe, from Fatima Cooks, makes enough for a large family of 8 to 10 people but I guess you’ll need to double the ratio as everyone will probably be asking for second helpings for dessert.
1 1/2 cups basmati rice
5 green cardamom pods
1 teaspoon yellow food coloring
1/4 cup chopped nuts
1/4 cup raisins or sultanas
1 tablespoon pure ghee
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- Wash and drain rice till the water no longer runs cloudy. Then, soak rice in water for at least 30 minutes.
- In a large pan, add rice, cardamom pods, food coloring, ghee and enough water to cover everything well.
- Bring everything to a boil. In a separate pan, add chopped nuts and raisins with 1tsp sugar and 1tsp ghee.
- Heat this on medium heat, stirring often to roast the nuts well. Keep this roasting until they are needed.
- Once the rice is 80% done, drain everything into a colander. Now start layering the Zarda as for Biryani.
- First, take 1/3 of rice and layer it at the bottom of the pan. Add 1/3 sugar and 1/3 of the nuts and raisins.
- Repeat layering till the rice, sugar, nuts and raisins are used up, ending with the nuts and raisins on top.
- Cover the pot and turn the heat to the lowest setting possible. Allow the Zarda to steam for 20 minutes.
- Once it is done, uncover pan and carefully stir the rice to mix in the sugar, preferably with slotted spoon.
- Be careful not to break the rice. Leave to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving warm in small dessert cups.