Photo by: Jonathan Lovekin

Saffron rice with barberries, pistachio and mixed herbs

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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

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. Serves six.


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.
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.
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.

Perfect with

  1. Dried barberries

    Like currants but more interesting, these little rubies work their magic in egg and rice dishes

    Dried barberries


{based on 2 reviews}

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  • Recipes This is perfect!
    (05/07/2016) I love this rice recipe. The method is perfect. You can change the herbs and dried fruits (barberries are the best, but dried apricots are also interesting) or even leave them out, the result will always be, well, perfect. :-) It suits wonderfully with the roast chicken with sumac, za’atar and lemon from the Ottolenghi Cookbook.
  • Recipes Excellent dish that pairs well with lamb, fish or veggies.
    (18/07/2015) This recipe from my favorite chef, Ottolenghi is a twist on the traditional Shirin Polo from Iran. It calls for Barberries, a sweet currant like dried fruit - we used currants soaked in lemon juice and sugar because even Whole Foods doesn’t carry barberries. Also a lot of herbs, saffron and pistachios. It was a great rice dish that would pair well with lamb, vegetables or fish. Especially Ottolenghi's Sweet & Sour Fish. Both my wife and I loved it for days.

    I wrote and photographed it on my Tumblr page.