I should have blogged this ages ago as I discovered this Persian-inspired dish last spring, and have made it a few times since – but months ran fast, and a very busy summer has been and gone. Now it’s the time of the year again when clocks go back, night falls early-ish and even I, perpetually restless and not willing to spend too much of my weekends cooking, find myself looking for something that’s more of a “cooking project” to spend a lazy Sunday, or make for friends on a Saturday. Together with some grilled meat or fish, it is a perfect dinner party dish, as it’s beautiful-looking (more than my bad pictures would show) and a real showstopper. Also, frankly, once you go through the trouble of finding and preparing the ingredients, you might as well make a lot and share it with more people – although you’ll want as much as this as you can for ourself, trust me.
The recipe is called Persian, and some familiar elements of that cuisine are there – the sweet touch of the cranberries, the zingy pomegranates, and the crispy, delicious rice bottom called tahdig which I often admire in “Persiana” chef’s Sabrina Ghayour Instagram feed. However, the perfect balance of spices and the technique used to cooke the rice reminds me somehow of the gorgeous Indian biryianis made by my friend Asma at her Darjeeling Express supperclubs, which I have been lucky to taste both as a guest and as a kitchen and front-of-house helper.
I received this recipe and a sample of Amira Superior Aromatic from the Amira brand, and the rice come from India. For all the spices, the “make or break” factor for this Persian rice is really the quality of the rice, so buy the best you can. In our house, Mr. HW who is a big rice connoisseur has now passed on his obsession to me (very much like I’ve passed on my pasta snobbery); we were really impressed by the quality of this Amira, and we now regularly buy it alomgside our staple Tilda. It is for special occasion, but surprisingly affordable at less than GBP5 for a kg and available in most supermarkets.
The depth of the flavour, the bright colours and the smell filing your house will compensate for the painstaking preparation (de-seed a pomegranate, anyone?) and you’ll find yourself telling yourself , like I did, “I can’t believe I made this myself”. Enjoy! x
- 300 g Amira Superior Aromatic rice
- Generous pinch of saffron threads
- 150 g Dried cranberries
- 1 Large Onion, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 60 g Unsalted Butter
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 tsp Cardamon pods
- 1 cumin seeds
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- To serve:
- 100 g Walnuts, roughly chopped
- Seeds picked from 1 large pomegranate or 110g pack ready prepared pomegranate seeds
- Generous bunch of parsley, chopped
- Finely grated zest from 1 orange
- 1 Garlic clove, very finely chopped
- Add the rice to a sieve and rinse under running water. Tip into a bowl and cover well with cold water. Set aside to soak for 1 hour. Add the saffron to a small heatproof glass and cover with 2 tablespoons of boiling water, then set aside to soak. Add the cranberries to a small heatproof bowl and cover in boiling water, set aside to soak.
- Once your rice, saffron and cranberries are halfway through their soaking time, add the oil and half the butter to a deep, preferably non stick, frying pan and set over a low heat. When the butter has melted, add the onion, cinnamon, cardamon and cumin and fry gently for 30 minutes until the onion is soft and lightly caramelised, then turn off the heat.
- Drain your Amira rice and add to a large saucepan. Pour over boiling water so it comes a generous 3 centimetres above the rice and set over a medium high heat. Boil for 3 minutes, then drain and rinse under cold running water to cool and drain well. The rice will have started to cook but will still have plenty of bite and the grains will not yet be fluffy.
- Stir the cooled rice through the onions in the frying pan, along with the saffron, cranberries and their soaking water. Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper, stirring well, then dot the surface of the rice with the remaining butter.
- Using the handle of a wooden spoon make 5-6 holes through the rice all the way to the bottom of the pan - this helps it to steam evenly. Tear off a sheet of baking paper, scrunch it up under cold running water, shaking off the excess, then lay snugly over the surface of the rice. Cover the pan tightly with a layer of foil and set over a very low heat. Cook, undisturbed, for 40 minutes, after which time your rice will be cooked and fluffy and a delicious buttery crust will have developed on the bottom.
- Whilst your rice is cooking, toast the walnuts in a dry frying pan until golden and smelling nutty. Tip into a bowl and stir through the pomegranate seeds, parsley, orange zest and garlic. Set aside.
- Once your rice is ready, remove and discard the paper. Lightly fork through the walnut, pomegranate and parsley mixture and pile the rice onto a warmed serving dish. Scrape the lovely crunchy caramelised rice (the tahdig) from the base of the pan and sprinkle over the top. Serve immediately.