A while back I read about Yotam Ottolenghi, a non-vegetarian chef who cooks vegetables dexterity. His café’s are infamous, and his recipes exotic. Having never tried one of his esteemed recipes, I was excited to stumble across an exotic rice dish laden with crunchy nuts, dates, and infused with the aromatic smell of saffron. While the origins of this recipe are Syrian, it can be integrated into traditional American food seamlessly. It pairs beautifully with fall produce. Because this dish is delicious, luxurious, and extraordinary, it is perfect addition to anybody’s repertoire of entertaining recipes, including the upcoming holidays (hint, hint).
While I am an advocate for big flavors through simple techniques, I like to encourage people to try new things. Unlike the technique I use to cook rice, this recipe asks for soaking, boiling and steaming rice over the course of several hours. As intimidating as trying anything for the first time might be, this technique turns out to be as simple, but with extra not so complicated, steps. And as I learned, if you want to be able to cook basmati rice fast, just soak it for several hours, then boil for 5 minutes, and you have perfectly white rice in minutes.
Saffron Basmati Rice
adapted from The Guardian Yotam Ottolenghi Recipes
- 1 1/2 cups of basmati rice
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter (can substitute with olive oil)
- ¼ cup cashews
- ¼ cup shelled pistachios
- 8-10 medjool dates roughly chopped
- ¼ tsp. saffron threads soaked in ¼ cup warm water
- salt & black pepper
Put rice in a mesh strainer. Rinse under running water for several minutes. Transfer to a bowl, add warm water 1 tbsp. salt and leave soaking for 1-2 hours. Drain soaking water and rinse rice again. Bring about 4-5 cups of water to a boil. Add 1 tbsp. salt and the rice. Cook for 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and drain water once rice is mostly cooked, with a slight bite. Set drained rice aside. In the same pot add olive oil and heat over medium high temperature. Add nuts and sauté for a couple of minutes. Add dates and sauté for another couple of minutes. Add rice and black pepper and stir. Press rice down with a wooden spoon. Add butter and cover with lid. Reduce heat to lowest temperature. Cook for 35-40 minutes. Remove lid and pour saffron with its liquid over rice. Remove from heat and let rest for ten minutes. Serve hot.