This simple Moroccan saffron rice pilaf is a one pot rice wonder. Nutty and nourishing brown rice, cooked with saffron and ginger and tossed with Moroccan spices and mixed dried fruit and nuts. Simple enough for weeknights and hearty enough to be dinner on it’s own.
I love rice bowls. That’s all there is to it. This Moroccan saffron rice is the perfect weeknight dinner, because it requires pretty much no effort. This gorgeous jewel toned pan of whole grains is ready in 30 minutes, and all you need to do is slice an onion.
Whenever I think of Moroccan food, I think of heavily fragranced spices, nuts, dried cherries and sultanas as well as saffron. If you’ve never cooked with saffron, then have no fear. I’ll give you the break down of what it is and how to cook with it. You’ll definitely want to know how treat it right. It is the most expensive spice in the world.
How to use saffron to make Moroccan saffron rice pilaf:
If you’re not very familiar with saffron, it’s the stamens from the inside of a crocus flower. The stamens are harvested by hand and dried out in the sun. It’s a very laborious process, hence the sky high price tag. But it’s beauty is that you don’t need a lot. But what you do need to do, is bloom it in hot water before you cook with it.
It’s a lot like making a tea. It needs time for the strands to bloom in the hot water. Then you use that water in your recipe. Sometimes, you might think you’ll save yourself some time, and you’ll just toss it right in there with the rice and let it all do it’s thing. Yeah. Don’t do that. Learn from my very expensive mistakes. It doesn’t work. You bloom, and then use that water to make the rice, subtracting the saffron water from the amount the recipe calls for.
Now, let’s talk spice mix. It’s not possible to think of Moroccan food without thinking of heavily fragranced spices that are almost floral in tone and have deep peppery undertones. Cardamom, caraway and cumin are the key flavours that come to mind. So, you may be thinking, why would you use whole spices and grind them, when you can just use ground spices?
Well, here’s the deal. Whole spices just have so much more flavour than the ground ones. And there more versatile with being able to toast them and fry them as and when needed. They are also more pure than already ground spices that usually have anti-caking agents added to them. And they stay fresh longer. So, when possible, it’s really important to skip the pre ground and buy whole fresh spices.
Dried fruit and nut mixers are so common throughout Morocco and the Levant that there are hundreds of different combinations available commercially. I just picked a mixed fruit that I found at Aldi. It’s got dried cherries, cranberries, raisins, and sultanas. And the mixed nuts are a classic Moroccan mix of almonds and pistachios.
Once you’ve toasted and ground your spices and chopped some nuts, that’s it. Dinner is served. This Moroccan saffron rice is one of those dishes that you think are too simple to be anything more than just a nice rice bowl. But all those spices and mixed fruit transport you to the world of 1001 Arabian nights. It’s perfumed and exotic with warmth and sweetness and pepper and some spice and so much texture.
This is truly nourishing comfort food in 30 minutes. And that’s it. That’s all I got today!
Nourishing One Pot Simple Moroccan Saffron Rice Pilaf
- 6 strands saffron
- 1/4 cup boiling water
- 1 cup brown rice
- 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 1/4 cup water
- 1 white onion diced
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 Tablespoon ginger minced
For the spice mix
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
- 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
- 3 green cardamom pods popped
For the fruit and nut mix
- 1/4 cup dried apricot
- 1/2 cup mixed dried fruit e.g. dried cherries raisins, sultanas & currants
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds toasted
- 1/4 cup roasted shelled pistachios chopped
- Bloom the saffron strands in 1/4 cup of boiling water. Set aside for about 10 minutes.
- Heat the Tablespoon of oil in a medium saucepan over a medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and sweat until they’re soft and translucent.
- Add the brown rice, the saffron water and the remaining 1 1/4 cup water. Bring to the boil and cover with a lid. Turn the heat down to simmer and leave covered and simmering for 20 minutes.
- While the rice is cooking, use a dry non stick frying pan to toast the spice mix. Heat the pan over a medium heat and add the spices. Toast for about 4 minutes, until all the spices are starting to colour and are very fragrant. Blend the spices to a powder either in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle.
- Once the rice is cooked, mix through the spices and the dried fruit.
- Serve with pomegranate arils and micro greens.