Saffron Jeweled Rice

Friends! It’s almost Rosh Hashanah- the Jewish New Year, one of my favorite holidays- and I’m excited to be sharing this recipe for jeweled rice with you. It’s one I developed for a spice company a while back and when I realized I’d never shared it, I knew now was the perfect time.

Iranian in origin, shirin polo, or jeweled rice, is a steamed, spiced rice dish made with dried fruits, nuts and herbs. Often, it includes a crispy, tahdig style crust which gets broken up and mixed into the rice- my version incorporates that. Colorful, toasty and warmly spiced, shirin polo is a perfect Rosh Hashanah dish; in fact, in the Persian Jewish community, it’s sometimes called Rosh Hashanah rice.

If you’ve never had jeweled rice before, you’re in for a treat. Flavored with honeyed saffron and cinnamon, it’s a comfort food (rice!) that’s also elevated and beautiful (herbs! colors! so many spices!). I love serving it on Rosh Hashanah along with a tagine style brisket- think braised with whole spices and dried apricots- and a few colorful vegetable dishes, like these carrots. It’s obviously delicious with ghee, but you can use a mild olive oil to keep it kosher.

Shana tova and wishing you all a sweet, joyous and healthy New Year! I have lots of other recipes on the blog (like honey cake, and a squash and kale salad, and my mom’s challah!) that would be perfect for the holiday- let me know if you try any!

Chaya

Serves: 4-6

For the rice:

  • 1/2 tsp saffron threads
  • ⅓ cup ghee (or olive oil, for non-dairy)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom
  • 1 1/2 cups basmati rice, rinsed well
  • 1/4 cup dried barberries
  • ¼ cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1/4 cup salted pistachios
  • seeds of 1 pomegranate for garnish
  • fresh dill, for serving
  1. Boil the rice in a large pot of salted, boiling water until par-boiled, around 7 minutes. Remove from heat and drain well. 
  2. Mix the saffron threads in 2 1/4 cups of hot water. Set aside. Add 2 tablespoons of the ghee to a large skillet. Add the onion, salt and spices, mix, and saute over low heat until the onion is soft and translucent, around 10 minutes. 
  3. Add the barberries, golden raisins and half of the saffron water to the skillet and stir to combine well. Reduce until bubbling and thickened over medium heat, around 5-7 minutes.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon of the ghee in a separate large pan over high heat. Add half of the rice, using a spatula to spread it out, and scatter the fruit mixture, and half of the almonds, over the rice. Top with the remaining rice. Form the top layer of rice into a pyramid shape, ensuring it doesn’t touch the sides of the pan. 
  5. Poke a few holes into the rice, pour the remaining ghee into the holes, and then cook, without stirring, until rice smells toasty and fragrant, around 3-5 minutes. Drizzle remaining saffron water over rice, then reduce heat to low, and cover and cook for 30 minutes. 
  6. Turn off the heat and let it sit, covered, for another 10 minutes. Break up the crispy bottom layer of rice, mix rice together and transfer to a platter. Serve scattered with remaining nuts, fresh pomegranate seeds and fresh dill.

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