If you are like me, you will go onto Google and buy a bag of barberries rather than schlepp around all the stores. They are not expensive and there really is no substitute to these little jewels. I must credit the incredible Ottolenghi for this recipe and picture as there is no way my iPhone can better this image.
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups basmati rice, rinsed under cold water and drained
2 1/2 cups boiling water
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
1 tsp saffron threads, soaked for 30 minutes in 3 tbsp boiling water
2 oz dried barberries, soaked for a few minutes in freshly boiled water with a pinch of sugar
2 tbsp dill, roughly chopped
1 1/2 tbsp chervil, roughly chopped
1 tbsp tarragon, roughly chopped
4 to 5 tbsp slivered or crushed unsalted pistachios, lightly toasted
Barberries are tiny, jewel-like, dried sweet-and-sour Iranian berries. Their intense sharpness accentuates other flavours in a dish and adds wonderful drama to its looks. You can get them online, and from Iranian and some Middle Eastern grocers. If you can’t find any, use currants soaked in a little lemon juice instead. Serve this rice with roast chicken or just on it’s own.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan and stir in the rice, making sure the grains are well coated. Add the boiling water, a teaspoon of salt and some white pepper. Mix well, cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook on a very low heat for 15 minutes. Don’t be tempted to uncover the pan – you need to let the rice to steam properly.
Remove the pan from the heat – all the water will have been absorbed by the rice – and pour the saffron water over about a quarter of the surface, leaving most of the rice white. Cover with a tea towel, reseal tightly with the lid and set aside for five to 10 minutes.
With a large spoon, transfer the white rice to a large bowl and fluff it up with a fork. Drain the barberries and stir them in, followed by the herbs and most of the pistachios, reserving a few to garnish. Fluff up the saffron rice in the pan, then fold gently into the white rice – don’t overmix: you don’t want the white grains to be stained by the yellow ones. Taste, adjust the seasoning and transfer to a shallow serving bowl.
Scatter the remaining pistachios on top and serve warm or at room temperature.