Wash rice at least thrice and soak in lots of water for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, bring 5 cups water to a rolling boil in a large pot.
Add food color or saffron. Drain the water from the rice and add it to the boiling water.
Boil the rice until 95% cooked. Meaning the grains are just done, fully cooked and not mushy. If you undercook the rice here, the grains will turn hard later after adding to the sugar syrup. Press down a rice grain in between your fingers, it should get mashed well and not be hard.
Immediately drain the rice completely and spread it wide in the colander itself. Cool down completely.
When the rice cools down, add ghee to a wide pan and heat it.
Fry the nuts until golden and then add the raisins. When the raisins turn plump, remove to a plate. Then add crushed cloves and cardamoms & fry for 30 to 60 seconds.
Add sugar and then 4 tbsps water. Stir well.
Cook this until the sugar melts and syrup comes to a 2 string consistency. To check this cool a bit of syrup and take it in between your thumb and forefinger. When you gently separate the fingers you should see 2 strings.
Add the cooled rice and mix gently to coat it well with the syrup. Level the rice on top.
Layer the mawa and nuts over the zarda.
Cover the rice and keep it on a low flame to dum for 10 mins. Rest for another 15 mins. Zarda will be perfectly done. If you still see moisture at the bottom, then dum cook for longer.