{persian} rice pudding, or "shir berenj"

there are not too many dishes more comforting than rice pudding. growing up, my grandma cooked us “shir berenj” (which literally translates to milk rice) often as a treat when she wanted to make us happy. what i remember most other than the warm comforting smell enveloping the house is that it took a long time to cook and cool off- this meant we had to wait (impatiently) before we could dig in to a nice bowl or two. as we waited, i would lift off the lid every few minutes and peek in to see if the rice was dissolving and creating the creamy pudding we were waiting for. persian rice pudding is not sweetened, and is often flavored with a touch of rose water and ground cardamom. the sweetener of choice is poured over the pudding right before you eat. in my family we drizzle a generous amount of grape molasses (which is not easy to find) over our shir berenj. other good options include honey, pomegranate molasses, maple or agave syrup, or simply brown sugar.  no matter how you sweeten your pudding, it will be a delicious and satisfying treat-the ultimate “comfort” food. dig in.     for 4-6 servings:
  • 1/4 cup rice, washed (rinsed several times in cold water)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 3-4 cups organic milk (i used 2% fat milk, but whole milk  or a combination of milk and cream will make a richer and creamier pudding)
  • 2 cups filtered water
  • 1-2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 2-3 tbs rosewater
1. bring the rice, water, and salt to a boil in a deep pot, then reduce the heat to low and cover. cook with the lid on for about 20-25 minutes until the rice is softened.
2. add the milk (you can also add 1 cup of cream instead of 1 cup of milk for a richer and creamier pudding), and bring to a boil. reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for about an hour (keep an eye on it). after about 50-55 minutes, add the cardamom and rosewater and cook for just a few more minutes.
remove the pudding from the heat and serve in individual bowls, then and allow the bowls of pudding to cool off. the pudding can be served at room temperature or after chilling in the refrigerator. serve with sugar, grape molasses (my favorite), pomegranate molasses, honey, jam, maple syrup, or sliced fruit.
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