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Zerde is a Turkish sweet pudding made with rice, saffron and rosewater. It is a popular dish that is often served during festivals. The name itself is Persian for "yellow," because the dish gets its color from the saffron. Also known as wedding pudding, it is served as a dessert that has the distinctive floral taste and smell of roses. This pudding is known to have existed in and around Turkey for at least 600 years.
Known as a dish that is frequently made for festivals, zerde also is served at weddings and parties celebrating births. It is traditionally eaten during the first 10 days of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar year. Kheer is a very similar sweet rice dish that also is served at weddings.
One of the more unique ingredients in zerde is rosewater. Rosewater is a liquid that is left after the oils have been extracted from rose petals. It has a very strong, perfume-like odor and a sharp, distinctly flowery taste.
Saffron is another important ingredient in the dish. It is an expensive spice made from the stamens of crocus flowers. The addition of saffron to foods imparts a distinctive color and flavor, and it is responsible for the dish's name, which refers to the color of the pudding when completed.
Making zerde begins by cooking the rice in water and then adding sugar and reducing the liquid to make light syrup. Arrowroot, which is a thickening powder made from the roots of a plant of the same name, is then added to the rice. The saffron and rosewater are incorporated. Finally, spices such as cinnamon are added and the entire mixture is chilled to allow it to completely set.
The completed pudding is served with raisins, pomegranate seeds and nuts sprinkled on top. The zerde will smell like roses and have the very deep, rich yellow color of saffron. A bowl of honey can be served on the side.
One variation on zerde is another type of pudding called zerdeli sutlac. This dish uses nearly all the same ingredients but is prepared differently. Instead of cooking everything in only one pot, two separate puddings are made. One is a saffron pudding and the other is a rice pudding. They are poured together into a single bowl when completed and served.