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Put the saffron in a small bowl with 2 tbsp warm water and set aside for 1 hr. Meanwhile, grind the cardamom seeds to a powder with the caster sugar using a pestle and mortar.
Remove the crusts from the bread and cut the slices in half diagonally.
Pour the oil in a high-sided frying pan, until it's 2cm deep, and place over a medium heat. Once the oil reaches 180C, or when a cube of bread browns in 30 seconds, carefully add the bread slices in batches, and cook until golden on both sides. Drain on kitchen paper and set side.
Heat the milk and ground cardamom mixture in a wok or karahi over a medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Once it comes to a boil, turn the heat to medium, and continue cooking the milk for about 15 mins, stirring often, until it's reduced by half.
Mix a ladleful of hot milk with the cream in a bowl, then pour it back into the pan. Stir in the saffron and its soaking water, and enough rose water to lend a soft floral flavour.
Add the fried bread in a single layer to the creamy milk – you will probably need to do this in two batches. Soften the bread over a low heat for 2-3 mins, then remove with a slotted spoon and arrange in a single layer on a serving plate.
Turn the heat to medium and reduce the milk left behind in the pan for a few mins, stirring all the time until creamy – it should have the consistency of double cream.
Leave the milk to cool and thicken for 15 mins, and then spoon it over the bread. Chill overnight so that the bread softens.
Sprinkle with the chopped almonds and silver leaf, if using, for a special occasion. Serve chilled.
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