Here basmati rice is cooked in the traditional Iranian way: the holes made in the rice allowing steam to pass between the grains and the scrunched-up baking paper, producing a wonderfully subtle-tasting dish with a soft fluffy texture. It is ideal paired with the Harissa Spiced Lamb.
- 100g (4oz) ready-to-eat dried apricots, snipped into strips
- ¼ tsp saffron strands
- 200ml (7fl oz) boiling water
- 300g (11oz) basmati rice, rinsed
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 50g (2oz) butter
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 tsp cardamon pods (about 15), husks removed and seeds crushed
- 1 tsp ground cumin seeds
- juice and finely grated zest of 1 orange
- 2 large carrots, coarsely grated
- 1 cinnamon stick
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place the apricot strips and saffron strands in a heatproof bowl and pour over the boiling water. Set aside for 30 minutes for the apricots to plump up.
Meanwhile, measure the rice into a separate bowl, cover with cold water and leave to soak for 30 minutes. Once soaked, boil in a pan of fresh water for about 3 minutes, then drain.
Heat the oil and butter in a heavy-based, non-stick sauté pan. Add the onion and ground spices and fry for about 10 minutes until golden. Add the boiled rice, the apricots and saffron with the soaking liquid, and the orange juice, carrots and cinnamon stick. Season with salt and pepper and stir over a high heat to combine.
Make six holes in the rice, using the handle of a wooden spoon. Cover the surface of the rice with damp crumpled baking paper and sit a lid on top.
Cook over a low heat, without stirring, for 35–40 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high for 5–10 minutes or until a buttery golden crust is created on the bottom of the pan. Spoon out the rice on to a warm platter, then, using a fish slice, loosen the crust to turn it out in one piece so that the crispy base is now on top. Alternatively, loosen the rice crust with the fish slice, then place a warm serving platter over the saucepan and turn out so that the crispy base is now on top.
Garnish with the orange zest and cinnamon stick and serve warm or cold, removing the cinnamon stick before eating.