Mother Earth Living

Cooking with Saffron: Saffron Rice Pudding

By Theresa O'Shea
December/January 2011
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When all the flowers in your garden are dying and succumbing to early frosts, imagine waking up to a burst of bright purple, yellow and crimson. Imagine, too, the money you will save by growing, harvesting and toasting your very own saffron.
Photo by Susan A. Roth


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Known as kheer in India and Pakistan and as sholeh zard in Iran, saffron-infused rice pudding is a dessert fit for a queen. Once you’ve made it, you won’t want rice pudding any other way.  

• 8 to 10 saffron threads
• 1/3 cup warm milk
• 1/2 cup basmati rice
• 2 tablespoons ghee or butter
• 2 tablespoons flaked almonds or yellow sultanas OR 1 tablespoon chopped cashews or sliced pistachios
• 4 cups milk
• 3 bruised cardamom pods
• 1/2 cup sugar

1. Soak saffron threads in 1/3 cup milk for 20 minutes.

2. Rinse rice until it runs clear.

3. Melt ghee or butter in a skillet (if using butter, add a little olive or vegetable oil to stop butter from burning) and toast the nuts or sultanas. Remove from skillet.

4. Heat 4 cups milk in a separate, heavy-bottomed pan.

5. Add rice to the skillet, stirring for 2 or 3 minutes.

6. Add rice and cardamom to boiling milk. Turn down heat and cook for 15 minutes or until half of the milk has reduced.

7. Add sugar, saffron and half of the nuts. Keep cooking on low heat until all the milk has been absorbed.

8. Serve hot or cold, topped with remaining nuts.

Note: If you want your rice pudding runny, you’ll need to add more milk during cooking or when serving. You can also substitute some or all of the milk with water.


Theresa O'Shea is a British freelance journalist who lives in the south of Spain and adores Spanish cooking. 

Click here for the main article, Grow, Cook and Heal with Saffron.








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