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Recipe  •  14 September 2021


Spiced saffron rice

Enjoy this aromatic Arabian rice as a side dish for a delicious dinner.

Since Roman times, Arabs were engaged as middlemen in the transport of spices and aromatics to Europe from the East. Each country on the route adopted favourites that have endured. You can serve this festive Arabian rice as a side with many dishes, and you must try the pumpkin or butternut squash variation below. It is the kind of dish I could imagine garnished with gold leaf in Renaissance Italy – something that is back in fashion today.

Serves 6–8

  • 900ml chicken or vegetable stock (use 2 stockpots or stock cubes) or water
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom or 12 cardamom pods, cracked
  • 6 cloves
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/2 tsp saffron threads or 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 500g basmati rice
  • 75g butter, cut into pieces, or 3 tbsp sunflower oil
  • salt and pepper

In a pan, bring the stock to the boil with the ground cardamom or cracked pods, cloves and cinnamon sticks, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the saffron or turmeric and a little salt and pepper and pour in the rice. Let it come back to the boil, stir well, then lower the heat to a minimum and cook over low heat, with the lid on, for about 20 minutes, until little holes appear on the surface and the rice is tender.

Stir in the butter or oil. Serve the rice hot, in a mound.

Pumpkin or butternut squash pilaf
I buy butternut squash already peeled at the supermarket for this. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6. Cut 750g pumpkin or butternut squash into 2cm cubes. Put it in a baking dish, season with salt and pepper, add 3–4 tablespoons oil and turn the pieces to coat them all over, then bake for 40–45 minutes, turning them over once, until very tender and beginning to caramelise. Cover with foil if they are becoming too brown towards the end. Stir into the rice.

Med Claudia Roden

World-renowned food writer Claudia Roden revisits Mediterranean cookery 30 years on with new simple, vibrant dishes. A treasure for fans of Ottolenghi SIMPLE (312k TCM) and Persiana (200k TCM).

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