Zafraani Zamodod


plain dahi

Zafraan (Persian)/kesar (Hindi)/kong (Kashmiri) or saffron, is the most expensive spice in the world, worth more than its weight in gold. In India it has always been measured in tolas, a unit of measure used for weighing gold (approximately 12gm). Kashmiri saffron with its long and deep maroon strands and a delicate aroma is the most valued in the world.

If you were ever disappointed with your Kashmiri saffron, and wondered what the fuss was all about, it is likely that you received saffron that was blended with the less expensive Spanish or Iranian saffron. A few months back my Mom got hold of a little of the real stuff through a cousin working in Kishtwar (Kashmir). Despite having all her culinary secrets revealed here she gave the entire lot to me! Isn’t she the best?

Very little Kashmiri saffron is exported, most of it being consumed within India. It is an ideal flavouring for Indian desserts which are mostly milk based. Occasionally it is also used in savory preparations such as pulaos and biryanis.

In Kashmir, it is primarily used in desserts such as the Modur Polav, and Kheer. On special occasions it may also be used to flavour Kahva. During weddings it gets sprinkled on top of our much loved zamodod/dahi (yoghurt) served in earthen pots to guests at the banquet, and also on the larger pots of dahi that make up the goodies (including nuts, fruits, and giant balls of rock-sugar, called nabud in Kashmiri, and mishri in Hindi) that the new bride brings with her to her new home. Those of you who have had Shrikhand will know how special dahi becomes with the addition of saffron.

left: milk with added culture; bowls of saffron dahi, all set!

I do that sometimes with our daily bowl of dahi too. But when I want to satiate the sweet tooth without wanting to spend an hour making kheer then I make my zafraani sweet dahi, taking inspiration from Bengali mishti doi, which is a sweet I love. While mishti is flavoured with patali gur (date palm sugar) this version is flavoured with saffron. When using saffron remember that it is a delicate flavour; using regular gur or patali gur may mask this. I recommend regular white sugar here, or a sweetener that is not flavourful in itself.

Though it takes an hour to thicken the milk, it is really no work. I made it this morning. As I prepared my morning tea I also put about 4-5 cups of milk to boil in a saucepan. It simmered for the next hour as I went about other business.

Zaafrani Zamodod
(Sweetened Saffron Yoghurt)

Prep time: 5 min
Cooking time: 1:00 hr

4 C 3% milk (whole milk is much better!)
1 ½ T sugar (or to taste)
1 T yoghurt (natural dahi or Greek style)
saffron strands

Put the milk to boil in a sauce pan. Let it simmer for an hour; you don’t need to watch or stir at all (provided you are using a medium to heavy-bottom pan). After an hour or when the milk has reduced by a fourth, take it off the heat; it will have turned a pale creamy colour. Stir in the sugar and a few strands of saffron.

Let cool till it is comfortable to dip a finger in and keep it there (just as you check for mixing yeast for baking bread). Stir in a tablespoon of live culture yoghurt. Pour into individual serving dishes. Sprinkle a few strands of saffron over each dish, and leave to set in a draft free place.

In warm weather it takes about 3 hours to set; longer during colder weather unless kept warm. Once set, refrigerate at least a couple of hours before serving.

Tip: If the yoghurt hasn’t completely set in 3 hours, you can hasten the setting by putting the yoghurt containers in the microwave and heating at 20% power for a minute; it should set in the next 30 minutes!

More dahi desserts:

Very (Black-)Berry Shrikhand
Blueberry Frozen Yoghurt

This is my entry to Nupur’s (One Hot Stove) finale of the A-Z of Indian Vegetables. I’m going to stretch the ‘vegetable’ bit to mean ‘of plant origin’. Zafraan is, of course, technically a herb. And the Kashmiri word for yoghurt is zamodod!

51 thoughts on “Zafraani Zamodod

  1. I bought some Spanish Saffron,doesn’t look like your’s!!Thin,short and lot less color. Sweet Zafraan yogurt looks yum! Great entry and info about Kashmir!:)

    Kashmiri saffron has really looong strands.

  2. Thanks Anita, for the informative post on Saffron. I bought some Iranian saffron and true, i had to use more to get the saffronish colour and flavour. Would you know where one can get hold of real Kashmiri Saffron in Mumbai? I would love to buy some during our next trip…

    I wouldn’t know myself! There is just too much of the dubious blended stuff around…Use the Iranian – just use more!

  3. So you think Iranian saffron is not as good as Kashmiri saffron? I’ve been using Spanish saffron all these years because the Kashmiri saffron I could lay my hands on was always adulterated, not with Spanish saffron but with colored strands of what seemed like wood. What would I know about Kashmiri saffron anyway. Considering that I am still waiting for my prize. You know? For guessing the guava flower correctly. Hmmph!

    I have never used Iranian saffron – but Kashmiri saffron is definitely superior to the Spanish saffron in colour and aroma.

    Yes, your prize should be on its way soon…it is too precious to send through mail…it will be carried across over the oceans by special personalized courier service!

  4. Simple and impressive- is this the “half-dessert” you’ve been mentioning- or does this count as a full-on dessert? 🙂

    I would think that during Delhi’s summers dahi/zamudud (that’s hard to say!) YOGHURT would set quite quickly…here, I generally leave it for a day… or more, as I oft’ forget about it. Of course, if I were making this I wouldn’t forget! Looks totally yumilicious!

    I have my X-mas-tree-grandma’s gold filling (it fell out before she croaked and she had stuck it in a jar). Wanna swap it for some Kashmiri saffron? 😀

    No, this is not the ‘half’ dessert – this is ‘fusion’ – Kashmiris like their dahi plain.

    In our winter time, I set my daily dahi to set overnight,wrapped in a tea towel. In Denver, I used to leave it on the cooktop which had a pilot light that kept is sufficiently warm!

    On the saffron swap – first tell me if you can tell Spanish from Kashmiri?

  5. Oooops- Do capitalize “the heart” for me!

    Tubelight moments again – but I got it!!! Yeah!

  6. ummm, looks so good, Anita. Yet another fabulous post from you. Here we have to make do with Spanish saffron, because that is what is mostly commonly available, and its not cheap either. I got a jar recently that smells much better than the tiny boxes in Indian stores, and that got me wondering if smell alone is a good test of the quality. On what qualities should one rate saffrons in a side by side test? Not to be a pain, but I look forward to your educated answer.

    Check this Wiki link to know more about saffron and its grading.

  7. Wonderful and informative post as always ! Lucky you …get to use the real stuff. We have to make do with the ‘naqli’ ones 🙂

    Thanks for checking on me. I am just being lazy.

    That’s asli too – just not as good! 😀

    Stop being lazy, and let’s hear from you more often.

  8. Once i had bought Kashmiri saffron (from kashmir itself) and like manisha said it was nothing but something like strands of wood 😦 From then on I use only spanish saffron available here and I am quite happy with it.

    Tha dahi sounds like a good idea for a lite dessert! I am bookmarking this page..! 🙂

    The lure to cheat is so compelling (profitable) that we forget it could cost us the reputation of the saffron itself. I’ve myself happily used the Spanish kind – the genuine Kashmiri saffron being so hard to procure.

  9. Have just discovered your blog! A beautiful thing indeed! Love this recipe idea… perhaps you could include a glossary of definitions of all the different Indian dishes you mention here for non-Indians like me!?

    A very good suggestion, Stephanie – one that I should work on. Do click on the links in the post for some clarification though.

    And, of course, Pel has already informed you about where your priorities should lie, from his non-Indian view point…though it is hard to believe he is that (not Indian)! Are you sure Pel, you don’t have an Indian grandmother tucked in somewhere?

  10. i love the way your posts are so big on some super information…….the zamudud looks inviting….must try cos i got my first bit of zafraan as a gift last week…word that i am a novice food blogger is spreading!! 🙂

    Yes, sprinkle a few strands on your regular dahi and watch everyone rave! Not much work either! 😉

  11. Waah! 🙂
    I remember sinking my teeth into pots of mishti doi as a kid, during out stay in Calcutta. Never found that authentic taste ever again!
    The zamudud looks stunning. I don’t know when I can lay my hands on the real mccoy, so, for now I’ll try this with my lowly “pure” spanish saffron!

    We get the real McCoy at Annapurna Sweets in Delhi (two branches: Yusuf Sarai and Old Delhi)! That thick malai on top is a killer!

  12. Looks absolutely inviting and so simple…I do have some nice saffron and may try this soon on a small bunch of friends…
    And always love those little insights you keep giving us into Kashmiri culture

    Healthy dessert!

  13. wow, you must be your mom’s favorite 🙂 lucky you… I’ve been using spanish saffron, now I really want to get some Kashimiri ones in hand… the z.z. looks yummy!

    Not I, though TH is!

    Spanish is fine too – but Kashmiri is special!

  14. Now I know why my MIL always said the saffron I bring her is not quite good!! I always buy Iranian saffron, and it does not colour the dish as well as the saffron in India – always thought Iranian was the best!! Thanks for the info, from now on only Kashmiri saffron! Mera Bharat Mahan!! Thanks for the micro tips, very useful for me!!!

    Tell her how much you have heard about it and she might get you some!

  15. Wow Anita those photos are absolutely stunning.and that’s quite a simple recipe.Just one question how is the texture of this dahi???like normal dahi or a little more smoother?thanks for the lovely post and info.

    It’s just like regular thick smooth dahi.

  16. Lovely Yogurt with saffron strands, looks pretty. I have a slight idea how it would taste. I left the milk to boil for a looooooong time once but since it was on sim and in an electric stove the milk did not all disappear. When the yougurt had set it was sweet by itself. I am going to try this while it is till summer around here.

    That’s it, ISG! Can’t have a simpler recipe!

  17. So simple, and simply spectacular! There is “flavored yogurt” and then there is this!
    I did not get your mail, but put this entry into the round-up anyway…hope that is OK 🙂

    Thanks, Nupur! I sent it in twice!

  18. Nupur, she claims to be sending emails lately but looks like I am not the only one not receiving them. 😆

    Pel, more popcorn? I think we should switch to murukku now. 😀


    Make it zhanzhanit though… 😉

  19. so ‘zamdud’ means jama hua dudh? zamdud sounds more posh. 😀

    Spot on! zamut=jama hua (set), and dud/dod (I’m not even going to attempt the pronunciation) = doodh (milk).

  20. You mean they couldn’t pronounce it the Hindi way, so…[runs as the eggs start flying in her direction]

    Saffron is the (female) stigma of the Crocus sativus plant. From what I have read, the cheaper varieties of saffron includes (male) yellow stamina, which lacks taste and flavor. If the flower is the same, what makes one better than the other, assuming that there is no male stamina in the saffron. (He! He! I think I am asking this question purely because of the way it sounds!)

    That’s right – not like Hindi, dear…

    Thanks for letting me know the real reason behind the question…before I went into the whole spiel…

    Still, for the record – “Kashmiri saffron is recognisable by its extremely dark maroon-purple hue, among the world’s darkest, which suggests the saffron’s strong flavour, aroma, and colourative effect.” (Wikipedia) and the stigma is really looong – check the first pic (that is a giant cup of dahi, BTW; holds 4 C of milk!)…you likey won’t believe it till you see it for yourself, right?

  21. Hi Anita.. I did have a old box of spanish saffron and have always wondered what was the big deal about saffron.. I am still skeptical about this.. until I try the real one out! Am wondering what magic is there in these few strands of saffron 🙂

    But there is magic, Mary! Try this recipe where saffron is all that is flavouring the yoghurt – and see for yourself! I have used Spanish saffron and found it very flavourful too – so go ahead and use some of yours. But how ‘old’ is the box?! 😀 Refrigerated, it can last quite long though…

  22. So, in Kashmiri it’s: kŏng zāmotu dŏd?

    Do Kashmiris also eat romaine lettuce dipped in sour mint syrup?

    Yes, yes, indeed! kŏng zāmodŏd [bows]

    romaine lettuce dipped in sour mint syrup: where did this come from? what have you been smoking now, Pel? [what were those cigar-things he mentioned once…?]

  23. Dear Anita, thank you so much for sharing with us what beautiful things a morning cuppa set into motion.
    I’m so partial to the deep color of saffron; and seeing it in your photos, as it glows in the dahi, next to the blue of the china, is so happily lovely!
    Thank you.
    P.S. for Pel and Stephanie: the other term? gulab jamun!

    Yes, tea is a wonderful thing!

    So is gulab jamun! But, have you had gajar halwa, or my kheer yet?! 😆 There’s a story there!

  24. I use Spanish saffron here and I must say, its color is not as good as your Kashmiri version. I have never tasted Kashmiri saffron and would love to try it sometime. Anyway, for now, I will make this Zafraani zamudud with spanish saffron, its scorching hot here and one cup of that cold dessert will help cool down the body a bit :).

  25. What’s kheer? Is that something like paayasam? Or, maybe I’m getting it confused with some tofu product. 😉

    Neroli- Where would Stephanie be if there weren’t helpful people like us guiding her down the right path to healthful, Indian dishes to add to her repertoire? 😀

    Anita- I was doing a bit of reading/checking out of Persian dishes. So far, the only things I recall ever making- I’m not counting Parsi dishes in this- are Persian baqlava(it’s different from the Greek style) and… hmmmm, that’s it. (I dined once at a Persian restaurant, however!.. Does that count?) Anyway, I stumbled across the lightest sweet/dessert recipe that I have ever seen in my entire life: romaine lettuce leaves served around a bowl of sour mint syrup. Seriously!

    Yes, helpful indeed! If those links don’t confuse all the new readers here! 😀

    Greens for dessert?! What will we hear next?! But did it satisfy the dessert craving, that is the question?

  26. OMG! Love that post! It should be printed in gold, framed and worshiped as Thalia personified! It feels like a blast from the past. Was it really only 4 months ago?!

    And, don’t you know, Anita? Green is in.

    What was this salad masquerading as dessert called, Pel?

    Those were heady Thalia days…he should do another in that category.

    Greens for salad are in?

  27. Oh…perhaps someday, when it is least expected, I’ll do another little heehee. 🙂

    That sweet is called sekanjabin– the syrup is, I should say. I’ve never made it, but it is stated that it is most often eaten with cos(lettuce) for dipping, sometimes accompanied by bread, as well, for a light meal; and sometimes mixed with ice and water as a drink (sharbat).

    And lemonade is also called shikanji in North India!

  28. Anita, I’m terrible, not to have included your kheer *and* gajar halwa in my recommendations to Stephanie!
    Thank you for covering for me; as always, you are a gracious hostess :-)!

    Pel, if you ever need an extra for your Mithai Tag-Team, just count me in.

  29. Neroli- I’ll keep that in mind- that’s so sweet of you! 😀

    Oh dear, now I’m having a intense craving for Mysore pak. What’s the cure?!

    Lemonade? 🙂

  30. anita, zamodod is new for me..and i just gotta try this one… i have small kulhads to set the dahi in… wud be cool to make it in them… let me try this weekend… will let u know how it came out… thank u for this recipe

    Kulhads are ideal!

  31. ooh maan!!!!!!!! i ama lover of foods ans certainly a lover of litarture..and a combination of both…i was not aware such active bloggin in these lins xisted…very happy to know might join ur lot soon
    always ravenous

    1. I too made it just a couple of weeks back again – for a dinner for guests. Perfect dessert for summer – hardly any cooking and light on the system!

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