Saffron rice with barberries, pistachios and mixed herbs

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.

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Serves six

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.

Roasted cauliflower with toasted garlic breadcrumbs, saffron and dried cranberries

My favorite vegetable and the most versatile and low calorie one around. This is sort of like a Sicilian recipe but replaces the raisins with the dried cranberries to make it a little different.

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Serves 4

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
A few tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup vegetable or chicken stock
pinch saffron
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 tbsp capers, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
Small handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 400 F
In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower together with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper.
Spread out on a baking sheet into a single layer. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes until brown at the tips.

In the meantime,in a small saucepan, bring the stock up to the boil, add the saffron and cranberries and remove from the heat.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. When the foam starts to subside, add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds until fragrant.
Add the capers for another 30 seconds and then the breadcrumbs. Toast for a minute or two, until golden brown and then remove from the heat.

Toss the cauliflower together with the saffron/cranberry mixture and the toasted pine nuts.
Top with the capers and breadcrumbs and some chopped parsley and serve immediately.

NB You can substitute the cauliflower or add Brussels sprouts or broccoli florets to it and treat it the same way as the cauliflower.

Kheer (Spiced Indian rice pudding)

This recipe comes from fellow blogger “One Perfect Bite”. Well worth subscribing to!

4 -6 servings

1/2 cup basmati rice
1 tbsp clarified butter or ghee
6 cups whole milk
10 tbsp sugar
a few strands of saffron
1 tsp golden raisins (I put a 1 tbsp in)
1 tsp ground cardamon
1/2 cup thinly sliced cashews, slivered almonds or pistachios

Soak rice in water for 30 minutes before cooking. Drain.
Melt ghee in a large pan, add rice and saute until translucent.
Add milk to the rice, stir and simmer until liquid has been reduced by half.
Stir in sugar and saffron and cook until sugar is dissolved. Add the raisins, nuts and cardamon and simmer for a few more minutes.
Remove from heat and serve warm or cold.