This recipe is based loosely on a recipe for Shirin Polo (Jeweled Rice) from Claudia Roden's Book of Jewish Food. I added cardamom and cinnamon stick, and gilded the lily with the addition of dried sour cherries, apricots, pomegranate arils and pistachios For a vegan version, substitute safflower, grapeseed, or avocado oil for the butter. —creamtea
butter (use the larger amount for drizzling if desired) (for a vegan version, avocado, grapeseed or safflower oil may be substituted for sautéing; do not add extra for drizzling))
small onions, peeled, the ends trimmed, halved vertically and sliced horizontally
saffron threads, toasted on a small square of aluminum foil in a 200º oven 6-8 minutes, then crumbled with fingers or pounded in a mortar and pestle
Rinse the rice in several changes of water, agitating the rice with your hands, until water is fairly clear. Place in a large bowl, add water to more than cover, and add about one teaspoon salt. Stir. Allow to soak for at least one-half to one full hour. Drain well.
Place about 4-5 cups of water into a teakettle and bring to the boil.
Heat a 3-4 quart saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add butter, and tilt and swirl to melt. When butter is foamy add the cardamom pods and the cinnamon stick. As soon as they they begin to sizzle and pop, add onion. Sauté until onions are nicely browned and fragrant. Remove about half of sautéed onions for later garnish. Add rice and sauté, stirring, until coated and kernels are opaque.
Place about 1/2 cup of boiling water from the kettle in a small bowl and stir in the saffron. Pour most of the rest of the boiling water over the rice, until level of water is just a little over level of rice, adding the extra 1/2 cup of saffron water at the end. Stir to distribute the saffron-water evenly. Add a good pinch of salt and stir again. When water returns to boil, cover carefully with a paper towel and the cover of the pot, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, allow to steam another few minutes, then fluff well with a fork; remove the cinnamon stick and cardamom pods. Stir in apricots and cherries, reserving a little of each for garnish. Transfer while hot to a serving dish, garnish with reserved onions, cherries and apricots, pomegranate arils and finally pistachios. Serve immediately.