In honour of National Vegetarian Week (which was 18-24 May), Amira, one of the UK’s leading speciality rice brands, sent me a fabulous hamper of ingredients to recreate their delicious (and veggie friendly) recipe for Jewelled Persian Rice with Pomegranates, Walnut and Parsley. Based on the classic Persian dish, Javaher Polow, this fruity rice is truly fit for a king and really shows off the amazing grain length of Amira Superior Aromatic rice. It also makes a great side dish for a spicy stew or a succulent roast chicken. The buttery golden crust that develops on the bottom of the pan - traditionally called the tahdig - is a truly delicious treat.
Jewelled Persian Rice with Pomegranates, Walnut and Parsley
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
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
1. Add Amira 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. Stir the cooled Amira 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
Apologies to any vegetarians out there but I served ours with a mildly spiced Butter Chicken, which was delicious and perfectly complemented the fruity jewelled rice.
Disclosure : I received a hamper of ingredients from Amira to try out the recipe.