Sholleh zard – saffron rice pudding – has a very special place in the hearts of our family. When I found out I was pregnant with Cyrus after having a miscarriage, my in-laws vowed to pray every day for a healthy viable pregnancy. As well as their prayers, the whole family pitched in to make a huge batch of sholleh zard for all the neighbours. If Cyrus was born healthy (which he was), they would make saffron rice pudding each year, on the occasion of the martyrdom of Imam Hassan, for distribution to the family, friends and neighbours and everyone who had prayed for our baby. Pledges like this are not uncommon in Persia, and serve as a reminder of the miracle of life. Not surprisingly, I have become really fond of this dish, and I frequently make it as a dessert with fresh fruit and tea. I also craved it while I was pregnant with Cyrus and ate it A LOT in Persia. The recipe below serves four.
Pick over, wash and put the rice to boil in the water in a large pan over a medium heat until very soft, adding more water if needed and stirring from time to time. (Be careful it doesn’t boil over.) When the rise if completely soft, stir in the sugar, rosewater and saffron and simmer until the sugar is dissolved. Reduce the heat, melt the fat and stir in. Cover and simmer for three minutes. Dish up into serving bowls. When set, decorate with powdered cinnamon, almond and pistachio slivers and rose petals.