Saffron rice

Time 30 minutes
Yields Serves 4
Saffron rice

Wash the basmati rice, then soak it for 3 hours in 2 cups of water salted with one-half teaspoon salt.


In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the cinnamon, cardamom pods and black peppercorns and gently fry the spices until their aromas start to be released, about 4 minutes.


Drain the rice well, add it to the pan and stir to coat for a minute. Increase the heat to medium-high. If you are using pistachios, barberries or both, stir them in now. Pour enough water over the rice to cover it roughly by half an inch, and season with one-half teaspoon salt.


Cut a round of parchment paper that will fit over the surface of the water, and place it in the pan. Place a lid on the pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to a simmer and continue to cook for 5 minutes, then lift the lid and paper off the pan and drizzle the saffron water evenly over the rice. Replace the paper and lid and continue to cook 4 to 5 minutes more until the rice is tender and the water is absorbed.


While the rice is cooking, whisk together the yogurt with the crushed garlic, 1/8 teaspoon salt and a pinch of pepper in a medium bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.


Serve the rice with the caramelized onions sprinkled over the top and the seasoned yogurt on the side.

Adapted from “Moro” by Sam and Sam Clark. Dried barberries generally can be found at Middle Eastern markets. To make caramelized crispy onions, peel and halve an onion, and slice each half thinly. Slowly fry the onion in about 1 cup oil in a large saucepan or frying pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion turns a rich mahogany color. Strain on paper towels. The oil, now infused with the onion flavor, can be saved for other uses.

S. Irene Virbila is a former restaurant critic and wine columnist for the Los Angeles Times. She left in 2015.
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