Zarda is a sweet rice dessert cooked variously in countries like Iran, Turkey, India and other parts of South Asia. With a base of basmati rice, it uses saffron, orange zest and dry fruits for flavor. The end result is a jewel toned dish that is as inviting as it is delicious.
Cuisine: Indian, international
Keyword: dessert, meethe chawal, zarda
Author: Kanika Samra
Mortar Pestle or food processor
1tspSaffronmore for garnish
1 tsp Orange zest Any orange, Navel or Mandarins work well
5-6 podsCardamomSeeds removed and ground
2piecesCinnamon, 1 inch
1/2cup Jaggery or sugar
1/4 to 1/2cup Water for syrupMore for rice
1/4cupAssorted nutsAlmonds and cashews
Wash and soak rice and raisins in separate bowls. Leave the raisins to plump up in water until needed later in the recipe.
Chop the dry nuts. I used almonds and cashews. I prefer not to fry them. You can fry them in ghee and keep until needed for garnish at the end.
Add the rice with plenty of water to your instant pot. I used 2 cups of water for 1/2 a cup of rice. Add salt and close the instant pot lid with vent sealed. Set it to pressure cook on high for 3 minutes.
While the rice is cooking, separate seeds from cardamom pods and pound them into a grainy powder. Zest an orange or mandarin to get about 1 tsp of zest.
When the pressure cook time is over, quick release pressure and open the lid. Be careful when you do this to avoid any burns from the steam. Drain rice in a colander or sieve.
Add orange zest and two to three pinches of saffron to the rice. Gently mix, with a tossing motion. Let the rice sit while you move on to make the jaggery syrup.
Turn on the instant pot to sauté mode, normal for 10 minutes. Then, add about 2 tbsp of ghee. Roast the spices in ghee until fragrant. Next, add jaggery and water. Cover with a glass lid, and cook until all the jaggery has dissolved. I find it useful to break up jaggery as it softens in water.
Once all the jaggery has dissolved and syrup looks like it is starting to thicken, take it off the heat. Pour in a bowl and keep it ready for the finally layering of all ingredients.
Put the pot insert back and add a tablespoon of ghee to it. Keep it on sauté mode at low for 2 minutes while you layer all the ingredients. Add a layer of rice and gently spread to cover the base. Pour 3-4 tablespoons of syrup on top of it followed by some raisins. Squeeze the water out of raisins before adding. Repeat this until all the rice has been used. Usually with a recipe for 1/2 a cup of rice, you’ll get two layers.
Put the lid back on with the vent on sealing position and Steam for 1 minute. Quick release the pressure and open the lid. Be careful, as always! Using a spatula or a slotted spoon, gently mix the rice and let them sit for a minute or two before turning out in a serving platter or bowl.
There is a temptation to use up all the syrup. But resist it. Use 3-4 tablespoons per layer. Too much moisture will give you mushy rice.