This is insane. I was grinning the whole time I was making, photographing, and eating this spectacular rice.
A while back the New York Times ran a version of this classic spiced rice, which is sometimes called Persian Wedding rice. Dried cherries, apricots, figs, pistachios and pomegranate seeds glisten like little gems scattered throughout this beautiful dish. It’s the perfect accompaniment to a simple roasted chicken, and wouldn’t it be just amazing on a Thanksgiving table?
When I made my Saffron Rice I learned that true basmati rice only comes from India. When I was at my regular grocery store I was surprised to find a 10 lb burlap sack of Indian basmati, complete with a zipper and handles! I felt very exotic and chic walking out with my basmati tote bag But seriously, look for genuine Indian basmati, you’ll taste the difference and you’ll be helping to support the dna of an ancient rice, as well as the farmer’s who grow it.
This rice is a feast for the senses. It’s exquisitely flavored with saffron, which gives it its golden color, along with cardamom, cinnamon, and allspice. You’ll bite down on toasted fennel and cumin seeds which will release alternate bursts of flavor.
The finely juilienned lemon rind adds a surprising amount of citrus aroma to the rice.
This little zesting tool will give you super fine ribbons of pure zest, with none of the bitter white part. I love this tool and use it a lot.
I chose apricots, tart cherries and figs, but you could also use cranberries, golden raisins, goji berries, or the authentic Middle Eastern barberries, if you can find them.
I discovered a new easy way to separate the seeds from a pomegranate…you slice part way into the fruit, and then pull it apart into two. Then slice part way into each half and pull them apart into four pieces. Then, fill a large bowl with water and, under water, gently pull apart each quarter, nudging out the seeds with your fingers. The seeds will fall to the bottom and the pith will rise to the top…no mess!
- 1/2 tsp saffron threads
- 2 Tbsp butter (or coconut oil)
- 1/4 tsp fennel seeds
- 1.4 tsp cumin seeds
- a rounded 1/8 tsp cinnamon
- a rounded 1/8 tsp cardamom
- a rounded 1/8 tsp allspice
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 1/2 cups basmati rice, rinsed well
- 2 bay leaves
- finely julienned rind of 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup dried tart cherries
- 1/4 cup dried Turkish apricots, diced
- 1/4 cup dried figs, diced
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
- 1/4 cup pistachios, toasted
- seeds of 1 pomegranate for garnish
- Mix the saffron threads in 2 1/4 cups of hot water, Set aside.
- Melt the butter in a large skillet and saute the fennel and cumin seeds until they are fragrant, just a minute or two. Add the cinnamon, cardamom and allspice and stir to combine. Add the onion and saute over low heat until the onion is softened, about 10 minutes.
- Add in the rice and saute it for a minute or 2 with the spices and onion.
- Pour in the saffron infused water, along with the bay leaves and lemon rind. Stir to combine, season with salt and fresh cracked black pepper.
- Add in the fruit and nuts, stir to combine, and cover the skillet with a tight fitting lid. Cook on low to medium heat for about 12 minutes, then turn off the heat and let it sit, covered, for another 10 minutes.
- When the rice is done, fluff it, remove the bay leaves, and spoon onto a large platter. Scatter the pomegranate seeds on top to garnish.
I used heaping 1/4 teaspoons when I measured out my spices. You can adjust to your taste. Keep some extra fruit and nuts aside so you can sprinkle them, along with the pomegranate seeds, across the rice in the final presentation. I should also note that a more traditional way of making this rice includes a crusted layer of rice at the bottom. It’s a more involved method which you can see here
Think about this rice dish for your holiday tables, it would make a spectacular vegetarian side dish.