For a long time, I’ve been craving a Persian-style jeweled rice with colorful bites of fruit and nuts and savory spices. I adapted this dish from a recipe in The Spice Merchant’s Daughter, a book I treasure for its beautifully alluring, always aromatic, and surprisingly simple recipes. Since the whole family devoured this alongside the Lemon, Saffron & Paprika Roasted Chicken Thighs, I think I need to make this again — soon. Note: while I used sultanas (golden raisins), pomegranate seeds and toasted almond slivers, you might like to try a different combination (adding vegetables or a different nut variety like pistachios, or a different fruit like dates, dark raisins or cranberries).
Jeweled Saffron & Cardamom Rice with Sultanas, Pomegranate & Almond Slivers
(Adapted from “Saffron Pilaf” from The Spice Merchant’s Daughter — altering the ingredients but following the cooking technique, more or less)
- 3 cups white basmati rice
- 3 Tbs. unsalted butter
- 1 bay leaf
- 6 green cardamom pods, crushed
- one 2-inch cinnamon stick
- one small white onion, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 Tbs. slivered almonds
- 2 Tbs. plumped sultanas/golden raisins (let them sit briefly in hot water, then drain. Can also substitute dried cranberries, cherries, or raisins)
- Seeds of 1 pomegranate
- Preheat the oven to 300 F (150 C). Wash the rice by gently swooshing it around with your fingers or a whisk in a bowl filled with water, drain carefully, with your hand over the rice to prevent spilling. Repeat this about 3 times, or until the water runs clear. Drain and set the rice aside.
- Melt the butter in an ovenproof saucepan (that has a lid for later use) over low heat. Add the bay leaf, crushed cardamom, and cinnamon stick and cook for a few seconds, until fragrant. Add the onion, then raise the heat to medium and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Carefully add 3 cups of water, the saffron, and the salt. Stir well and bring to a boil. Add the rice, stir, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Let the rice boil gently, until steam holes appear in the rice and the surface looks dry, about 6 minutes.
- Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and transfer it to the oven. Bake until the rice is light and fluffy, about 20 minutes. Carefully remove the pot from the oven, uncover, and fluff the rice with a fork. Cover and set aside.
- Toast the almonds in one layer in a warm pan (no oil) until slightly golden and crisp. Fluff the rice again and fold in the sultanas, pomegranate seeds, and toasted almond slivers. Serve warm.