Recipe For Persian Basmati Rice with Raisins and Saffron


Recently we went to the home of  family friends for dinner. They made us an absolutely amazing home cooked Persian meal.  If I had known about all the incredible dishes that I was going to get to sample, I would have brought my camera to post them here!

One dish in particular that really stood out was the rice. Every culture that eats rice has its own particular method and manner of preparation. In our home, we make both sticky Asian jasmine rice and Indian basmati rice to satisfy the different palates.

What’s different about this Persian rice recipe is that it’s not just a neutral medium for delivering the flavors of a main course. It is prepared in such a way that it is delicious on its own. Cooked basmati rice forms the base, but to this are added saffron, fried onions, butter, and flavored raisins. The final product is ethereal, yet rich.

I’ve had it at restaurants many times, but never with the care and quality that was put into this preparation. as if that weren’t enough, we also had another Persian rice recipe made with dill, but that’s another post…

1. Info for Persian Basmati Rice with Raisins and Saffron

  • Cook Time: 20 mins
  • Total Time: 30 mins
  • Servings: 10
  • Calories: 765 kcal

2. Ingredients for Persian Basmati Rice with Raisins and Saffron

  • 4 cups basmati rice
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1/2 cup fried onion (see tips), not too browned
  • 1 cup carrots (optional, see tips), shredded into grain-like threads, steamed for about 3 minutes
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1 tablespoon rose water
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 tablespoons Ghee (clarified butter), sliced, as needed
  • 1 cup raisins (golden and dark)

3. Directions:

  1. In a mortar and pestle, grind the saffron threads. Add about 1/4 cup of water. Set aside.
  2. In a small pan, melt a tablespoon of butter. Add the raisins. Stir well for about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and drizzle with rose water.
  3. Wash and rinse the rice thoroughly in several water baths (about three times). Place in a large bowl, cover with water. Add 1/2 of the juice of a lemon with its pulp. Soak for at least 1 hour or preferably 2 hours. Drain as much water as possible.
  4. Fill about 4 quarts of water in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Add the rice. Bring the liquid back to a boil, then immediately lower the heat to a gentle boil. That way the rice is cooked all the way through evenly. Cook for about 7-8 minutes at a bubbly simmer. Add 1 teaspoon of salt half way through the cooking process (it will enhance the natural flavor of the rice and it will be more tender). Keep stirring the rice every now and then so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. It may take longer than the cooking time written on the instructions of the package. The grains of rice should still be a little hard, about 2/3 of the way cooked. Check often and do NOT wait until the grains are soft (see tips). Drain the liquid from the rice using a fine mesh colander. Do NOT rinse. Discard the liquid.
  5. Transfer the rice to a smaller pot. Using the pestle (the stick) of a mortar and pestle, create 3 evenly-spaced holes (forming a triangle) in the pot of rice and drizzle about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of water into the rice. Drizzle the saffron liquid into the rice. Add another 1/4 cup of water into the mortar to ensure all the saffron is used. Then sprinkle some more saffron liquid into the pot of rice. Place little mounts of ghee all over the pot. Sprinkle with fried onions and shredded carrots (if used). Seal the pot with an aluminum sheet and cover the pot. Place on the stove over high heat for about 3-4 minutes. Steam should escape from the pot. Turn off the heat and wait at least 10 minutes for the rice to set. Do not remove the lid.
  6. Gently fluff the rice using long chopsticks (or a fork) without breaking the grains of rice. The rice is ready.
  7. Serve with sumac.
  8. Bon appétit!

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