This is a rich, buttery rice dish with a strong sweet flavour imparted from plenty of fresh dill, enhanced by nutty notes of saffron, cumin and pine nuts. This rice is loosely based on rice served at my favourite Iranian restaurant, Alounak. I substituted some ingredients based upon what was available and my palate. The goji berries, which I substituted for the traditional barberries (mainly because I couldn’t find barberries) are not tangy, like barberries, but have a distinctive aromatic depth, similar to fresh turmeric.
For this meal, I did not make a tadigh (the lovely hard crust seen in many traditional Persian rice dishes, not unlike a soccarat in a paella, which literally means “bottom of the pan” in Farsi). If you want to make a tadigh, at the start and before you add your water, stir the butter in with the rice over a hot stove until the butter is melted and dispersed through the rice, and allow to cook at the end for an addition ten to fifteen minutes.
One and a half cups basmati rice
One tablespoon cumin seeds
A generous pinch of saffron, crumbled and allowed to “bloom” in a couple of tablespoons of boiling water
75 grams butter
1/3 cup of chopped fresh dill
Two tablespoons goji berries, minced
100 grams pine nuts, toasted in your oven or a pan to golden brown
Two teaspoons salt
Wash the rice well in cold running water until the water runs clear. Toast the cumin seeds in a pan over medium heat, shaking the pan frequently, until the seeds have begun to brown and release an aroma. Do not allow the cumin to burn. Stir the cumin seeds in with the rice in a heavy bottomed sauce pan. Add water and the saffron. I do not use a cup measure for my water but rather stick my finger in the pot; the rice usually comes to my first knuckle and I fill the pot up to my second knuckle, about an inch and a half above the surface of the rice.
Bring the rice in the pot to a boil, add half the butter, cover the pot and reduce the heat to low (although not too low, because then you’ll wind up with mushy rice at the bottom and hard grains at the top). The rice should take approximately 20-25 minutes to cook. At about 20 minutes (you can check to make sure all the water has evaporated) remove the pot from the heat, keeping the lid on, and allow to steam in the pot for an additional five minutes.
Turn the rice out onto a large platter and toss with the remaining ingredients. Serve.
Serves 4 as a side dish.