Jewelled Persian rice with pomegranates, walnuts & parsley

jewelled persian rice3

Don’t you just love pomegranate seeds? I reckon you could scatter a handful on practically any old dish and it would be transformed into something quite magical. Or is that just me?

It’s clear to see why the beautiful pomegranate is one of the possible contenders for the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. I’d have been tempted.

This Persian jewelled rice however is as far removed from just any old dish as you can get. It’s a wonderfully light and fragrant taste of the Middle East, incredibly easy to prepare and looks a million dollars. Or should that be rial?

As well as pomegranate, it features juicy dried cranberries, walnuts, orange zest, flat leaf parsley and is flavoured with cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, saffron and garlic. This fluffy, fruity, delicately spiced rice makes a perfect light lunch served just as it is or as a delicious accompaniment to meat or fish. I also plan to take some on our next summer picnic.

jewelled persian rice2

This recipe was developed by food writer and author Genevieve Taylor who has been working with Amira on a range of inspiring rice recipes. This dish uses Amira’s Superior Aromatic rice,  which I’m reliably informed is the rice of choice in Michelin-starred Indian restaurants, Trishna and Gymkhana. Amira rice is aged for 12-18 months for optimum taste can be found on the shelves of Waitrose, Morrison’s, Tesco and Asda. You’ll find more tasty rice ideas from Genevieve at www.amirafoods.co.uk/recipe, such as Early Grey rice pudding and Vietnamese rice, prawn and cucumber salad, but before you try any of those I strongly recommend you give this Persian jewelled rice a whirl first.

jewelled persian rice

Jewelled Persian rice with pomegranates, walnuts & parsley

Serves 4

300g Amira Superior Aromatic rice
Generous pinch of saffron threads
150g dried cranberries
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
60g unsalted butter
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp whole cardamom pods
1 tsp cumin seeds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
100g walnuts, roughly chopped
Seeds of 1 large pomegranate or 110g pack ready prepared pomegranate seeds
Large handful of parsley, roughly chopped
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
1 garlic clove, finely chopped

Place the rice in a sieve and rinse under running water. Tip into a bowl, cover well with cold water, and 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, and again set aside to soak.

When the rice, saffron and cranberries are halfway through the soaking time, add the oil and half the butter to a deep, preferably non-stick frying pan and place over a low heat. Once the butter has melted, add the onion, cinnamon, cardamom and cumin and fry very gently for 30 minutes until the onion is soft and lightly caramelised. Remove from the heat.
Drain the rice and add to a large saucepan. Pour over boiling water a good 3 centimetres above the rice and place over a medium high heat. Boil for 3 minutes, then drain and rinse under cold running water to cool. Then drain well. The rice will have started to cook but the grains will not yet be fluffy.

Stir the cooled rice into the onions in the frying pan, as well as the saffron, cranberries and their soaking water. Season well with salt and pepper, stir well, then dot the surface of the rice with the remaining butter.

Use the handle of a wooden spoon to make 5-6 holes through the rice all the way to the bottom of the pan – this helps it to steam evenly. Cut a circle of baking paper the same size as the pan, scrunch it up under cold running water, shake off the excess, and 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 the rice will be cooked and fluffy and a delicious buttery crust will have developed on the bottom.

While the rice is cooking, toast the walnuts in a dry pan until golden and smelling nutty. Tip into a bowl and stir through the pomegranate seeds, parsley, orange zest and garlic. Set aside.

When the rice is ready, remove the paper. Lightly fork through the walnut, pomegranate and parsley 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.

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Disclosure: Amira provided me with complimentary ingredients in order to test this recipe on my family. No money exchanged hands and all opinions are my own.

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