Saffron Spiced Rice

The cooking method in this recipe is for layering in a Biryani dish (see Lamb Biryani (with saffron rice, naan bread and raita) where its cooking time is finished off in the oven.  If you want to serve it as a side dish, don’t bother pre-soaking the rice and use the proportion of rice to water and cooking times indicated on the packet.

390g basmati rice (2 cups)

2 tbsp butter
2 tsp cumin seeds
4 cardamom pods
2 bay leaves
2 cinnamon sticks
1 red onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
½ tsp saffron threads
1½-2 tsp salt

RINSE AND SOAK THE RICE: Put rice in a large bowl. Fill the bowl halfway with cold water. Swish rice around for a few seconds and pour off the cloudy water. Repeat 3 or 4 times, until the water is fairly clear. Cover rice with cold water by 2 inches and set it aside to soften for an hour. Drain.

PRECOOK THE RICE: Heat 2 tbsp butter in a medium sized saucepan. Add the spices: cumin seeds, cardamom pods, bay leaves, and cinnamon sticks. Cook until they sizzle a bit and you can smell the cumin toasting – about 30 seconds. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, for 3-4 minutes, until it starts to brown. Add the saffron and cook stirring, for about 30 seconds, until the saffron releases its color and aroma. Add the drained rice and toss to coat. Pour in 2 cups cold water and 1½-2 teaspoons salt. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook for 5-6 minutes, uncovered – until all the water has evaporated. Remove from the heat.