WISHING EVERYONE SAFE AND HAPPY HOLI!!!! 

I have never had a big circle of friends may that be in school or college. But whatever few I have, are like my extended family, my life line and make me feel so very blessed. We have had our share of ups and downs and being there for each other made life a bit easier, tolerable and totally worth it. Jobs, marriage, kids did take up a large chunk of our lives but just like good strong friendships, ours too found that special little niche space for itself in our life and our hearts. Days turn to weeks, weeks to months and there have been instances when month turned to years that we have not been able to speak over phone or let down our hair. But the time lapses seem so superficial, almost non existent, when we finally speak or get to meet each other. As life is becoming more and more demanding and getting hectic, with many spread across the globe, we meet each other less often and I really miss the good ol’days. Meeting friends, chatting, sharing, laughing is all so therapeutic.

I have very fond memories of times when I was in college. We gang of friends always used to land up at this friend’s house. We felt warm, welcomed and always surrounded by love and laughter. I can never forget the cake her sister used to bake, the zarda her mum used to dish out and the mean Litti & Chokha her dad used to make. Great food and good friends are the best combination…ever! It made sense to post this recipe on Holi, the festival of joy, color and celebration.

In our house we mostly used to have Gur ke Chawal i.e. rice sweetened with jaggery while her’s was always sweetened with sugar. A few weeks back, I asked her if she remembered the zarda recipe, and she gave me a rough sketch of how it is made. Thanks Rina; means a lot to me 🙂 I hope I have done justice to the inputs provided by you 😀

1 generous pinch Saffron

3 tbsp Milk (vegans can use coconut milk or almond milk)

1 C Basmati Rice

2 Bay Leaf

2 Black Cardamom

2 tbsp plus 1 tsp Ghee (Vegans can use coconut oil)

4 Cloves

4 Green Cardamoms

1 inch Cinnamon stick

¾ tsp Green Cardamom Powder

1 small pinch Nutmeg

Assorted nuts for garnish

½ C + 2 tbsp Sugar

Warm the milk and add saffron and allow the flavors to steep for at least an hour. Set aside.

Wash the rice in plenty of water till the water runs clear (be careful while washing rice to avoid breaking the rice grains) Soak it in enough water for half an hour.

Take 4 – 5 cups of water in a large pot and add one bay leaf and one black cardamom. Allow the water to come to a boil. Add a teaspoon of ghee and then add rice and gently stir it for 15 seconds. Par boil the rice i.e. cook it till it is cooked approximately eighty percent. (just as one would cook for layered biryani) .

Drain and sieve excess water in a colander and remove the rice on a wide plate to allow it to cool. (If you leave it in the colander, the rice will keep cooking gently in its own heat)

In a wide and deep pan (so that rice does not stick to each other while cooking), heat the ghee and stir fry the nuts for a few seconds till golden in colour (you can roast instead of frying them if you wish to). Remove on an absorbent sheet.

In the same pan add cloves, black cardamom, bay leaf, green cardamom and cinnamon stick. Allow the spices to become aromatic. Add rice and very gently stir in the sugar along with saffron milk and cardamom powder {stir in gently so as not to break the rice grains}.

Cover the pot and allow the contents to cook on low heat for approximately ten minutes.

Remove the pan from heat but do not open the lid of the pan. Keep it covered till you are ready to serve.

Remove the lid and fluff the rice gently with a fork.

Serve hot, garnished with assorted nuts and if you may, add some dry coconut slices and raisins. We have it with Gulab Jamuns! Try it!

Note: If you intend to serve the zarda with the gulab jamuns, use only half a cup of sugar.

Serves – 4 to 5

Thanks for visiting and see you soon again with another exciting recipe!

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