This is a simplified version of my mom's Zarda recipe and according to my husband, no one can make it like her, not even me. Like always, we remember a few special stories related to this sweet dessert called Zarda. My husband and I always remember when our daughter was born, my mom was visiting us. So when we threw a party to welcome our little angel she made her signature dish. Till date, our friends remember that party, and that Zarda was the show stopper.
This is a rich, flavourful, aromatic, and nutty dessert. I always prefer to use Saffron for the natural colouring of my dishes and my family always makes fun of my usage of saffron as I own trunkloads of this expensive spice. Few ingredients are close to my heart and I just love them. Yes, I admit that Saffron is one of my favourite ingredients and I never leave any opportunity to use it. According to me, Saffron gives a rich aromatic flavour and beautiful bright colour to any dish. Homemade dishes should be pure and authentic and it doesn't make any sense to add anything artificial to it.
Basmati rice -2 cups
Sugar -2 cups
Desi ghee-3 table spoon
Mixed nuts-1 cup
Saffron 10-15 strands soaked in ¼ cup of warm water or warm milk for 15-20 minutes.
Soaking saffron correctly is really important and for this, we should always use warm milk/ water. In case our saffron doesnt give the desired colour in 15 -20 minutes, we can microwave it for 30 seconds and that will make a difference.
Wash rice thoroughly 4 -5 times with running water so that the starch comes out.
Soak rice (in enough water to cover the rice) for around 30 minutes. Drain the rice on the paper towel and let it dry for 15 minutes.
In a big vessel take enough water to boil the rice.
Add rice, ½ teaspoon of ghee and yellow colour. (We will remove all the strands of saffron from the water which is yellow now and keep those aside. We will use them later while finishing up.)
When rice is 80 per cent done, drain it on a sieve or colander. Keep it aside.
Take a broad, thick pan, and put it on the stove.
Divide cooked rice and sugar into three parts.
We will start layering this.
Add one table spoon of ghee.
Take the first part of rice and spread it on the bottom of the pan.
Then spread one part of sugar on top of it.
Then few dry fruits and ½ teaspoon of ghee.
We will make three layers just like this so that every layer is sugar, ghee, and dry fruits.
Leave this covered on slow flame for around 8-10 minutes. If your pan is not thick-bottomed you need to check, otherwise, it will stick.
After 10 minutes will check if the rice is done fully. It shouldn't be mushy either.
Mix everything together softly so that rice grains don't break.
Serve warm with lots of dry fruits sprinkled on the top.
If you want to give a special touch use silver leafs or kevda essence.
Your shahi desert is ready.