Bastani – saffron, rosewater and pistachio ice-cream

I absolutely adore ice-cream. Like one of my Norwegian cousins, I will happily sit and eat it till I’m sick/it’s all gone. Until recently my favourite flavour was krokan: vanilla with bits of caramellised sugar and almonds, which I can only get in Norway.

Then the other week we went to my local Persian restaurant and for once there was room for pudding. I was hooked. Bastani sonnati, or just bastani, is a beautiful mix of deeply aromatic saffron and floral rosewater. Plus chewy pistachios.

There are lots of recipes on the internet for bastani. Some of the recipes have truly scary amounts of rosewater in – multiple tablespoons for just over a pint of icecream. That’s way too much for me and reminds me of soap, or that disgusting blend of rotting rose petals in water I made as a child and forced Oma to wear as ‘perfume’.

This is an amalgamation of several recipes, and the amount of rosewater is reduced to fit my tastebuds. You might want to increase it.


  • 250ml double cream (plus some for freezing separately, see below)
  • 375ml full cream milk
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 100g sugar
  • 1 dsp – 1 tbsp rosewater – some of the recipes call for 3 tablespoons for the same quantity of icecream. Try adding it gradually and bear in mind that cold dulls flavours.
  • a good pinch of saffron – I’m not sure how to measure this so probably 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of threads. The picture below shows roughly how much I used.
  • 25g pistachios (slivered)


saffron infusingFirst infuse your saffron. Grind it with a teaspoon of the sugar in a pestle and mortar and then infuse, or just infuse the threads as they are – in a little hot (but not boiling) water. Leave them there for at least 20 minutes.

While you’re waiting, sliver pistachios. This is an almighty faff, but worth it. Set them aside till later.

To make the custard, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl. Heat the milk and cream together until very warm. Pour the warm liquids onto the yolks and sugar, whisking as you do so all the ingredients are incorporated. Put the custard mix back into the pan, add the saffron and rosewater and heat gently to thicken. This takes 5-10 minutes so be patient. On no account let it overheat/boil as it’ll curdle into a disgusting, inedible mess. Trust me on this. A standby is to have the sink filled with iced water reaching about 2/3 of the way up the pan. If you think it is about to curdle, rest the hot pan in the water and whisk like crazy to get the heat out.

Pour the custard into a bowl and cover the surface with clingfilm/paper to stop a skin forming. Leave to cool then put in the fridge for a few hours or overnight. At this point, if you are blessed with an ice-cream maker, add the pistachios, pop it all in the pail and let the machine do its work.  If, like me, you aren’t, add the custard to a freezable container and put it in. After an hour or two, take it out of the freezer and whisk. This gets rid of ice crystals and helps it freeze more evenly. Repeat after about one hour. The whisking will increase the ice-cream in volume to fill a 1 litre container. At this point I add the pistachios, so they don’t all sink to the bottom or get snarled in the whisk. There will still be a few ice crystals in your ice-cream this way, but it doesn’t ruin it.

For an authentic feel, line a small tray with baking parchment and pour on 125ml double cream. Freeze. When you are ready to serve the ice-cream, break the sheet of cream into small shards and scatter over the top, with more slivered pistachios.

If you try it, please do let me know what you think.


2 replies

  1. This sounds delightful! I do love rosewater, although – as you say – it’s easy to overdo it for palates not really used to floral flavours. Hopefully I will harvest enough saffron this year to do a homegrown version 🙂

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