Persian Rice Pudding with Saffron and Pistachios

1/2 cup Basmati rice
1 plus ? tsp saffron strands
4 cups cold water
1/2 cup sugar (you may add more, I like my rice pudding on the less-sweet side)
1 cup hot water
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup rose water (my mother adds 1/2 cup)
3 cardamom pods; seeds extracted, pods discarded
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 cup slivered almonds, unsalted
handful slivered pistachios, unsalted, for adornment
cinnamon powder for adornment
a heavy-bottomed pan, minimum 8-in diameter


Wash the Basmati in cold water 6 times till the milky water begins to run clear and soak for 1 hour;

In the meanwhile, take 1 tsp of the saffron threads and crush with a pestle & mortar or back of a spoon in a small bowl; To this mixture, add ? tsp of whole threads and 1 tbsp of warm water. Set aside;

Add the Basmati to a pot with 4 cups of cold water on the lowest heat; let the Basmati simmer for 30 minutes till you see it has cooked and moistened and the water has almost evaporated; The moistened rice will not be smooth like Basmati usually is; it will be curly and almost jagged-edged, that is what you want.

To the moistened rice, add sugar mixed in hot water, rose water, butter, a cinnamon stick, almonds, cardamom seeds and the saffron infused liquid (including the saffron strands) and stir gently;

Cover and let cook for another 20 minutes; You will have to stir it occasionally, but gently, to ensure the rice is not sticking to the bottom of the pot;

Uncover the lid and cook for another 20 minutes;

Remove and discard the cinnamon stick and ladle pudding into 4 individual cups;

Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight; and

serve with a sprinkling of powdered cinnamon and slivers of pistachios.