Shir-berenj is the Persian incarnation of rice pudding, that universal comfort food. If food were people, shir berenj would surely be a pilgrim, (desiring to be) pure and virtuous. Milk, water, rice and cardamom are its indispensable ingredients, and depending on the cook, optional ingredients can include: sugar, rosewater, cream or half and half.
Here at Fig & Quince we prefer a light, subtly-flavored (borderline plain and thus truly virtuous) shir berenj that can then be amped up to one’s specific liking (with sweet and/or crunchy stuff) over one that is flagrantly flavored. So we opted for a simple recipe (courtesy of a relative) with only the essential ingredients.
Meanwhile, the recent heat wave inspired us to detour from the traditional route and to experiment with making shir berenj popsicles. And you know what: the popsicles were fine and fun but unless you are so inclined, we won’t insist that you make some.
Until next time: Be well all, and Happy Independence Day, America!
- 1 cup rice (ideally, use the best rice you have)
- 3 cups milk (preferably whole milk but skim or low fat is fine as well)
- 1 cup water
- 3 (green or white) cardamom pods (do not use ground cardamom as it will darken the pudding’s color)
- pinch of salt
- Wash the rice (rinse it a few times until the water runs clear) and drain.
- Place rice in a pot along with 1 cup of milk, 1 cup water, salt and cardamom pods. Bring to a gentle boil, then lower the heat and cook, covered, for approximately 10-15 minutes (or until the liquid is absorbed and the rice grains are tender.)
- Add the remaining 2 cups of milk to the cooked rice. Bring to a boil, uncovered, over medium heat. Once boiling, lower heat and simmer (stirring gently and frequently) for approximately 20 minutes until the mixture has thickened.
- Remove from heat. Pick out the cardamom pods and discard. Pour shir berenj in a big serving bowl or in individual bowls and allow to cool. Garnish to your taste as desired. Once cool, chill in refrigerator.
Shir berenj is a dessert but it also makes a decent breakfast and any-time-of-day snack as well. It is traditionally served chilled, but there is really no good reason not to serve it warm if that is your preference.
We find the plain flavor to be soothing and meditative, but you can sweeten serving (with sugar, syrup, jam, or honey) to taste. You can also amp up the flavor and texture by mixing your portion with your desired combination of: fruit, dried fruit, and nuts.
Make it, and enjoy it, and noosheh jaan!