Friday, 20 April 2012

Saffron Basmati Rice

Saffron Basmati Rice
Saffron rice can be simple or fancy.  Most of the time, I prepare it simply:
1 to 2 teaspoons ghee  (clarified butter)
1 ½ cups basmati rice
3 cups cold water
½ teaspoon salt
pinch of saffron threads

I understand that some people insist on washing rice, but I don’t see the need.  I buy basmati rice in huge sacks, either from a certain big box store that everyone in Canada knows about, or from an Indian grocery store.  Sometimes it’s cheaper at the Indian grocery, but not always.  In recent years, I’ve never had an issue with stones or oddities in the rice, and I’ve heard that you mess with the necessary starches if the rice has been washed.  So I don’t.
I just turn the heat on at medium under a non-stick pot that has a tight lid, and let it heat up.  I add the ghee.  The amount depends on how much butter I’m allowing myself that day, then the rice.  I let the rice sizzle in the ghee for a minute or so, then I add the water, saffron and salt.  I crank the heat up to high, and stay there, so I don’t forget to turn it down to low the moment it starts to boil.  I put the lid on, wait 20 to 25 minutes, then gently fold the rice with a slotted spoon or giant fork to make sure the saffron is well distributed into the rice.

I used to buy saffron in clear plastic boxes in Indian groceries, but one day I ran out, and sent husband person off to the regular supermarket.  He bought the kind that’s enclosed in a wax paper bag that’s enclosed in a paper envelope inside a little glass jar.  I was disappointed until I opened the jar, and was awakened by its fabulous fragrance.  It was way more powerful than the type I’d been using.  It turns out that sometimes the supermarket is better than the Indian grocery!  The supermarket stuff is more expensive, but so worth it! 
This is how much saffron I use.  Pinch, schminch.
On fancy occasions, I use the above method, but I decorate the rice with crushed pistachios, fresh pomegranate seeds, edible silver leaf and shredded onion that has been fried in ghee till it’s crunchy.  When I go this far out, the rice goes on a big platter so that people really appreciate its beauty.  The last time I went this far was New Year’s Eve.  Unfortunately I didn’t take a picture, and it’s unlikely that an occasion so grand will come along soon, so there will be no picture of the fancy version for quite a while. 

Even if you’re not having a hugely fancy occasion, you can always sprinkle a few pomegranate seeds on the rice, if you have them, or do like my mother used to do, and toss in raisins.  Me, I can live without the raisins.  Let me know how you fancy up your rice!  Drop me a line, why don’tcha? BTW, a number of people have told me they've posted comments which haven't shown up.  You aren't finished posting a comment till the screen says something about 'redirecting'.  I do appreciate your comments a lot, so please wait for that message before closing the page.


  1. Oh, I love saffron! But I think I need to borrow your "pinch" as my pinch is always a fistful :)

  2. Hi Petro, yes the famous measurement of a 'pinch' is so arbitrary. Saffron is expensive, so for me, a pinch is a little bit. If a recipe calls for a pinch of rosepetals, suddenly I'm using a tablespoon... Anyway, thanks for reading the blog and posting a comment!