Iranian jeweled rice is a dish full of flavor, with saffron, cinnamon, and turmeric spiced rice, crunchy almonds and pistachios, orange zest, and plenty of dried fruit. One of the best parts about this rice is what happens in the last few minutes. Let the rice on the bottom of the pan get all golden brown and crispy, while watching carefully not to burn it, then flip it onto the top of the pile right before serving. This gives it a crisp texture and toasty flavor. Of course, after that, you have to top it all off with plenty of extra “jewels” to garnish which makes it look all vibrant and inviting when you plate it.
Iranian Jeweled Basmati Rice Pilaf [Vegan]
- 3 cups long-grain white basmati rice
- 1 tablespoons salt
- 1 large sweet onion, diced
- 2 large oranges
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 cups water or vegetable broth
- 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon saffron soaked in 3 tablespoons hot water (optional)
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup dried barberries or dried cranberries
- 1/3 cup dried apricots, roughly chopped
- 1/3 cup golden raisins
- 1/2 cup chopped pistachios
- 1/2 cup blanched, slivered almonds
- Additional salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
- Rinse the rice in a mesh strainer under cool water then pour into a medium bowl and cover with about 2 inches of water. Soak the rice for a minimum of 30 minutes and up to 24 hours (the longer you can let it soak the better). Drain and rinse the rice and set aside.
- Bring a small to a medium pot of water to a bowl and add the rice. Cook for 6-7 minutes until just tender, then drain and rinse in cold water to stop it from cooking. Pour the rice into a bowl and gently fluff with a fork to loosen, then set bowl aside.
- Add the nuts to a small skillet over low heat and stir constantly until nicely toasted, being careful not to burn it. Season with salt and set aside for the moment.
- Wash oranges and use a box grater to grate the orange skins and remove as much zest as possible, stopping at the white. Slice oranges in half and use a lemon juicer to squeeze out juices.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or a shallow wide-mouthed pot over medium-high heat and add the onions and your zest shreds. Cook for 2-3 minutes while stirring until onions are getting translucent. Pour in water or broth, orange juice, and spices, then stir over heat for 3-4 minutes until part of the liquid has evaporated.
- Add the sugar and most of the dried fruit (save back a little to sprinkle on top) and cook for another 3-4 minutes until fruit is softened and more liquid has cooked off.
- Reduce heat to low, then add the rice and gently stir with a blunt tool (such as a rubber spatula or spoon) to avoid breaking your grains.
- Add most of the toasted nuts (save some of these for the top too) and stir to combine, then season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Cover pan and cook over low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring often.
- Remove cover and allow the rice to cook for about 5 minutes more without stirring to get a nice brown on the bottom. Let your nose help you here, you should smell when it's toasted but not burned. Remove pan from heat as soon as you think it's there and cover with lid then allow it to sit untouched for 8-10 minutes.
- Loosen rice from pan and scoop into a large serving bowl or platter, placing the crispy parts on the top. Sprinkle your reserved dried fruit and nuts over the top and serve immediately.
- Chickpeas and pomegranate arils make a great addition to this dish. - Also, the dried fruits can be substituted with preferred types such as regular raisins or dried cherries.