Saffron Rice

Saffron Rice

Ingredients:
2 cups basmati rice
4 cups of water
1 generous pinch of saffron strands
3 tablespoons rose water (not essence)
2 tablespoons raisins
2 tablespoons pine nuts (substitute with cashew nuts)
1 medium sized onion finely sliced
1/2 star anise (approx 3 petals)
1 inch piece of cinnamon
2 cloves,
3 cardamoms slightly bruised
salt to taste (I used 2 teaspoons)
sugar to taste (I used 4 teaspoons)
2-3 tablespoons ghee for frying

Preparation:
1. Cut the boneless chicken breast to small 3 x 3 inches cubes.
2. Dice/Cut the onions (One of the onions can be cut larger to grill along with the chicken kebabs.
3. Slice the red bell pepper.
4. Soak the saffron in boiling water for at least 10 minutes.

Method:
1. Soak the saffron strands in rose water for at least 15 minutes.
2. Wash the basmati rice a couple of times till the water runs clear. Soak it in sufficient water for at least 20 minutes. After 20 minutes drain the rice.
3. Heat the ghee in a wide, heavy based pan/kadhai heat and fry the raisins on a medium-low heat till they just puff up. Take care not to burn them. Remove. In the same ghee fry the pine nuts till golden and remove. Keep aside.
4. In the same ghee fry the onions till golden brown, remove and spread out on a plate. Keep aside.
5. Add some extra ghee if required to the pan and toss in the warm spices one by one – star anise, cinnamon, cloves and cardamoms. Add the drained rice and fry it on a medium heat till the rice is well coated with the ghee.
6. In the meanwhile, in another pan bring the 4 cups of water to a boil. Add the sugar and salt to it and check the taste. It should be a fine blend of sugar & salt. Adjust the salt and sugar if desired.
7. When the rice is fried and the ladle begins to feel a little heavy it is time to add the water. If you fry the rice beyond this point it will begin to break.
8. Add the boiling water-salt n sugar mixture, saffron-rose water mixture and stir once. Bring the rice and liquid mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat completely (to sim), cover the pan with a well fitting lid and cook for exactly 5 minutes. Keep a timer.
9. After 5 minutes turn off the heat and let the rice cook in its own steam for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes open the lid carefully, fluff up the rice gently with a fork (give all the flavours a mix) and then cover for another 2 minutes.
10. Serve hot with a simple yogurt raitha or any accompaniment of your choice.

Flavours of India