I’m not sure if this is actually Persian rice, or if it’s just what my uncle called it because he’s Persian – haha. Either way, it’s delicious, sweet and nutty, takes time, and can be eaten by the bowl, basically it’s dangerous!
Yes, I said sweet and nutty, which is why I recommend you serve it with lamb or beef kabobs, which bring the savory aspect.
Persian Rice – 6-8 servings
1/4 cup unsalted, shelled raw natural pistachios
1/4 cup blanched almonds (no skin)
2 cups basmati rice
1/2 cup sugar
2 medium carrots, peeled, cut into matchstick-size pieces
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 teaspoon saffron
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Spread pistachios and almonds on a rimmed baking sheet and toast until golden brown, 5–8 minutes, let cool. Coarsely chop and set nuts aside.
Rinse the rice under cold water until it runs clear. Cook in a large saucepan of boiling salted water (4 cups), stirring occasionally, until grains have lengthened but are still firm, 6–7 minutes; drain and rinse under cold water. Spread rice on a rimmed baking sheet and let cool.
Meanwhile, zest an orange. Bring sugar and 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add the orange zest and carrots, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until carrots are tender, about 15–20 minutes; drain, discard syrup, and set aside.
Combine cranberries and raisins in a small bowl and cover with hot water; let soak 10 minutes. Drain and set aside. Place saffron in another small bowl, add 1/4 cup hot water, and set aside.
Heat butter and 1 tablespoon oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions, season with salt, and cook, stir often, until soft and beginning to brown, about 8–10 minutes. Add cardamom, cumin, turmeric, and 1 tablespoon saffron mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Reduce the heat to low, add cranberries and raisins, continue to cook, stir often, for about 3 minutes. Stir in the nuts, orange zest and carrot mixture, season to taste with salt. Set fruit and nut mixture aside.
Heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil in a large wide heavy pot over medium heat. Add half of rice, spreading evenly; top with fruit and nut mixture, then remaining rice, spreading evenly. Using the end of a wooden spoon, poke 5–6 holes in rice all the way through to bottom of pot, this will help release the steam so the rice can cook evenly.
Drizzle remaining saffron mixture over rice. Place a clean kitchen towel over saucepan, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and secure loose edges of towel on top of lid. (My mom used to tie the kitchen towel around the lid, I still haven’t mastered or it, or found a towel long enough.)
Cook until saucepan begins to steam, about 5–8 minutes. Reduce the heat to very low and cook, without stirring, until rice is tender and bottom layer of rice is browned and crisp, 30–40 minutes.
To serve, scoop rice into a wide serving bowl, or on a hot silver tray. Break bottom crust into pieces, you want to make sure everyone gets a bit of this when they are served.
You can serve this with kabobs, like my uncle used to. I recommend marinating the beef kabobs in 3 tablespoons soy sauce and 1 tablespoon pomegranate sauce for 2 hours.
While enjoying a bowl of this with friends, I couldn’t help but tell stories of all the picnics with 50 sum relatives in parks, and the loud Turkish music they would blare while getting together to dance. The tables were lined up, so that everyone could display their dishes, and we could grab food buffet style before sitting down with relatives I had just seen weeks earlier (at another park picnic). They certainly knew how to make you feel like it had been too long.