I have always thought that travel is not just about physically going from A to B. Tastes can allow us to travel, taking us through the senses to new landscapes, climates, cultures and peoples. This rice dish is a take on the dill-flavoured sabzi polao that my Iranian friends from university used to cook. They improvised as best as students ever can, but the scent of their cooking always hinted at where they came from. Added here are the tropes of Persia that repeat in the culinary imagination: pomegranate, dill and pistachio.

Persian-Pomegranate-and-Pistachio-Pilaf - Final

Preparation time: 30 – 40 minutes

Serves four

Ingredients:

8 heaped tablespoons of white Basmati rice

1 tablespoon of olive oil

Half a red onion, finely sliced (long)

One clove of garlic (crushed)

Three tablespoons of pomegranate molasses

Half a teaspoon of cinnamon powder

Salt and Black pepper to taste

I teaspoon of dark molasses sugar

Two thirds of a cup of fresh or frozen broad beans OR the same quantity of cooked butter beans

Half a butternut squash chopped into small squares OR 140 grams of fine green beans

8 dried cherries OR 2 prunes (chopped)

The seeds from half a fresh pomegranate (and any juice that collects when you deseed the fruit)

100 gms of shelled pistachio nuts

30 grams of fresh dill

Method:

  1. Wash and drain the rice and let it dry in a sieve, so that any remaining water drips off.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180C and roast the pistachios and the dried fruit for about 7 minutes or until they just slightly turn colour and give off a scent. Take them out and let them cool. The edges of the dried fruit should be just slightly caramelized.
  3. In a wide, flat bottomed pan, heat the oil on a medium flame.
  4. Fry the onion for two minutes, then add in the garlic and the rice.
  5. Stir the uncooked rice, making sure each grain is coated in oil. The rice should very slightly change colour, but should remain pale.
  6. Add the cinnamon powder, the salt, the pepper, the sugar and two tablespoons of pomegranate molasses. Stir this well and lower the flame.
  7. Add in a cup and a half of water and bring the mixture to a boil.
  8. Lower the flame and add in the broad beans and the vegetables.
  9. Add in half the dill and half the pomegranate seeds, as well as any fresh pomegranate juice that has collected when deseeding the pomegranate, as well as the dried fruit.
  10. Cover the pan, leaving the lid just slightly off so that the steam can escape.
  11. Add more water if needed until the rice is cooked. Make sure that all the water has been absorbed. Now switch off the flame.
  12. Garnish the rice with the remaining dill, pomegranate seeds and pistachios. Finally, drizzle a tablespoon of pomegranate molasses over the rice in an erratic fashion, so that the flavour is more intense in some parts than others.

© Taste Trail Limited, 2014