August 06, 2015

Yakh dar Behesht - Ice in Paradise

The other day I sat down under the pear tree in the back of our garden to take a brief break from the intense summer heat and to also enjoy the refreshing sweet creamy taste of یخ دربهشت  - Yakh dar Behesht. Ice in Paradise is a rice flour and milk dessert recipe infused with cardamom and rosewater and topped with pistachios. This dessert's intriguing name is a combination of the term "yakh " meaning "ice," "dar" meaning "in," and "behesht" meaning "paradise." According to the online Encyclopedia Iranica entry on Garden "From the time of the Achaemenid empire the idea of an earthly paradise spread to the literature and languages of other cultures. The Avestan word pairidaeza-, Old Persian *paridida-, Median *paridaiza- (walled-around, i.e., a walled garden), was transliterated into Greek paradeisoi, then rendered into the Latin paradisus, and from there entered into European languages, i.e., French paradis and English paradise." An ancient earthly Persian Paradise consisted of a majestic castle surrounded by lush pastures, magnificent Cypress trees, a large shimmering reflecting pool covered with water lilies and streams gently flowing through the pomegranate trees and fragrant rose bushes.

I cannot tell you much about the origin of the name of this dish -- perhaps it was given its name by a king or a queen, or a chef with a poetic mind or even a dinner guest with a knack for exotic names. The word pardis/paradise means different things to different people. It may remind some of us of heaven above or perhaps earthly Persian-style paradise gardens. To me, paradise is a state of mind.  It is those precious moments spent with loved ones. It's when you feel safe, at peace with yourself and your surroundings. It's those heavenly moments when you sit back, relax and are able to calm the mind and the inner frenzy and treat yourself to this delicious summertime treat somewhere under the small shade of a fruit tree.

Come, come, whoever you are,
wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving.
It doesn't matter, ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vows a hundred times.
Come, yet again, come, come.

~ مولوی - Rumi

Whoever comes to this place feed them and don't ask about their faith

~ خاقانی - Khaghani

Isfahanis have a special way with desserts and food in general and I got this recipe from my sister-in-law Shahnaz who lives in Isfahan. According to her Yakh dar Behesht is one of the most popular desserts there.

I changed the recipe a little bit by cutting the required amount of ingredients in half. You may adjust the sugar to your liking.

Yakh dar Behesht -Ice In Paradise

Serves 6-8

1 cup rice flour
1/4 cup wheat starch or cornstarch
4 cups whole milk
1 1/3 cup sugar or to taste
1/4 cup rosewater
1 teaspoon ground cardamom


Crushed pistachios
Shredded coconuts
Slivered almonds
Dried rose petals


  1. In a small mixing bowl dissolve cornstarch in 1/2 cup of cool water.
  2. Pour the milk into a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, stir in rice flour and start stirring.
  3.  Add cornstarch and cardamom, whisk constantly until thickened to a pudding-like consistency.
  4. Add sugar while whisking continuously until the sugar is fully dissolved. Reduce the heat, add rosewater, stir and simmer on low heat for another 2-3 minutes. 
  5. Remove from heat and pour into a large shallow glass dish and sprinkle crushed pistachios or shredded coconuts on top. Or generously sprinkle crushed pistachios onto the bottom of the silicon molds, pour the mixture into the molds, smooth the surface and level it out. The third option is to simply pour the mixture into individual serving bowls. 
  6. Allow to cool at room temperature, cover the dish with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 4-6 hours or until cool and set. 
Serve cold or at room tempreture.