This is yet another excellent recipe by Ottolenghi from his book “Jerusalem”. I managed to find barberries in a specialist store – I was keen to try them as I had never used them before. They are like tart sour cherries, little tangy bombs! If you can’t find them dried currants or sour cherries would work fine.
A lovely accompaniment to a Middle-Eastern meal. I often cook the rice in the microwave, see note below. The one change I have made in the recipe is to add the pistachios at the end so that they retain their crunch. The original recipe has specific herbs (chervil, tarragon) but I think you can safely substitute other herbs if they are easier to find.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan and stir in the rice, making sure the grains are well coated in butter. Add the boiling water, 1 teaspoon salt and some pepper. Mix well, cover with a tightly fitting lid, and cook over very low heat for 15 minutes. Don’t be tempted to uncover the pan, the rice needs to steam properly. (I often cook rice in the microwave, see notes below to do the same).
Soak the barberries for a few minutes in freshly boiled water with a pinch of sugar.
Crush the saffron in a pestle and mortar (I like to do that to ensure all the flavour is released). Then soak for at least 10-15 minutes in about a tablespoon of boiling water.
Remove the rice pan from the heat. All the water will have been absorbed by the rice. Pour saffron water over one side of the rice, covering about one-quarter of the surface and leaving the majority of it white. Cover the pan tightly with a lid. Set aside for 5 – 10 minutes.
Use a large fork or spoon fluff up the rice and mix it gently. Drain the barberries and stir them in, followed by the herbs and mix lightly. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Before serving, add the pistachios, leaving a few for garnish. Serve warm or at room temperature.
To cook the rice in the microwave, in a large microwavable dish, melt the butter on the high setting and then stir the rice grains in. Add the boiling water and salt, and microwave on medium for 13 minutes. It helps to soak the rice for about 30 minutes beforehand if you have the time.