The Iranian stew that Michael made this winter has left us with a lot of extra dried barberries. They're small, bright and tangy, and they're also commonly served with saffron rice. The rice dish zereshk polow typically involves chicken, but Ottolenghi has a version on his website that doesn't include a bird in the ingredients list.
This is really fancy rice, designed to be a centrepiece dish. It's coated in butter and infused unevenly with saffron, so that the tossed grains show ombre yellow. There's green herbs and pistachios as well as the red barberries, so there's lots of variety in texture and flavour.
We couldn't locate any chervil on the day we prepared this, so we were just a little more generous with the other herbs involved. The half-dozen other polow recipes that I looked at didn't include any green herbs at all, so there's clearly no particular need for it. I'm still not really sure what the best vegetarian alternative to chicken might be alongside this rice, but we enjoyed eating it with tempeh burgers that were drizzled with tahini. It made a terrific packed lunch for work, too!
Saffron rice with mixed herbs, barberries & pistachios
(recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi's website)
1 teaspoon saffron threads
40g dried barberries
pinch of sugar
360g basmati rice
salt and white pepper
Put the kettle on to boil and place the saffron in a small mug or heat-proof bowl. Pour 3 tablespoons of boiling water over the saffron and allow them to soak for at least 30 minutes.
Place the barberries and pinch of sugar in a separate small heat-proof bowl, and pour boiling water over them until they're covered. Let them soak a while too.
Rinse the basmati rice and allow it to drain.
Boil the kettle again. Set a medium-large saucepan over medium-high heat and melt the butter in it. Add the rice and stir it around to coat the grains in the butter. Pour 560mL boiling water into the rice, and sprinkle over the salt and white pepper. Give it a stir, pop on a lid, and turn down the heat to low. Cook the rice for 15 minutes and don't be tempted to lift the lid! While the rice is cooking, roughly chop the dill and tarragon.
When the rice has absorbed all the water, pour the soaked saffron water over one quarter of the rice's surface, leaving the rest white. Cover the saucepan with a tea towel, replace the lid and allow the rice to rest for 5-10 minutes.
Transfer the rice to a big bowl. Drain the barberries and stir them through, fold in the herbs and most of the pistachios. Serve sprinkled with the remaining pistachios.