Saffron is my favourite spice. If you have never tasted saffron rice made with Persian saffron*, you need to try this recipe. This simple yet noble rice dish goes with everything. Persian saffron and basmati rice combine to give you the most exquisite aroma. Your home will smell divine.
Use a medium sauce pan
1 Cup good quality basmati rice
1 Tablespoon of unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon of olive oil
1 Teaspoon of Persian saffron*
1 Teaspoon of sea salt
1 1/2 Cups of water or homemade chicken broth
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and oil over medium heat.
Add the saffron, rice, and salt and stir until well mixed for about a minute.
Add the liquid and bring to a light boil. You should see little craters in the rice.
Reduce the heat to simmer. Cover with lid.
Do not EVER lift the lid until you are ready to serve. This may spoil the rice.
Simmer on very low for 17 minutes.
Turn off the heat.
Leave rice to sit for another ten minutes.
Just before serving, add a small dollop of butter.
Enjoy this delectable rice.
From my experience, you will hardly ever have leftover saffron rice, but if you do, heat it up with a little butter or oil in a small skillet. Add and scramble a free range egg with it. Delicious for breakfast or lunch.
My love of Persian food
I first discovered the exotic flavour of saffron back in the 1980's in Toronto, having had the pleasure of a meal at a lovely Persian restaurant. I think it was the first Persian restaurant in Toronto, maybe Canada. Things were pretty sketchy in Iran at that time right? I had no idea food could taste this good. I also remember when the waiter served the rice, he added a fresh egg yolk to the steaming rice just before serving. I have done this and it is pretty amazing but I won't include it in this recipe. Feel free to try it though.
When I moved to Ottawa a few years later, where I now live, I met my neighbour Minoo, who is now one of my life-long friends. An intelligent, beautiful and remarkable Persian woman who has made Canada her home, after so much unrest in Iran. She is an amazing cook. Her Persian dishes are some of the most delicious I have ever tasted. I have great memories of walking into her home and inhaling the aromas of saffron and other fabulous dishes such as Ghormeh Sabzi, a Persian beef stew with herbs. Thank you Minoo for introducing the amazing world of Persian cuisine to me.
Saffron is a spice that comes from the saffron crocus. The beautiful crimson red stigma, (the female organ of the plant) is collected by hand and then dried. Saffron is the world's most expensive spice by weight, approximately $5,000 US per kg. Although saffron is grown world-wide, in my humble opinion, nothing comes close to Persian saffron.
It is hard for me to describe the taste and smell of this beautiful golden spice. Enticing, earthy, intoxicating maybe. A bit bitter on the tongue. It has been said that if you put a saffron thread under your tongue it will warm you up inside if you are feeling chilled.
Saffron is known to contain antioxidants and several nutrients such as folic acid, B12, Vitamin A, magnesium, calcium, iron, copper, potassium, manganese, and zinc.
Dating back to the 7th century BC, saffron has been traded and used for thousands of years. Today, Iran produces close to 90% of the world's saffron with the best quality.
Where to buy the good stuff:
Find your best saffron at a Persian grocery store. My store in Ottawa is called Shiraz. A beautiful little store with a lot more than saffron - fragrant exotic teas, fresh nuts, spices, and the most delicious Bulgarian feta cheese. Did I mention the baklava?
You can find good quality basmati rice in local grocery stores today due to its popularity. However, I usually buy mine at one of our wonderful Persian, Indian or Sri Lankan markets.