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 ZARDA

 Spring is the season of rejuvenation, of exultation and festivity. In India its celebration in the various regions has its own joyous flavour. In north India, more specifically, in Awadh ‘vasant’ as it known, has a tradition of being celebrated with music and dance and of course to go alongwith the festivities. The wide expense of the mustard fields-in garb of yellow are a treat for the eyes. In the days of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, who was a connoisseur of the fine arts, celebrations were done in style. A long procession of ‘Bajras’ (barges) were taken out on the river Gomti. Dressed in yellow, to match the (colour of nature) spring palette, men and women danced to the tune of Raga Vasant, and Raga Hindola. The river would be transformed to a rich yellow hue more aptly labeled as ‘Basanti’. The ‘Zarda’ is a celebration of spring though its popularity transcends the seasons, even cooked during marriages or auspicious occasions, this sweet rice    preparation is like a spring song!

Ingredients:

FOR SYRUP 

Sugar                                      1 ½ kg

Lime                                        1

Milk                                        100 ml

Water                                      4 litre 

FOR RICE 

Basmati rice                           750 gms

Cloves                                     10

Cinnamon                               2 pieces

Small green cardamoms            15

Alum                                       1 pinch

Saffron colour             ½ tsp 

TO MIX 

Desi ghee                               150 gms

Khoya                                     200 gms

Saffron                                    1 gm

Kewra jal                                4 tbsp 

FOR GARNISH 

Almonds                                  50 gms

Pistachio nuts                         25 gms

Silver foul                               few

Method:

To prepare syrup, put the sugar, water and lime juice in a pan. Bring to boil, add little milk at a time and remove scum. Boil until the syrup is one string consistency. Strain through muslin and keep aside.

For rice, put about 3 litre of water in a pan, add all the ingredients except rice under heading ’rice’. Boil for about 10 minutes to extract flavour of the spices. Then strain the flavoured  water through a sieve to remove the whole spices. Pour this water in a deep vessel or bhagona and place it back on the fire. Add washed and drained rice in it. Parboil it on slow fire. Drain through a colander.

Boil sugar syrup in a heavy bottomed pan. Add rice and ‘josh’ (boil) for a minute. Remove the pan from the fire cover and seal with flour dough and put on ‘dum’ for about ½ hour. Shake the pan to check whether the moisture is fully absorbed. Open the lid.

To finish, pour pour hot desi ghee, bhuna khoya and saffron ground in kewra jal. Mix well and serve hot or at room temperature, garnished with slivers of pistachios and almonds and silver foil.

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