Today I chose a side dish to share with you, Persian-Style Jeweled Rice, a spin on a classic dish often found at weddings and other celebrations. It is gorgeous and delicious with flavors that complement many main courses or it can be served as a vegetarian main course.
Welcome to Progressive Eats, our virtual version of a progressive dinner party where each course is held at a different home. This month we are celebrating a Middle Eastern / Moroccan Menu, and our event is hosted by Susan who blogs at The Wimpy Vegetarian. You’ll love all the recipes that are packed with exotic flavors and bursting with beautiful colors to tempt you into the kitchen and release your inner-Ottolenghi! If you are looking for something new to try, check out these wonderfully creative dishes!
The jeweled rice gets its name from the combination of dried fruits and nuts that sparkle throughout the rice. It is a treat typically enjoyed at festivals and parties and is a delightful side dish for seafood, roasted poultry, or grilled meats. I served mine with chicken and with the aromatic spices, it was a totally delicious meal and may be my new favorite way to serve our leftovers.
This may look like a complicated recipe with all the spices, but it is really simple to make and mostly hands-off once you get it assembled, leaving you time to finish the rest of the meal while the rice cooks. You can make the spiced onions and fruit layer a day ahead and reheat it when you’re ready to make the rice.
Don’t be scared off by the long list of spices used, many of them you probably already have in your cupboard, and are commonly used in holiday baking. In America we tend to think of using them to make sweet treats, they are equally good in savory dishes. These flavors have been used in main course and side dishes for hundreds of years and are absolutely delicious together.
If you want to explore more of this style of cooking, in addition to the delightful dishes prepared by our team of intrepid bloggers, you should check out the cookbook, Jerusalem: A Cookbook from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. Both men were born in Jerusalem, Tamimi on the Arab east side and Ottolenghi in the Jewish west. The 120 recipes in this book explore their unique cross-cultural perspectives.
Ottolenghi is one of the most respected chefs in the world with 5 restaurants in London. This award-winning book is eye-opening and you will find yourself reaching for it often because the flavors are enticing and hauntingly unforgettable.
The house smelled wonderful when this Persian-Style Jeweled Rice was cooking, filling every corner with intriguing aromas, like something you didn’t know you always wanted! Give this a try and take a step out of your comfort zone – you may be surprised how delicious it is and how fun it is to give your family something new and different for dinner.
Be sure to check out the other recipes below – they are amazing as usual. This is an incredibly talented group of bloggers!!
How to make Persian-Style Jeweled Rice:
- Rinse the rice until the water runs clear; drain and place in large pot
- Cover with fresh water; bring to a boil and cook 10 minutes
- Prep the saffron with butter and water
- Cook the onions and garlic, stir in the spices and fruits
- Combine 1 cup of the rice with yogurt and some of the saffron mixture
- Spread the yogurt mixture in the bottom of a nonstick saucepot, carefully top with half the remaining rice, then spread on the onion-fruit mixture and finish with the remaining rice
- Mound the rice and poke several holes in it to vent the steam
- Drizzle with the remaining saffron mixture, cover with a clean kitchen towel, and top with a lid. Pull the towel up as needed
- Cook for 30 minutes, turn off the heat and rest 10 to 15 minutes longer
- Scoop the top layers of rice and fruits into a bowl and stir to combine and evenly distribute everything; place in a wide shallow bowl or platter
- Loosen the crispy crust and invert it onto the top of the rice; sprinkle with the pistachios, cranberries, green onions, and sumac; serve immediately
Don’t worry if you don’t have all the spices called for in the recipe, just use the ones you do have if you don’t want to make a special run to the store. It won’t be quite the same, but it will still be delicious.
Key Ingredients for this Recipe
- Basmati rice
- Salt and unsalted butter
- Onion and garlic
- Saffron, cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, black pepper, cumin
- Golden raisins or currants and dried cranberries
- Plain yogurt
- Slivered almonds, pistachios, green onions, sumac
Kitchen Tools I Use to Make This Recipe (affiliate links)
- Chef’s knife
- Cutting board
- Garlic press
- Mixing bowls
- 4-quart saucepan
- 12-inch Anolon Stir-Fry Pan
- Wooden spoon
This dish is naturally gluten-free. Just be careful with your spices to be sure they are safe. Penzey’s and McCormick’s are both very good at labeling their products. If you are using other brands, check with the manufacturer if there is any question.
- 2 cups raw basmati rice
- Kosher or fine sea salt
- 5 tablespoons, unsalted butter, divided
- 1 large onion, trimmed, peeled, and finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
- 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled and soaked in 1/4 cup very hot water
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/8 tsp ground allspice
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin
- 1/3 cup golden raisins or currants
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries, soaked in warm water for 5 minutes and drained
- 3 tbsp plain yogurt
- 1/2 cup blanched slivered almonds, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup roughly chopped pistachios
- Additional dried cranberries (also soaked and drained)
- Thinly sliced green onions
- Ground sumac, to taste, optional
- Pre-Cook the Rice: Fill a large bowl with water and stir in the rice. The water will become cloudy with the starch from the outside of the grains. Drain and repeat 2 more times or until the water is clear after stirring.
- Transfer the rice to a 4-quart pot* and cover with fresh water to cover the rice by 1-inch. Bring to a boil and stir in 2 tbsp of the salt. Reduce to medium and cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire strainer and rinse the rice again under cold running water. Set aside to finish draining. The rice will not be fully cooked at this stage but will finish in the next steps.
- In a small pan, melt 1 tbsp of butter and stir in the crumbled saffron and 3 tbsp water. Break up any clumps of saffron. Set aside.
- Make the Seasoned Layer: Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, season lightly with salt and cook until softened and starting to turn golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add 1 tablespoon of the saffron water and stir in the cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, black pepper, and cumin. Cook for 1 minute. Stir in the raisins and cranberries. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Place 1 cup of the partially cooked rice in a bowl and stir in the yogurt and 1/2 tsp of the saffron mixture. When thoroughly combined, set next to the stove.
- Assemble and Cook the Rice: Melt 2 tbsp butter in a large heavy nonstick saucepan over medium-low heat.** Add the yogurt/rice mixture and spread it evenly on the bottom of the pan. Spoon half the par-cooked rice into the pot, gently spreading it out to cover the first layer of rice without disturbing it. Spoon the onion-fruit mixture over the top, and then the remaining rice.
- Using a spatula, carefully push the rice away from the sides of the pan and mound it in the center. Use the handle of a wooden spoon or equivalent to make 3 steam vent holes in the rice, about an inch apart and going through most of the rice but not the bottom layer.
- Drizzle the remaining saffron water over the rice, cover the pan with a clean, dry kitchen towel,*** and put on the lid. If the towel drapes over the edges, pull the ends up on top of the lid to avoid a fire hazard.
- Set the heat to medium low and leave undisturbed for 30 minutes. Turn off the heat, leave the pan on the same burner, and let rest at least 10 to 15 minutes longer.
- To Serve: Spoon the top 3 layers of the rice into a large bowl and toss together to combine, distributing the seasoning and fruit evenly. Transfer to a wide shallow bowl or platter.
- Loosen the crispy crust with a spatula if needed. Set a plate inside the pan on top of the crust, and holding the plate and pan together, invert them so the crust falls onto the plate. Cut it into 3 or 4 pieces and set on top of the rice. Sprinkle with the pistachios, cranberries, green onions, and sumac (if using). Serve immediately.
* Definitely use a 4-quart or larger saucepan to cook the rice. Any smaller and it will boil over.
** I used my 12-Inch Anolon Stir-Fry Pan and the crust browned evenly with no sticking. I highly recommend it.
*** Use a plain white towel if possible so you can bleach it afterwards. During cooking it will likely touch the saffron coated rice and get stained.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 262Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 16mgSodium: 103mgCarbohydrates: 39gFiber: 4gSugar: 23gProtein: 5g
This dish is part of our monthly progressive dinner party, Progressive Eats. See the links below for more inspiration and great recipes!
Progressive Eats Middle Eastern/Moroccan Menu
- Pomegranate Green Tea Mojito from The Redhead Baker
- Hummus Tehina from Food Hunters Guide to Cuisine
- Lamb Chelo Kebab from Spice Roots
- Prawns, Feta, and Tomatoes over Couscous from The Wimpy Vegetarian
- Homemade Pita Bread from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
- Jeweled Persian-Style Rice (Gluten-Free) from The Heritage Cook
- Pomegranate Posset from Mother Would Know
- Moroccan Shortbread Cookies with Cracked Tops (Ghoriba Bahla) from Pastry Chef Online
If you love this recipe, be sure to follow me on social media so you never miss a post:
Create a New Tradition Today!
This post was first shared in Nov 2016. The article was updated in 2020.