Persian Rice with confit cherry tomatoes

Another night, another dish, another memory… in case you have never noticed, cooking plays an extremely important part in my life. It is in particular the way I have to bring memories back to life and to feel closer to my loved ones. A study I read not long ago says that the memories connected to our sense of smell are the strongest ones. Have you ever walked by a bakery shop, or a plant with scented flower and suddenly remembered that special time? It happens to me all the times (or maybe I am just weird, tell it to the study….)

This dish is really special for me because it makes me feel closer to my best friends. We are at the moment scattered around the world (Australia, Italy and Scotland) and every time we gather together my friend makes this for us. She is the real expert, as well as the one who taught me how to cook it, and, no matter how good mine is, hers is great, and nothing can be compared to the pleasure of eating it together. This is a slightly personalised version, and it is dedicated to Anna, Martina and their families. Let’s start!

Ingredients for the rice:
  • 2 cups basmati rice (preferably Indian)
  • water
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive  oil
  • 1 thinly sliced potato
  • 1/4 tsp ground saffron dissolved in 2 tbsp boiling water
  • 250g greek yoghurt
Ingredients for the meat:
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp rose petals
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 250 g minced organic beef
  • 250 g minced organic pork
Ingredients for the cherry tomatoes confit
  • 500g cherry tomatoes (mini Roma tomatoes work perfectly as well)
  • 3 springs of thyme
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1/2 tsp organic brow sugar (optional)

Quite a long recipe… bare with me, it’s worth it!

Let’s start with the rice: wash as much starch off the rice as possible. To do this put the rice in large bowl, cover with cold water and agitate it with your hands. You will notice that the water will become milky. Drain the water and repeat. Keep doing this until the water is clear. You can then soak the rice, however I normally don’t do that (and the result is nice anyway), then cook it until al dente in salted water. I use a fantastic microwave rice steam cooker, and it takes only 12 minutes and 2 cups of water. Wash the cooked rice under cold water to cool it down.  Pour 2 tbsp of olive oil in a wok or a deep pot. Cover the bottom and sides of the wok with the sliced potatoes, and pour on top the saffron dissolved in water. Carefully sprinkle the rice in the wok over the potatoes. Poke three holes in the rice. Cover with the lid and cook on medium to high heat for 5/10 minutes. Reduce to medium heat, cover the lid with a tea-towel (I use two because well, it’s a really big lid!), cover the wok tea-towel side down, and let the rice steam for 35 minutes.

In the meantime, you can prepare the tomatoes. Cut the tomatoes in half, and place them in a baking sheet, inside up. Sprinkle with salt, freshly grounded pepper, oregano and thyme leaves. I also use a little bit of brown sugar to help caramelisation and contrast the acidity of the tomatoes. Put inside the over at low temperature, around 150º until the rice is ready.

For the meat, mix the spices in a small bowl. Mix evenly the pork and the beef. Pour a bit of olive oil in a large pan, add the spices and the onion sliced. Once the onion is slightly golden, increase the heat,  add the meat and cook for few minutes. Turn down the heat, and finish cooking on low heat.

Once the rice is ready, invert the wok onto a big dish, so the golden potato crust is visible in all its glory. Prepare a small bowl with the yoghurt, and add sumac to taste. You can also mix the yoghurt with lime juice and thinly cubed cucumber.

Serve all together in a dish and enjoy!

Music for tonight? A compilation of Alanis Morissette, constant background to some of my best memories!

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