By Humaira

Happy International Woman's Day. For my husband and I, March 8th is even more meaningful  since we just celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary. Looking back, it seems that my life has been greatly enriched by having a wonderful partner and  I've found great fulfillment in my activism for Afghan people.

Last month, I spoke about "Afghan Women's 100 Year History" at the San Francisco Writer's Conference. The presentation covers how politics and war caused many of the current issues facing Afghan women. To watch the video, click on the presentation title above.

And now for what you've been waiting for, Saffron Rosewater Rice Pudding, also known as Shohla e Shereen, which means sweet risotto in Dari. This dish is served at parties, holidays and weddings.

Traditionally Afghans use oil or butter but I decided to substitute coconut oil to make the dish vegan. To add more dimension, I've added orange zest to my sister Nabila's recipe. The oils in the orange peel adds a fragrant flavor to the pudding.  

I hope you enjoy the recipe and your comments are always welcome.


Vegan Saffron, Rosewater, Rice Pudding

Sohla e Shereen


1 cup short grain rice, rinsed and drained

2 tablespoons coconut oil or butter

2 teaspoons saffron

3 cups water

½ cup sugar

1 tablespoon rosewater

Zest of one large orange, around 1 tablespoon

2 tablespoons chopped walnuts

2 tablespoons chopped almonds

Heat coconut oil or butter. Add rice and saffron. Stir for two minutes until the rice is coated in oil and the saffron takes a slightly darker shade. Add sugar, water, rosewater, and orange zest. Stir well. Once the liquid comes to boil, lower heat to simmer and cook with the lids on, around 20 minutes or until the rice is soft and pudding is creamy. Don't cook until the liquid is fully absorbed, the pudding should be ladled into a serving dish. Sprinkle nuts on top of the pudding.

Serve at room temperature, or cook the night before and refrigerate. I prefer it cold.



Thanksgiving is a special holiday for my family, we are one of many political refugees who immigrated to the US from Afghanistan after the Russian invasion of 1979.

My family usually gathers at my sister Nabila's house for several days of family bonding over many delicious meals. I find myself taking advantage of my second to last birth order by letting others do the cooking and planning. However, this year I created a simple and easy pudding recipe to contribute a dish to our Thanksgiving meal.  

To justify sharing this Pom, Pear, Pudding on my Afghan Cooking blog, I created the recipe with ingredients commonly used in Afghan cuisine; chia seeds, olive oil, pomegranate, condensed milk and rosewater.

Since most Afghan desserts call for oil (mostly vegetable) instead of butter, I decided to join the food trend of San Francisco and use olive oil in this dessert dish.

Chia seeds come in black and white color

Chia seeds come in black and white color

After tasting the creamy pudding offset by the crunchy, flavorful chia seeds and graham cracker crust, I now understand why the Greeks, Italians and Spaniards use olive oil in their desserts. The pudding does not taste like olive oil but is enhanced by the fruity, nutty, sweet and tropical notes of the oil.

I hope you will add this pudding to your Thanksgiving menu. It can be made a day or two ahead of serving. I’ve also provided links to older posts that include Afghan side dishes and deserts that go well with turkey.







An Afghan Desert

12 whole graham crackers, broken
1/3 cup chia seeds
1/2 cup delicate, extra-virgin olive oil
15-ounce ricotta cheese
14-ounce sweetened condensed milk
1 ripe Bosc or Bartlett pear, cut in small pieces
1 ½ tablespoons rosewater (adjust to taste)
large pomegranate, seeded

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Combine graham crackers and chia seeds in a food processor. Drizzle the olive oil into the processor as you pulse the ingredients in the processor. Blend until crumbs begin to stick together. Press crumbs evenly onto bottom of a approximately 9x9 baking dish.

In a bowl, mix the ricotta cheese, condensed milk, pears and rosewater. Whisk until creamy. Pour the contents into the baking dish, bake for 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, sprinkle 1/3 cup of pomegranate seeds on top of the pudding. Save the remaining pomegranate seeds. Let the pudding cool to room temperature or if making a day before, refrigerate.

Distribute the remaining pomegranates evenly among serving bowls, add pudding on top.


Serves 8


                                   Olive oil production has returned to Afghanistan with the help of Italians

                                   Olive oil production has returned to Afghanistan with the help of Italians




What is it?

A by product of making rose oil for perfumes, rose water has been used for centuries in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, where it flavors drinks like hot milk or tea, desserts like Turkish delight, baklava, and rice pudding, and even adds a subtle complexity to savory foods. It lends its delicate, floral flavor. Because it is very potent, add it judiciously, by the eighth of a teaspoon, so that it doesn’t overpower other flavors.

How to choose:

You can find rose water at Middle Eastern or health-food stores. Since it’s also used for cosmetic purposes, look for a label that says 100% pure rose water, with no other additives to be sure you’re getting a food-grade product.

How to store:

It will keep indefinitely in the pantry.