We are so in love with our long stranded saffron from Saffron Only. With our delivery we also received several recipe cards including the recipe for this rice dish which has also been mentioned by an Irani work colleague. As beautiful soft barberries are available at the local Afghan shop, the recipe was added to our must-cook list.
The recipe simmers long grained rice until al dente, then steams it on a bed of potatoes or pita bread (optional) until the bottom is crispy and the rice is perfectly cooked. It is then served with saffron water, the toasted barberries, almonds and pistachios.
Berberis, commonly known as barberry, is a large shrub that has yellow flowers and red or blue-black berries. The berries, rich in vitamin C, have a distinct sharp acid flavour. The country in which they are used the most is Iran where they are used in rice pilafs.. Due to their inherent sour flavor, they are often cooked with sugar before being added to rice. Iranian markets sell barberry dried. In Russia they are sometimes used in jams and extract from them is a common flavouring for soft drinks and candies/sweets. They are rarely used in Europe in modern times. (Thanks wikipedia.)
I notice that Ottolenghi has a similar recipe on his website. I mention it only as we have an Ottolenghi Project happening, cooking from his book Plenty More. You can check his recipe out, but I like this one better. 🙂
Barberries are also such a beautiful colour that they make a great garnish to any rice dish or salad.
Persian Barberry Saffron Rice with Almonds and Pistachios
2 cups long grained rice, eg, basmati, rinsed
1 pinch saffron threads
1 medium potato, peeled and sliced or some pita bread
0.5 cps soft dried barberries
1 Tblspn slivered almonds
1 Tblspn slivered pistachios
1 tspn fresh lemon juice
Soak the rice in a bowl covered with water for 10 – 20 mins.
Place the saffron and a generous pinch sugar in a small bowl and cover with 2 – 3 Tblspn hot water. Set aside.
Drain the rice and add to a saucepan with plenty of water. Bring to the boil and simmer the rice for 10 – 15 mins. Drain in a colander.
In the same saucepan, add the olive oil and layer the potato slices or pieces of pita bread on the bottom of the pan. Top with the drained rice. Cover with a lid and heat until the rice begins to steam (3 or 4 minutes). Turn to the lowest heat possible and place a tea towel over the pot, under the lid, wrapping the sides of the tea towel over the top of the lid (so it doesn’t catch fire). This stops the moisture from dropping back into the pan. Leave the rice to steam for 30 – 50 minutes.
Dry toast the almonds and pistachios for a few moments. Then saute the barberries in the butter for a few minutes, then add 1 Tbslpns sugar and 1 Tblspn of the saffron water. Stir briefly and remove from the heat.
Place the rice on a serving platter followed by a sprinkling of barberries with the butter, the nuts and the saffron water.
recipe notes and alternatives
Use pita bread on the bottom of the pan instead of potatoes.