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Plain Rice with Saffron - LemonSalt

Plain Rice with Saffron

The Persian way of cooking rice is a little different from the perhaps more familiar east oriental methods. The end result is a light and fluffy rice unlike Thai or Indian cooked rice, which are aromatic and infused with coconut, turmeric or cardamom. This simple rice is often served stews or kababs. Once you learn how to cook this rice, you can “dressed it up” if you like with herbs, spices, nuts, berries or most commonly, saffron. Here is a step-by-step guide to making Persian rice.

Step 1

Use about 75 grams of uncooked Basmati rice per portion serving.

Step 2

Wash and Soak. Rice will cook better if it has been washed and had time to soak in water before cooking. Measure out your rice into a large bowl. Wash and rinse the rice in the bowl pouring away the dusty water a few times until the water becomes clearer. After washing, pour water over the rice to cover it completely and add about 2-3 table spoons of salt. It may sound like a large amount of salt, but most of it will wash away later. But if preferred, salt can be omitted. Let the rice soak for at least 30 minutes, but the longer it soaks, the better. The soaking will help the rice grains expand when cooking.

Step 3

Cook in two phases: boil and steam    For the first cooking phase, boil water in a large pot. Once it has come to a boil, pour away some of the water from the bowl the rice has been soaking in and add the rice to the boiling water. Let it cook in the boiling water and after about 5 minutes, use a soon to look at the rice grains. The rice should be about half cooked and you will notice that the rice grains are longer but if they start to curve and break, it has been boiled for too long. It might take a few times to get it just right but the patience will be worth it. When satisfied that the rice is half cooked, strain the rice washing away the boiled water. This process helps to remove a lot of the starch from the rice. Rinse the rice gently with cold water and let the excess water strain away for a couple of minutes. For the second cooking phase, put the same pot (make sure it is dry) back on the hob, but reduce the heat right down and add oil. Now turn the rice back into the pot over the oil. To avoid the rice sticking to the sides, use a spoon to heap the rice from the sides towards the middle. Cover the pot with a lid and let the rice cook in the steam. To add more steam, melt half a tea spoon of butter for each number of portions of rice you have measured in a cup of boiled water and pour this evenly over the rice and make sure you put the lid back on. When the pot starts steaming and the rice has softened, it should be ready and you will notice the long non-sticky grains. Time to serve!

Step 4

Saffron    If you wish to add a decorative layer of saffron rice on your served-up rice, put a couple of pinches of ground saffron into a cup and add a couple of table spoons of boiled water. Leave the saffron in the water for a few minutes to infuse and release its golden colour. In a bowl, take a few spoonfuls of the steamed rice and mix in a bit of the infused saffron. Once you have served up the rice, sprinkle over the saffron rice in a pattern you like and enjoy.

Step 5

“Tah-dig”    Remember the oil you added before returning the rice back in the pot to steam? Well if you have left the rice to steam long enough, the bottom of the pot will now be covered with a crispy layer of rice which is called “tah-dig”. If you leave the rice to steam longer over the reduced heat, the thicker this crispy layer becomes and can be served as a side accompaniment. This is always a favourite but make sure you have added a bit more rice so it doesn’t compromise your portion requirements and be careful not to let the rice steam so much that it starts to become sticky. Below is a picture.

Persian Tah Dig (crispy rice)



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