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Persian Saffron-flavoured Rice with Barberries

I'm curious. Curious enough to pick up the various spices, herbs, nuts and pulses at a spice market. Roll them between my fingers, poke into the surface and sometimes even take an assertive bite. That's how I stumbled upon these little red berry dynamites - dried barberries. All piled up in a jute sack for sale; from afar they looked like red bright jewels. I bought some and since then it just sat in my dry store. Every time I opened my dry pantry, I stared at it, popped a few in my mouth (which was often accompanied by a weird expression as these little berries are quite tangy and citrusy in taste). Until one day I came across the recipe for Persian meat strew with okra (Khoresh Bamieh) and just then, knew the perfect accompaniment. And, that's how I made myself some classic Saffron-flavoured Persian Rice with dried barberries.

Ever so subtle in flavour, easy to prepare and big on colours.

By the way, did you know my name 'Delna' was of Persian origin? :)



11/2 cups of rice

2 tbsp oil

1 cinnamon stick

2 cardamoms

1/2 medium onion, sliced fine

1 big pinch of saffron strands (steeped in about 1/2 cup of hot water)

3 cups of water*

Salt, for seasoning

1-11/2 tablespoons butter

1/3 cup (or a small handful) dried barberries (or little or much as you prefer)

*For the rice: Remember the 1:2 ratio for eg. for 1 cup of rice, use 2 cups of water


1. Rinse the rice well and let it soak in water for few minutes.

2. In a deep-bottom vessel, add the oil. Once warm, add in the cinnamon stick and cardamoms, stir till fragrant.

3. Add in the sliced onions and fry until translucent.

4. Drain the soaked rice and add into the vessel, followed with the saffron-water infusion (with its water). Stir well.

5. Add in the 3 cups of water to the rice. Season the water with salt (taste and season a bit more, if required). Ensure the heat is high and close the lid.

6. After a few minutes (keep a close watch and this is where a glass lids helps!), lift the lid and once you notice 'holes' in the rice, turn the heat down to your lowest point. Stir in the dried barberries into the rice. Close the lid and steam/cook the rice until well done (this could take around 8 to 10 minutes).

7. Once done, turn the heat off and finally, stir in the butter. Using a fork, 'fluff' the rice - which pretty much means tossing the rice in the vessel using a fork. This helps separate the grains. Serve warm with Iranian kebabs or stew on the side.

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