500g Basmati rice


100ml vegetable oil


Serves: 4-6

Source: The Legendary Cuisine of Persia



Place the rice in a large bowl.

Wash thoroughly in 5 or 6 changes of cold water until the water is almost clear of starch.

Cover with cold water by at least 2.5cm stir in 15-30ml salt and leave to soak for at least 3 hours.

About 45 mins before rice is required continue the cooking. The rice will stand in the water until you are ready.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add 15-30ml salt.

Drain rice and add to boiling water. 

Bring back to boil and cook at a fast boil for 2-3 minutes.

After 2 minutes test rice to see if ready. The grains should be soft ob the outside but still firm in the centre. Strain and rinse.

Return the rinsed out saucepan to the heat, add oil and 30-45ml water and heat until sizzling. 

Sprinkle one layer of rice across the botom of the pan. Then continue to sprinkle rice into the pan forming a conical shape, all the while the pan is on high heat, be brave it can take it.

Once all the rice is used, make three holes in the cone, using the handle of a wooden spoon,  down to the base of the pan. 

Seal the pan well by wrapping the lid in a tea towel before placing on the top.

Now be extra ballsy and keep the pan on high heat, this is what makes the golden crust so go for it. The recipe states about 2-3 minutes. Try this initally, the best tip I have is that you cannot tell from the sound or looking down the holes how golden the rice is, its trial and error and getting to know your pan so its best to use the same one each time.

When you are satisfied that the rice is golden, turn down the heat and leave for at least 30 minutes.

The rice can be kept warm and fresh on the lowest heat for about and hour.

When ready to serve, place the saucepan on a cold wet surface and leave for a minute,this will loosen the crust. 

While waiting, melt the butter and put aside for garnish.

Lightly mix a little of the rice in with the saffron.

To serve, toss and mound the rice in warmed dish, sprinkle with the saffron rice and butter to give a sheen. 

Remove the crusty bottom and serve together or traditionally on a separate plate.






I find that this recipe gives the best results for basmati rice. This is the basic method resulting in a simple rice with butter and saffron that is light and fragrant with separate grains,  no longer any stodgy rice. It does take some advance planning and a small amount of nerve although once tried it is the only way you will cook basmati rice.

Rice holds an important part of the cuisines in the Middle East. This turns what to us is something  to boil up quickly and sling on a plate into a dramatic centre piece to accompany your curries.

Soaked and blanched rice


Mounded rice in pan


With steam holes


Ground saffron


Added water


Saffron with rice