Jewelled Persian Rice
Once upon a time, long long ago, I had an Iranian boyfriend. He introduced me to a whole new cuisine, which, although similar to the Middle Eastern one I was more familiar with, was distinct and flavoursome. It was rare that he did any cooking, but when he did he always made the most delicious rice in the classic Persian way, complete with tahdig.
Tahdig is the bottom layer of rice which forms a crunchy buttery crust and is the prize that everyone hopes to get. Despite having eaten it any number of times, I’d never prepared rice this way myself. When I was sent some basmati rice and the ingredients to make jewelled Persian rice, based on the classic Javaher Polow, I was filled with nostalgia and was cooking almost before I’d unpacked the box.
The rice in question is Amira’s superior aromatic rice and it really is what it says on the tin – or do I mean packet? The grains are incredibly long and the fragrance, even before it is cooked, is deeply aromatic. In fact I spent a considerable amount of time with my nose in the bag just breathing in the scent. Apparently basmati rice needs to be aged to add flavour, something I was completely unaware of and this one is aged from 12 to 18 months.
The recipe I was sent was for jewelled Persian rice with pomegranates. walnuts and parsley. Luckily, I had plenty of parsley in the garden as that wasn’t provided. I also had a bag of broad beans, some courgettes, a red pepper and some newly harvested garlic, so these went into the pot too and added a little extra protein to the dish. I didn’t have any oranges, so I substituted a little grated lemon zest instead. As well as making a few adjustments to the ingredients, I also simplified the method a little – I don’t like over complicating things and having to use too much paraphernalia. The dish is very nearly vegan, there is only a pat of butter added and that could easily be left out, though I can’t vouch for the tahdig if it is.
Well what can I say? It was delicious, a good combination of eastern fragrance, fruit, spice and mouthwatering rice. Despite me going my own way, the tahdig was perfect. The dish lasted us two days and we ate it unaccompanied. It really didn’t need anything else. The tahdig disappeared on day one when it was nice and crunchy, but the rice was easily reheated the next day to make another satisfying meal.
Jewelled Persian Rice
- 300 g Amira Superior Aromatic rice
- pinch of saffron
- 150 g dried cranberries
- 1 large onion
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 60 g unsalted butter
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 tsp cardamon pods
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 courgette
- 1 red pepper
- 100 g walnuts - toasted & roughly chopped
- a large handful of freshly podded broad beans - simmered in water for 3-5 minutes.
- seeds from 1 large pomegranate
- bunch of parsley - chopped
- grated zest of 1 lemon
- 1 clove garlic - very finely chopped
- Soak the rice in water in a covered bowl for an hour, then rinse thoroughly and drain.
- Soak the saffron in 2 tbsp boiling water in a small covered bowl.
- Soak the cranberries in hot water in another covered bowl.
- Whilst all the soaking is going on, finely chop the onion, slice the courgette and seed and chop the pepper.
- Heat the oil and half the butter in a large lidded frying pan over a low heat and add the onion, cinnamon, cardamon and cumin and fry gently for about 20 minutes when the onion should be lightly caramelised.
- Add the courgette and pepper after the first ten minutes.
- Add the rice to a large saucepan and cover with boiling water. Simmer for 3 minutes, then drain and rinse under cold water.
- Add the rice to the onions in the frying pan along with the saffron, cranberries and their soaking water.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste, then stir.
- Dot the butter over the surface of the rice. Make five to six holes in the rice with a wooden spoon, right down to the bottom. Then cover with the lid and leave to steam over a gentle heat for another 30 minutes or so.
- As soon as the rice is cooked and a crunchy buttery rice layer has formed at the bottom, turn the rice out into a large serving bowl, leaving the tahdig behind. Fork through the walnuts, beans, pomegranate seeds, parsley, lemon zest and garlic.
- Scrape the tahdig out of the pan and scatter over the top.
- Serve whilst still warm.
This also goes to Jac’s weekly Meat Free Mondays over at Tinned Tomatoes.
Here are some other takes on the recipe from: