I was recently sent the ingredients to make Jewelled Persian Rice with Pomegranates, Walnuts & Parsley which is based on the classic Persian dish, Javaher Polow. I love the combination of dried fruit and nuts, alongside fragrant herbs and spices and the sweet crunch of pomegranate seeds.
Using Amira Superior Aromatic rice, which is a pure basmati is grown in the foothills of the Himalayas and is known as the golden standard of rice. Amira’s basmati is grown across the towns of Badaun and Unnao in Utter Pradesh, India’s most populous state. Their products take advantage of the region’s renowned fertile land, where the rice crops are nourished by the holy rivers Ganges and Yamuna. Amira rice can be found in Asda, Morrisons, Waitrose and Tesco stores nationwide.
This dish is a bit of a labour of love – you need to soak the rice for an hour, and the final cooking time is an additional hour or thereabouts, so give yourself plenty of time to make it! We ate it as a vegetarian dinner, but it would make a great side dish for a spicy stew or with roast chicken or lamb. I think we had the heat a bit too low when we made it, as didn’t achieve too much of a layer of the buttery golden crust that develops on the bottom of the pan – traditionally called the tahdig. But the bits that did go like this were truly delicious, and another layer of texture to the dish.
Jewelled Persian Rice with Pomegranates, Walnuts & Parsley
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour40 minutes
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 cardamom pods
1 cumin seeds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
100g 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.