Anissa Helou, the food writer and cook, makes a regal rice dish fit for a special occasion.
basmati rice 500g
vegetable oil 125ml
carrots 750g, peeled and cut into julienne sticks
granulated sugar 90g
saffron threads good pinch soaked in ⅓ cup water
unwaxed organic oranges 3, peel cut into julienne sticks
slivered almonds 45g, soaked for 1 hour
slivered pistachios 45g, soaked for 1 hour
barberries (zereshk) 30g (available online from foratasteofpersia.co.uk)
currants 45g, soaked for 1 hour
advieh (see advieh recipe below) 1 tsp
unsalted butter 60g, melted
For the advieh
Advieh means spice mix and different mixes are used with different dishes. This mix is the one used for jewelled rice. You can replace the raw sugar with maple sugar.
pistachios 57g, coarsely ground
ground cinnamon 2 tbsp
ground cardamom 1 tsp
ground dried rose petals (available online) 1 tsp
saffron threads good pinch ground
raw sugar 2 tbsp
Rinse the rice under cold water and place in a large bowl. Add enough cold water to cover by two fingers. Stir in 2 tablespoons sea salt; soak for 2 hours.
Put 2 tablespoons oil in a large frying pan and place over a medium heat. Add the carrots and sauté for 10 minutes. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon sugar over the carrots then add 1 tablespoon saffron water and 2 tablespoons water. Reduce heat to low, cover pan and cook for 3-4 minutes until there is no liquid. Remove from heat. Replace the lid with a clean kitchen towel - you do not want the carrots to continue cooking. Set aside.
Place the orange peel in a small pan. Cover with water, place over a medium heat, bring to the boil then drain the peel. Repeat two more times to get rid of any bitterness. Drain and set aside.
Put the remaining sugar in a medium pan. Add ⅓ cup water and place over a low heat. Stir every now and then until the sugar has dissolved but not coloured. Add the peel and most of the drained almonds and pistachios, reserving a little for garnish, and boil for a minute or so. Using a slotted spoon, remove the peel and nuts from the syrup; set aside. Discard the syrup.
Sauté the barberries in 1 tablespoon vegetable oil until bright red - be careful not to burn them; set aside. To make the advieh, mix all the ingredients together.
Bring 2 litres water to the boil. Drain the rice and add to the boiling water. Add 3 tablespoons sea salt. Bring back to the boil and boil for 3 minutes. Drain the rice. Wipe the pan clean and place over a medium heat. Add 90ml vegetable oil and half the remaining saffron water. As soon as it sizzles, sprinkle a layer of rice over the bottom. Spread half the carrots over the rice, then the same amount of orange peel and nuts, barberries, drained currants and advieh and cover with half the remaining rice making sure to pile the rice in a pyramid so that it does not stick to the side. Spread the remaining garnish ingredients over the rice and cover with the rest of the rice.
With the handle of a wooden spoon, make a hole in the middle and pour the butter and remaining saffron water on the edges of the rice surrounding the hole. Make 4 more holes on a diagonal around the side. Wrap the lid in a clean kitchen towel. Cover pan tightly and leave on the same heat for 3-5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and let the rice steam for 1 hour. This ensures a perfect crust (tahdig) at the bottom of the pan.
Just as the rice is about to be ready, prepare some iced water in your sink. Take the pan off the heat and dip the bottom in the iced water to loosen the crust. Remove the saffron-coloured rice in the middle and place in a bowl. Spoon the rest of the rice on to a dish. Scatter the saffron rice all over, then the nuts. Remove the tahdig from the pan, break into medium pieces and arrange around the rice. Serve with a stew.
Persian jewelled rice. Photograph: Romas Foord for Observer Food Monthly