Zaafrani meethe chawal

Saffron scented sweet rice was likely brought to India by Mughal invaders. It is one of the few dishes that was assimilated in the all the subcultures of the country, from the Kesar Bhaat served on Rakshabandhan in Hindu families to the Zarda Pulao eaten as breakfast during Ramadan by Muslims. Different versions, sweet, savory, those with milk and those without, are found in all Indian cuisines.

A mention of Hyderabadi zaafrani rice (a savory meat-rice-saffron version, a specialty of Hyderabad) in a movie gave my sister a craving for this old faithful. I was more than happy to oblige.





1 cup raw long grain rice (Basmati has the best fragrance)
2 tbsp unsalted butter, or ghee (clarified butter)
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup slivered pistachios
1 tbsp Cuddapah almonds/almondettes (optional. Chironji in Hindi.)
1 stick cinnamon
4 green cardamom pods, crushed
1 tbsp warm milk
1/2 tsp saffron (If you are not familiar with saffron, start with 1/4 tsp.)
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp raisins

– Soak rice in 4 cups of water for 30 minutes. Drain and keep aside.
– Soak the saffron in warm milk for 30 minutes.
– Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.
– Melt the butter/ghee in a heavy non-stick pan. (I used a anodized saucepan that can go directly from stove to oven.)
– Add the nuts and stir until the nuts are toasted and golden brown, about two minutes.
– Remove the nuts from the pan. Then add the cinnamon and cardamom to any butter remaining in the pan and heat on medium-high heat until they sizzle.
– Add the drained rice and stir until toasted, about five minutes. Then add 1 and 1/3 cup water and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally until the water is absorbed.
– Add the saffron soaked milk, sugar, raisins and half the nuts. Stir to combine. Turn off the heat.
– Cover the pan with lid/aluminum foil and place in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes.
– Remove and let the rice rest for ten minutes before uncovering. Gently stir, sprinkle the rest of the nuts on top and serve. (Remove the cinnamon and cardamom at this stage if you like.)

This is the perfect recipe for winter, considering that saffron, nuts and raisins are all ‘warm’ by nature. Delicately sweetened and deeply scented with saffron, it makes a delightful, festive dessert at the end of any meal.



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About purplesque

Psychiatrist, cook, bookworm, photographer. Not necessarily in that order.
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7 Responses to Zaafrani meethe chawal

  1. Morgat says:

    Reading the recipe makes it sound even more wonderful than did just looking at the picture on Twitter. Yummmmmm!

  2. *sigh* This sounds wonderful. I think I'll try making it tomorrow night, as I'm so tired of Japanese food.

  3. Brown Suga' says:

    Oh my God, this is beyond lovely! I'll try this at home.I got a question, though:"Then add 1 and 1/3 cup water and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally until the water is absorbed" – Can the milk and sugar be added here instead of later (albeit a while after adding the water)? I think the rice would taste much more intense if it is cooked in the milk. I have a feeling that adding the sugar at the end might result in the rice being unevenly sweet. Is it all right to try cooking it the way I'm thinking, or will it result in something disastrous? (Don't mind me, I'm just trying to brush up on my knowledge of cooking.) Thanks!

  4. Purplesque says:

    You are very kind, Miss Morgat.

  5. Purplesque says:

    Good questions, Su. I think you can add the milk and saffron along with the water, though it shouldn't make much difference in taste, considering that there is only 1 tbsp milk. However, do not add the sugar at that time, because it will interfere with the cooking of rice. (Both sweetness and acid retard cooking. Salt promotes it, but sometimes not in a good way.) In all grain-based desserts, sugar is added only after the grains are fully cooked. Once the sugar is stirred in and then baked in the oven, there should be no problem with even distribution of sweetness. I have to admit, though, this is a very lightly sweetened dessert. If you want a dessert dessert, try about half cup sugar. Hope this helps!

  6. Brown Suga' says:

    Nah, I like all my desserts mildly sweet 🙂 Thanks!

  7. Jabulani says:

    I'm writing my shopping list just as soon as I've printed this out …

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