I’m definitely in the mood for a luxe fix for supper this evening and saffron, as we all know, is the most luxurious and expensive spice in the world, with the wispy fronds lending their unique flavour and golden hue to magically transform dishes…
With cracked black peppercorns adding muskiness and heat, and the creamy nuttiness of the almonds sidling up to the saffron, also known as zaffran, there’s a touch of both Moorish romance and Mughal opulence about this dish. I cook it all the time, particularly to accompany creamy dishes as it tastes decadent and looks impressive but is super simple and quick to prepare, so it is the perfect dinner party accompaniment…
Saffron, Almond and Cracked Black Pepper Rice
Some people use turmeric as a cheaper alternative to turn rice yellow but I find that leaves a bitter taste, and using food colouring seems absolutely criminal when all you need is a little pinch of this gorgeous spice.
You don’t need to add the milk of you’d prefer not to or are lactose intolerant, just use 1 and a 1/3 cups water to cook the rice instead. I add the milk because I love the extra creaminess and you can also add a little knob of butter to the pan too, straight into the water, just before popping the lid on to steam the rice through.
You do, however, absolutely need to use basmati rice as anything else just isn’t the same, am afraid. And the key thing to getting the rice perfect is washing it of starch, soaking, adding the exact amount of liquid required to cook it in and then very carefully grazing with a fork at the end of cooking to separate the grains before serving. Following these steps means no tears over clumpy mushy rice!
Another key things is to make sure to cook it through on an extremely low heat, almost barely on, and not lifting the lid or disturbing it at all until is has cooked for at least 10 minutes, then you can check by tilting the pan and using a fork at the edge to see if any water remains, but absolutely no stirring at all. Then after the rice is cooked and you have worked through the pan, gently grazing the grains with a fork to separate, pop the lid back on for a few minutes, with no heat on, as this helps to achieve lovely fluffy rice through the residual steam.
This dish looks great presented with some toasted whole almonds on top too.
Serves 2 – 4
1 cup basmati rice
1 cup water
1/3 cup milk
2 tsp oil
A handful of flaked almonds (not toasted)
Pinch of salt to taste
1 tsp black peppercorns, cracked and crushed in a pestle and mortar
A few strands of saffron
Start by rinsing the rice several times with water, until the water is mostly clear, then leave the rice to soak for 30 minutes exactly.
Heat the oil in a large lidded sauté pan and gently fry the almonds with the salt and the cracked peppercorns for a few minutes until the almonds are toasted and golden, careful not to burn them.
Add the saffron, stir quickly and then add the drained rice, stir-frying for about 3 minutes.
Add the water and the milk and bring to the boil.
Stir, then reduce the heat to extremely low, cover and simmer for 15 – 20 minutes until there is no water left in the pan and the rice is cooked.