Jeweled Rice or Wedding Rice

26Middle Eastern/West Asian cooking, specifically the Iranian culinary style, is unique to Iran but has naturally been influenced by neighboring regions at various stages throughout its history. Due to the fact that Iran was formerly known as Persia, cuisine from the region is alternately referred to as Iranian or Persian. When I serve this dish, often my guests will immediately say, “oh, curry!” and it does have a large variety of spices, but this recipe reflects the regional and cultural traditions of the Middle East rather than those of India and Southeast Asia. Fresh green herbs are frequently used along with fruits such as plums, pomegranates, quince, prunes, apricots, and raisins. To achieve that perfectly balanced taste, Persian flavorings such as saffron, citrus, cinnamon, cardamom and parsley are mixed delicately and used in some special dishes.

This rice can stand alone on a bed of greens for a wonderful light lunch or next to the familiar kebab, or perhaps a real stretch would be the more authentic dish of grilled lamb’s testicles. We serve it with grilled wild salmon, grilled lamb or Lamb Sausages. For hors d’oeuvres, consider samosas or falafel and finish with fruit, sorbet and a drizzle of rosewater.
24In Iran, it is typically served at weddings or other celebrations.

3 cups best-quality Basmati rice

Kosher salt

Unsalted butter, 6 tablespoons in total

1 large onion, diced small

2 carrots very thinly sliced (optional)

 

¼ teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled and soaked in 1/4 cup hot water

1 teaspoons each of ground cinnamon, cardamom, ground allspice, ground cumin

½ teaspoon of ground ginger or two tablespoons of Kitchen Porch ran El Hanout

⅓ cup chopped apricots

⅓ cup golden currents or raisins

⅓ cup dried imported barberries * or goji berries, soaked in warm water for 5 minutes and drained (or use 1/3 cup dried cherries or dried cranberries)

⅓ cup blanched almonds

4 slices of candied orange peel*

⅓ cup roughly chopped pistachios

2-3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch long matchsticks

¼ cup orange blossom water
23Rinse the rice several times in cold water until the water runs clear. Drain. Bring 7 cups water to a boil in a large pot with 2 tablespoons kosher salt. Add the rinsed rice and boil, stirring occasionally. Just as the rice has absorbed the liquid, pour the rice out on a cookie sheet and spread it out so that it will stop cooking. It is important that the rice not over cook as it can get sticky. To prevent it form overcooking, cool it by fanning it and fluffing on the cookie sheet.

Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and carrots and season lightly with salt and cook until softened and lightly colored, 4 to 5 minutes. Moisten with 1 tablespoon saffron water and stir in the cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, black pepper and cumin. Cook for 1 minute more.

Stir in the apricots, raisins (or currants) and barberries (or cherries or cranberries). Add 4 tablespoons butter and allow to melt, mixing the onion and fruit well. Add the orange blossom water and remove from heat. Spread over the rice and fluff. Season with salt as you wish. Toast the nuts in the oven until nicely toasted- not brown- and sprinkle on the rice dish just before serving.

22Sprinkle with the toasted nuts.

* barberries are sold as zereshk and are available at Middle Eastern markets and kalustyans.com.

** orange peel-You can make this: peel an orange and slice the peel very thinly then toss it with two cups of sugar. Add 2 cups of water and bring to a slow simmer for 10 minutes. Allow it to drop to room temperature and remove orange peel from the sugar syrup. Allow it to dry in very low oven (~200) for 6-8 hours.

Store in airtight container.

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