Saffron rice with barberries, pistachio and mixed herbs

Ingredients

  • 40g unsalted butter
  • 360g basmati rice, rinsed under cold water and drained
  • 560ml boiling water
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 tsp saffron threads, soaked for 30 minutes in 3 tbsp boiling water
  • 40g dried barberries, soaked for a few minutes in freshly boiled water with a pinch of sugar
  • 30g dill, roughly chopped
  • 20g chervil, roughly chopped
  • 10g tarragon, roughly chopped
  • 60g slivered or crushed unsalted pistachios, lightly toasted
Saffron rice with barberries, pistachio and mixed herbs
    Serves four

Barberries are tiny, jewel-like, dried sweet-and-sour Iranian berries that we've been using a bit obsessively recently. It is hard not to - their intense sharpness accentuates other flavours in a dish and adds wonderful drama to its looks. You can get them online, and from Iranian and some Middle Eastern grocers. If you can't find any, use currants soaked in a little lemon juice instead. Serve this rice with roast chicken or turkey and courgette burgers with spring onion and cumin.

  1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan and stir in the rice, making sure the grains are well coated. Add the boiling water, a teaspoon of salt and some white pepper. Mix well, cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook on a very low heat for 15 minutes. Don't be tempted to uncover the pan – you need to let the rice to steam properly.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat – all the water will have been absorbed by the rice – and pour the saffron water over about a quarter of the surface, leaving most of the rice white. Cover with a tea towel, reseal tightly with the lid and set aside for five to 10 minutes.
  3. With a large spoon, transfer the white rice to a large bowl and fluff it up with a fork. Drain the barberries and stir them in, followed by the herbs and most of the pistachios, reserving a few to garnish. Fluff up the saffron rice in the pan, then fold gently into the white rice – don't overmix: you don't want the white grains to be stained by the yellow ones. Taste, adjust the seasoning and transfer to a shallow serving bowl. Scatter the remaining pistachios on top and serve warm or at room temperature.