How beautiful does Zarda look? It is definitely, in my opinion, one of the best looking Pakistani desserts out there – it doesn’t even need much garnishing to make it look stunning! Aside from it’s gorgeous hue and it’s colourful speckling of nuts and raisins, Zarda is definitely a favourite in my house due to how delicious and satisfying it is after a salty and spicy meal. Traditionally served on special and happy occasions such as weddings and Eid, I made this batch of Zarda to celebrate landing a job as a Secondary School teacher!
In my opinion, the best Zarda is one where each grain of rice is long, separate and firm with no evidence of mush or overly softened rice, all whilst being coated in the sparkling syrupy goodness of the sugar. Finished off with a confetti of candied nuts and raisins laced in each bite, this becomes a little party of flavours and textures in your mouth! Zarda is best served warm and I love it with a very strong cup of unsweetened tea after dinner.
The recipe I’ve seen the women in my family use is very long and complicated, some involving boiling the rice separately and making a ‘chashni‘, a sugar syrup infused with the cardamom and food colouring to pour over the plain rice seperately. I feel like those steps are unnecessary, makes no difference to the flavour of the Zarda and just means more dirty dishes to wash later when you could be enjoying your divine Zarda. My recipe is as simple as it gets – cook the rice with the food colouring and cardamom whilst the nuts and raisins roast in a pan on the side, drain the rice and then mix in the sugar, nuts and raisins and let it steam for 10-15 minutes! Done! Could it be any simpler?* I cooked a huge batch of this and I had a couple of comments telling me it had a distinct taste of ‘khoya’ (heavy cream) and the leftovers (or lack thereof) proved to me how successful this recipe went. I have yet to try making Zarda with khoya, or any dairy product for that matter. For now, this easy and uncomplicated Zarda which uses minimal ingredients is my go-to for a quick, absolutely delicious and luxurious dessert.
Enjoy, with love x
*The reason why we don’t cook the rice and sugar together is because the sugar will make the rice mushy. Additionally, when we drain the rice we will lose some of the sugar, meaning we would have to add more sugar at the end anyway!