Guest Post by Kulsum of Journey Kitchen- Mom’s Zarda, Sweetened Saffron Rice in the Indian Manner


Kulsum of Journey Kitchen takes poetic, dreamy photographs of Indian-food-with-a-modern-twist, reminding you of that picnic you plan to have with your friends nestled under a 700-year-old olive tree, when the weather warms up and everyone starts wearing linen and flowing dresses. Your plaid blanket is laid out on the grass, and as everyone chatters, from the wicker basket emerge Kulsum’s home-cooked snackettes- slices of wobbly saffron and almond custard, savoury bites of bruschetta with her homemade paneer, crowned with sweet cherry tomatoes; and small tins of her chocolate cinnamon date truffles, which she made for her family on Eid.

These are the scrumptious treats Kulsum prepares from her kitchen in Kuwait- inspired by her Mom’s cookery style- where she lives with her husband, affectionately referred to as ‘M’ on her blog. I am always in awe of the innovative recipes she creates on her blog week after week. Over time, Kulsum and I have become close friends through Twitter – that may sound odd to many of you- but these days so many of us connect with each other through social media channels.

Kulsoom- which dish or food item reminds you of one of the women in your family; someone you love? My Mom’s Zarda, she said.


Kulsoom, please tell us more about your Mom’s dish…

Growing up I didn’t have much of a sweet tooth. This frustrated my Mom since everyone else loved her Indian sweets.

There were a selective few I did like- which included ZardaZarda is a sweetened rice dessert  in which the rice is cooked in sugar along with saffron, nuts, coconut and dried fruits. Zarda is the word is used by the Muslim community but meethe chawal is the name by which it is known all over North India.


Mom would spend hours thinly slicing fresh coconut, pinching the skin off the blanched almonds and chopping nuts. She wasn’t just making sweets for a family of six- she made sure to make enough for the entire neighbourhood. It was while we got ready for the feast that my sisters and I would get to wear our favorite salwar kameez and matching chudiyas (colorful bangles), which often involved fights over whose are the prettiest. I miss wearing chudiyas and now that I have developed a sweet tooth, I crave every single mithai (sweet) Mom makes.

But Zarda still tops my favourites list.

Serves 5-6


*1 cup good quality basmati rice
*3/4 cup sugar
*2 generous pinches of saffron *
*2 whole cardamom pods
*2 cloves
*1 cup milk
*2 tbsp melted ghee plus 1/2 tbsp
*7-8 blanched almonds
*7-8 cashew nuts
*Handful of thinly sliced coconut strips, optional
*1/8 cup mix of dried fruits **


* Like most spices lightly dry roasting saffron brings out flavors and intensifies its color. Use good quality saffron.

** Traditionally raisins are added but I use a mix that includes cherries, raisins, black grapes, raspberries

*Warm the milk and add the saffron threads. Set aside.
*Wash and soak the rice in water for half an hour.
*Par boil the rice. Drain and keep aside.
*In a pan (preferably a flat pan) add 1/2 tbsp ghee and lightly roast the nuts. Separately roast the sliced coconut if using.  Remove and set aside.
*In the same pan add remaining ghee and crack cardamom and cloves in it. Add the milk mixture and sugar and let it come to a boil.
*Lightly add in the cooked rice, nuts, coconut and fruits (retain some for garnish). Cover and cook for another 10 minutes or till the rice is completely cooked.
*Garnish with remaining fruits and nuts.
*Serve at room temperature.



  1. I love Kulsum’s photography…Indian food doesn’t always look the most appetizing but she just makes everything look mouthwatering! Love this recipe for meethay chawal!

    • @Kulsum’s photography skills are indeed brilliant.

    • Asiya, not sure what photos you’re looking at but Indian food always looks appetizing. Think Butter Chicken, Gobhi Alu, Kadhi, Sarson ka saag, matter paneer, raita, biryanis, fresh phulka, paranthas, chutneys, achaars, etc. The list goes on.

  2. Love the photography of Kulsum, and her take on Indian cuisine! Beautiful saffron rice, that plate is so cute.

  3. Zarda looks so interesting! We make a rice payaasam in the south but this is very different from that. Love your Bowl Kulsum… It’s so gorgeous!

  4. I’ve been following Kulsum for a while, her photography is always inspiring. This rice dessert is stunning!

  5. A beautiful guest post. Kulsoom’s photos are always wowwwwww! xoxo

  6. I’m a big fan of rice pudding, but have never had a sweet, “dry” rice like this. It sounds and looks fabulous!

  7. Gosh! This reminds me of Eid when I was little and visiting three aunts who all lived on the same street. You couldn’t leave without eating a plate of this at each aunt’s house.

  8. Shayma, first time at your blog, you have a poetic writing yourself and a beautiful space! Glad I hopped over here from Kulsum’s

    I adore Kulsum’s sense of styling and her rustic photography! You have done great justice in describing her food as well as photography! Lovely guest post..

  9. Hopping over from Kulsum’s blog — Gorgeous styling and comforting recipe!

  10. I love my mom’s zarda as well! Kulsum’s recipes & photography is always exquisite!

  11. Thank you everyone for your support and kindness.

    @Sanjeeta and @Radhika I’m glad you were able to find Shayma’s beautiful blog through mine. Isn’t she amazing?

  12. I LOVE Zarda and what a beautifully way to present! I will have to add coconut strips next time. Have never used coconut but I know it is going to be beautiful. xo to you both Kulsum and Shayma.

  13. Are you kidding me? This recipe sounds and looks totally delicious! This is going on my list of recipes to make over the next week. 😉

  14. @Soma Yes coconut adds lovely flavor though while making it this time I was out of it! Thank you xo

    @Robert Thank you so much. Let me know how it goes if you make it 🙂

  15. Kulsum’s photography is a piece of art and I just admire how it gets better in every post!
    This dish .. i never heard of it before. But I have all the ingredients and so gonna make it soon. Lovely guest post 🙂

  16. Bahareh says:

    Beautiful photos…yellow like gold! I enjoy every opportunity to consume more ghee!! Thanks, Kulsum, for posting.

  17. You two are my favorite food bloggers, and I couldn’t be happier to see your teamwork. Yes, Kulsum rocks, so do you Shayma! The intro is fab Shayma, and the beauty of your photos make me ache Kulsum! Cheers girls!

  18. A beautiful guest post and I must try this rice!

  19. @Nash thank you so much. And yes Shayma is fabulous and I’m so honored 🙂

  20. Hi Shayma – found the Journey Kitchen very recently and through that your Spice Spoon. Beautiful blog… I am going to wait for more!

  21. Kulsum is one of my favourite bloggers, and am so happy to be introduced to your beautiful blog via Kulsum. I’ve never heard of Zarda before, but it looks fantastic.

  22. I have known Kulsum from initial days of blogging. So true what you said about her & the blog. I always use my dadi’s recipe to make Zarda – Kulsum’s is the same except coconut.
    Stunning guest post ladies!

  23. Hello, I stopped over from Kulsum’s site. You have a lovely site of your own here 🙂 And this is a delightful guest post. Beautiful story, recipe and photos!

  24. Just made this. AMAZING! I used coconut milk instead of the milk because we never keep milk around and it seemed to work just fine! Thanks so much!

  25. Missy – I’m so glad you enjoyed it with your own spin on the recipe. Thank you! 🙂

  26. Had tasted Zarda in one of my friends place long back.
    Never knew the process of preparing it was so laborious.
    But we all like our mother’s cooking, don’t we? 🙂

  27. Anita Takru says:

    Excellent and simple recipe like ma’s. Job and no inclination kept me away from kitchen. Now, ma’s memory takes me to it.Thanks for providing recipe closest to hers.

  28. Anita Takru says:

    I dont have website. What moderation?

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  39. nice article
    love desi sweets
    here in gujarat India Rich sweet is SHOLA, which is almost same in test like jarda and seviyon ka shola prepared like jarda but with saviyan instead of RICE. Both type of SHOLA are prepared with heavy quantity of PURE GHEE and FULL OF DRY FRUITS. Another Difference between JARDA and SHOLA is its test. The test of shola is bit sour than jarda.
    best of luck
    keep it up

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