Sweet rice with saffron, nuts and orange zest

Sweet rice with saffron, nuts and orange zest

New Middle Eastern Food
Mark Roper

There’s no denying that this festive and exquisite golden shirin polow is a bit of a palaver to make — but if you have a sweet tooth, you will find the combination of candied citrus zest, lightly toasted nuts and spices absolutely irresistible. The idea of candying carrot may seem a little strange at first, but of, course, it has an underlying sweetness all of its own and the bright colour adds to the amber glow of the dish.

Serve with grilled or roasted chicken or quail — or with an earthy braised lamb dish.


Quantity Ingredient
2 oranges, zested, cut into julienne strips
125g unsalted butter
2 small carrots, (about 200 g) peeled and cut into julienne strips
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch ground cumin
150g caster sugar
2 tablespoons Saffron chelow, (liquid)
250ml water
50g flaked almonds, lightly toasted
50g silvered pistachios
300g iranian or best-quality basmati rice
2 tablespoons sea salt
70ml vegetable oil
2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds, (optional)


  1. Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil. Blanch the orange zest in the boiling water for 20 seconds. Drain and repeat twice more to remove any bitterness.
  2. Melt 75 g of the butter in a medium saucepan over a low heat. Add the carrot and spices and sweat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the zest, sugar, half the saffron liquid and water to the pan and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Allow to cool, then strain off the syrup and reserve it and the zest and carrot separately.
  3. Set aside a tablespoon each of the almonds and pistachios to use as a garnish and combine the rest with the orange and carrot mixture. Set aside.
  4. Wash, soak and parboil the rice as with Persian chelow.
  5. Return the rice saucepan to a medium heat and add the oil and 2 tablespoons water. As soon as the oil begins to sizzle, spoon in enough rice to cover the base of the pan in a thin layer. Scatter a layer of the carrot mixture over the rice. Continue to layer the rice and the carrot mixture, building them up into a pyramid. Use the handle of a wooden spoon to poke five or six holes down through the rice to the base of the pan to help it steam.
  6. Melt the remaining butter, mix it with 2 tablespoons warm water, then drizzle this over the rice. Continue as with Persian chelow. After 20 minutes, quickly drizzle the reserved syrup over the rice, then replace the lid and cook for a further 20 minutes. You will need to keep an eye on the pan to make sure that the sugar syrup doesn’t burn on the base.
  7. Garnish with the reserved nuts and pomegranate seeds, if using.
Back to top
    No results found
    No more results
      No results found
      No more results
        No results found
        No more results
          No results found
          No more results
            No results found
            No more results
              No results found
              No more results
              Please start typing to begin your search
              We're sorry but we had trouble running your search. Please try again