If you take the first bite of this rice dish, you feel like you could almost cry from a new overload on fragrance, balance, flavor, and a notable infusion of love in the grains, strands of candied orange peel, and tart little barberries.
Jeweled rice is usually given at wedding ceremonies and is named because of its gemstone colors – saffron, carrots, and orange peel produce gold, barberries produce rubies, pistachios produce emeralds, and almonds produce pearls.
Rice is an important and ancient staple of current Iranian cuisine; however, the types grown in Iran are difficult to get in the West. We can get close by using basmati rice or, in a pinch, other long-grain rice kinds. Basmati is lovely because it fills the house with the aroma of flowers while it cooks.
Barberries are little red fruits that were once widely utilized in European cuisine but are now exclusively found in Iranian cuisine. You can order them from Sadaf online or locate them in various Middle Eastern supermarkets.
This recipe is derived by Najmieh’s, with part of the oil and sugar removed for a lighter version of what is generally a sumptuous dish, both in terms of ingredients and preparation time. Unless you can prep your ingredients ahead of time, it’s not a dish you can expect to whip up after work and have dinner on the table at a reasonable hour.
The Ingredients of Najmieh’s Jeweled Rice
- 3 cups long-grain white basmati rice
- 2 large oranges, organic if possible
- 2 tablespoons of divided salt
- 1 cup whole dried barberries or chopped unsweetened dried cranberries
- 1/3 cup of divided granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon loosely-packed saffron (about 1/2 gram) or 1/2 teaspoon of ground turmeric
- 1/4 cup of divided orange blossom water
- 2 tablespoons of ghee, oil, or butter
- 1/2 cup of chopped and toasted raw pistachios
- 1/2 cup of sliced raw almonds
- 1/2 cup of green or golden raisins
- 2-3 large peeled carrots, cut into 2-inch long matchsticks
- One 4-inch whole cinnamon stick
- 2 tablespoons of freshly ground cardamom
- Wash the rice in a large container of water. Then, drain off and repeat the process until the water runs clear about five times. Cover again with water, then add two tablespoons of salt and soak it for between 2 and 24 hours. After this, drain through a fine-mesh sieve and set it aside.
- Grab a small pot and put water to boil. Use a vegetable peeler to take thick strips of the orange, including a little of the white pith. Then, you should slice the strips crosswise into very small slivers. When the water is boiling, drop the slivers into the water and cook for one minute. Drain and rinse it with cold water, then set aside.
- Clean the barberries by removing any debris or stems. Then, place them in a sieve set inside of a bowl. Cover it with cold water and soak for twenty minutes. Pull the sieve from the bowl and rinse it under cold water so you can flush out any remaining sand. Set aside.
- In a pestle and mortar, crush the saffron with a few sugar pinches until you form a powder. Stir in 3 tablespoons of orange blossom water. Then, set aside.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a big skillet over medium heat. Add the pistachios and almonds and sauté for one minute. Add the raisins to the pan and toss with the nuts. Empty the mixture into a bowl and then set it aside.
- Heat two tablespoons of saffron orange blossom water mixture, 1 tablespoon oil, and 1 tablespoon of sugar over medium heat in the same skillet. Then, add the orange peel and carrots and sauté for two minutes. Put in the remaining sugar, the remaining orange blossom saffron water mixture, the cardamom, and the cinnamon stick and sauté for one minute. Then, add 1 cup of water, bring to a boil over high heat, and then lower to medium heat. Cook for ten minutes or until the carrots highly caramelize so the liquid has reduced to a syrup. Drain the orange peel and carrots, and reserve the syrup.
- Bring in cups of water to a boil in a large heavily-bottomed pot with a lid. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of salt and the rice to the pot with the remaining one tablespoon plain orange blossom water. Boil until the rice has risen to the surface and when bitten into, a grin of rice feels soft, six to ten minutes. Drain the rice into a large fine-mesh sieve and rinse with cold water.
- Gently mix the saffron orange blossom water and the orange/carrot syrup to the par-boiled rice. Then, take a big spoonful of rice at a time and spread it carefully over the bottom of the pot. Give it a shake to even out the base. Add more spoonfuls of rice, one at a time, gradually shaping it into a pyramid shape.
- Cover the pot’s lid tightly with a clean dishcloth to prevent steam from escaping. Cook on low heat for 20 minutes.
- To serve, put rice, then the caramelized carrot combination (without the cinnamon stick), then the barberry/nut mixture on a serving tray.