Shir Berenj (Persian Rice Pudding)
Shir-berenj is the Persian version of rice pudding, the pure pilgrim that every culture has participated in, thanks to widespread availability of rice. I have always found the rice fields of Gilan and Mazandaran (two northern provinces along the Caspian Sea) very pleasant to look at.
Milk, white rice, rosewater, and a bit of sugar are the key ingredients to Shir Berenj, and depending on your preference, optional flavoring can include: cardamom, cream , half and half or coconut milk. Rice pudding is enjoyed as a dessert in the West, but in Iran, we used to have it as a breakfast treat on Fridays, the only rest day of the week.
I am more fond of the subtle flavors of rosewater, with a hint of sweetness but, you can amp up the taste by topping yours with a combination of cinnamon, honey, grape molasses, jam and even sugar. My dad sprinkled plain sugar over our rice puddings, when I was a kid. And, as much as Westerners hate grinding their teeth on sugar, I came to like and prefer it when accompanied with cinnamon.
I am partial to Basmati rice but any other will do for this recipe. Brown rice is not recommended as the extra fiber imparts some bitterness and alters the overall texture.
Ingredients ( serves 4):
- 1 cup white rice, rinsed & soaked in 2 cups of water overnight or for at least 2 hrs
- 1 cup water
- 3 cups whole milk
- 6 Tbs sugar/honey
- 1/3 cup rosewater
- Cinnamon, honey, grape molasses or jam
Time~ 1.25 hr
- Drain rice.
- In a med. sized pot place rice and water on medium-low heat, bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes or ’til the water is absorbed.
- Gradually add milk. Stir frequently to avoid getting a crusty bottom.
- Once the milk is absorbed (~40 min.) add the sugar and rose water. Cook on the lowest heat setting for another 15-20 minutes ’til it thickens. Stir more frequently.
- Remove from heat. Taste and adjust seasoning (sugar & rosewater), but remember that a sweet topping is added on later.
- Transfer into a serving platter and allow to cool.
- Refrigerate if preferred. Garnish with cinnamon or slivered almonds.
– It is traditionally served chilled, but there is really no good reason not to serve it warm.