Persian Jewelled Rice for Crystal Fairy Royalty


Persian Jewelled Rice Javaher Polow with barberries, pistachios,almonds and saffron

A friend posted on Facebook a cute conversation she overheard on a bus after a long day of business travel. Usually her posts from these situations are much more Mika Kaurismäki than Disney so I must also share this momentous story.

A little girl was talking to her mum and suggesting they should become royalty. Mum was a bit doubtful, explaining it doesn't really work like that, you can't just become royalty. Girl suggested that perhaps if the royals would invite them to join, then they could. Mum could be Godmother, Mother and Queen. The royal children would have less responsibilities and wouldn't for example (just a random example) have to go to nursery. The girl was happy with the plan until Cruella de Mum crushed the child's dreams by telling royal children also have to go to nursery. The girl fell silent. After a while she came up with a modified plan, the perfect solution: They would become Crystal Fairy Royalty. Then they could do whatever they wanted!

That made me think, not only what the girl's ability to cope in the modern workplace will be if going to nursery drove her to escape to the fantasy world, but also if I was a Crystal Fairy Princess, what would I not have to do. I decided I would definitely want to go to nursery and not have to:

1. Create a powerpoint presentation on how to quadruple the revenue of my business unit by 2020. To be honest if I had the answer, I'd probably be pottering around my private vineyard not worrying about this particular strategic challenge. Luckily I have a degree in bullsh marketing so spinning these stories is reasonably easy. I do realise I will be found out eventually, 2020 at the latest it would seem.

2. Implement the above mentioned slide show. What is this greed, why can't we just keep selling the same amount every year. Would be so much easier for all. Most importantly me.

3. Work with French people. Joke joke. I love French people, they are so logical, consistent, clear and organised, not at all stubborn, always on time and have a great sense of humour.

4. Wake up at 5.50 to join the rush-hour merrymaking on M4.

5. Eat a limp tuna baguette from the sandwich van for lunch.

So fittingly I will now share my recipe (stolen and merged from several authentic Iranian sources) for Persian Jewelled rice Javaher Polow which I served for my King and the two princes with a slow cooked Royal Persian Lamb Stew. Recipe to follow. Maybe. It was awesome, we ate the whole 1.3kg of it.

Iranian barberry and pistachio rice with Lamb stew and yoghurt dressingThis rice is beautiful, fragrant and full of those unique Middle-Eastern flavours. I used less sugar than some recipes, because I didn't want it that sweet. You can find barberries in any middle-eastern market, but some online authorities recommend dried cranberries as a substitute if you can't find barberries. I haven't tried, but imagine they would work. Also original recipes include raisins, you can use several colours for maximum prettiness, but I left them out because I hate raisins and because in my Crystal Fairy kitchen I can do whatever I like.

Persian Jewelled rice - Javaher Polow (serves 4 or even 6)

2 1/2 cups basmati rice
1 onion
1 tsp turmeric
1 cup barberries
2 oranges (peel only)
1 big carrot
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup pistachios
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup raisins (you don't have to)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp crushed rose petals
1 teaspoon saffron

Wash the rice in a fine-mesh sieve under running water until water runs clear. Soak in cold salted water for a few hours (or minimum 30 minutes). Drain. Bring a large pan of slighlty salted water to boil, you need enough water so rice has room to cook freely. Add the rice to boiling water. Let cook for 6-7 minutes until rice is almost done but has a little bit of bite in the middle. Drain and rinse under cold water until cooled down. Leave the drained rice while you prepare the jewels to go in it.

Wash and dry your two oranges. Peel in thin strips each around 5cm / 2 inches long, make sure you don't get any of the white in the strips. Place the peels in a bowl and cover with water. Soak for 10 minutes, change the water and leave to soak for another 10 minutes. This will get rid of any bitterness.

Julienne the carrot in thin 5 cm/2 inch long strips, Boil a cup of water with 1/3 cup of sugar. Boil for 5 minutes then add the orange peel and carrot. Boil for 15 minutes or until carrots are done. Drain and leave to one side.

Crush the saffron and add 1/4 cup of water. Leave to soak.

Chop the onion. Heat oil in a pan and saute the onion for about 5 minutes until it starts to soften. Add the turmeric and saute for another minute. Add the barberries and saute for 5 minutes. Add the orange and carrot, pistachios, almonds, raisins if you use them, and all the spices and rose petals. Check the seasoning. Some people add a tablespoon of sugar but I think it makes it too sweet.

In a large lidded pan (non-stick if you have one) heat some vegetable oil or butter, add the rice and the the nut and barberry mix in layers building a slightly conical shape finishing with a layer of rice. Press a couple of air vents in the rice with the handle of a wooden spoon. Drizzle the saffron water over the rice. Wrap the lid in a clean kitchen towel and cover the pan. Cook on high heat for 10 minutes so that it starts to steam and then reduce the heat. Steam on low heat for 30-40 minutes.

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