I (Julia) tried this dish for the first time a few weeks ago during a cooking session with Free to Feed, and I fell completely in love with it. This rice pudding is slicker than your average – golden yellow and beaming with saffron, rosewater and cardamom, it is really so good. It is called ‘Sholeh Zard’ in Persian, and is one of Hamed’s favourites to teach in his classes!
Hamed stresses the importance of good quality saffron – it should be super fragrant and preferably Iranian. We’ve made this version a bit more indulgent by adding cream and cooking the rice partly in milk, something that Hamed now says he will always do!
Usually, Sholeh Zard is topped simply with ground cinnamon, pistachios and a sprinkling of rosewater, however here, we’ve roasted some stunning rhubarb in orange blossom water and aromatics to pair with it. You could serve with any roasted or poached fruit, depending on the season. The pudding will become firm once refrigerated, so if not eating immediately, make the pudding a little more loose by adding some extra milk during the cooking.
For the rice pudding
1 large pinch of saffron
1.2 litres full cream milk
Zest of 1 orange
1 cinnamon stick
1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped
3 cardamom pods, bruised
160g Jasmine rice
120g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
For the roasted rhubarb
1 bunch rhubarb, trimmed
Juice and zest of 1 orange
1 tbsp orange blossom water or rosewater
100g caster sugar
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
Dried rose petals
Preheat the oven to 170C.
For the rice pudding, wash the rice thoroughly, drain and combine with the milk and 500ml water in a large pot. Simmer over a low heat until the individual grains begin to open (approximately 25 minutes).
Grind the saffron in a mortar and pestle to a fine powder and add to the milk and rice, along with the orange zest, cinnamon stick, vanilla pod and seeds, and cardamom.
Continue to simmer for a further 20-25 minutes, until the rice has absorbed much of the liquid, stirring occasionally.
When the rice is almost ready, stir in the sugar until dissolved. Take the pot off the heat and allow the pudding to cool slightly before adding the egg yolk and cream. Stir to combine and return the pot to the stovetop to continue cooking over a very low heat for 2 minutes, stirring continuously. You will notice the rice pudding become thick very quickly – once this happens, take off the heat immediately and allow to cool.
Meanwhile, for the roasted rhubarb, cut the rhubarb into 3-inch pieces. Arrange in a single layer in an oven-proof tray and top with the orange zest and juice, orange blossom water, sugar and vanilla pod and seeds.
Cover with tin foil and roast in preheated oven for 10-15 minutes or until just tender, but still holding shape. Set aside.
Serve the rice pudding at room temperature, topped with the roasted rhubarb and some of its syrup, slivered pistachios and dried rose petals.