Aromatic with orange and spices, this Orange and Toasted Almond Saffron Rice Pilaf with Golden Raisins is the perfect balance of sweet and savory! The secret ingredient that takes it over the top is a little splash of orange blossom water right before serving.
In keeping with my exotic, intimate holiday meal, this one of the side dish stars of the show. Some kind of pilaf is a necessary component along with my Persian-Inspired Cornish Hens with Pomegranate Walnut Sauce; it acts as a bed to soak up all that glorious stew-like liquid.
If you’re apprehensive about making rice, don’t be! Cooking rice is an art form, and I have a few tricks to help you achieve that perfect pot every time:
- Soak the rice before cooking
- Toast the rice in clarified butter before cooking
- Cook the rice on low heat
- Be patient while it cooks and understand that there is no set amount of cooking time that is always the same for rice; there are a lot of factors that come into play and even the weather (humidity in particular) has a big effect
- After the rice cooks, let it rest with the lid on for a while before fluffing
Follow these easy tips and you’ll be rewarded with the best rice of your life every single time!
Here I put an exotic spin on rice with the use of cinnamon, saffron, and orange zest and blossom water. It’s complex, with deep flavor from using stock, nutty crunch from toasted almonds, and lovely bursts of sweet golden raisins.
What’s your favorite kind of pilaf?
- 1 cup (180 g) long-grain basmati rice
- ¼ cup (40 g) golden raisins (sultanas)
- ¼ teaspoon saffron threads
- 2 tablespoons clarified butter (ghee)
- 3 tablespoons slivered almonds
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 (3 to 4-inch) cinnamon stick
- 5 pods cardamom, cracked open
- 1¾ cups (415 ml) vegetable stock or broth, simmering
- 1 teaspoon fresh orange zest
- ½ to 1 teaspoon orange blossom water
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or fresh mint, for garnish (optional)
- 1 orange, peeled and sliced horizontally, for garnish (optional)
- Soak the basmati rice in cool water for 15 to 20 minutes, changing the water once; rinse the rice in a fine mesh sieve under cool running water and drain well.
- Soak the raisins in boiling water for 3 minutes; drain.
- Steep the saffron threads in 2 tablespoons boiling water.
- Meanwhile, heat the clarified butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat; add the slivered almonds and cook until toasted, about 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the nuts to a small bowl and set aside.
- Add the onion to the butter in the saucepan that you cooked the nuts in, and cook until softened, but not browned, about 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once the rice is done soaking and is drained, stir it into the saucepan with the onion; turn the heat up to high and cook until the rice smells nutty, about 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in the salt, black pepper, cinnamon stick, cardamom, stock, and soaked raisins. Immediately put a lid on the saucepan, turn the heat down to very low, and cook 12 to 20 minutes (only open the lid if you need to add a splash more liquid).
- Turn the heat off and let the rice sit with the lid on for 10 to 15 minutes before fluffing with a fork. Once fluffed, stir in the orange zest and orange blossom water.
- Transfer the rice to a serving platter and sprinkle on the toasted nuts, and if using, the herbs and orange slices. Serve.
Cooking Rice: Rice typically takes longer to cook on a humid day.
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