Jewelled rice

Jewelled rice

New Middle Eastern Food
Mark Roper

There are many recipes for morasa polow, the king of Persian dishes, some of which are variations of sweet shirin polow. This version is less sweet, which to our mind really allows the flavours and textures of the separate ‘jewels’ to shine through.

Much of the beauty of this dish is in the presentation — and indeed jewelled rice is often served as a centrepiece at lavish wedding celebrations and other feasts. Instead of turning it out with its crunchy tah-deeg crown, we like to spoon the rice into a pyramid shape to really show off the jewels.


Quantity Ingredient
300g basmati rice
2 tablespoons sea salt
70ml vegetable oil
40g unsalted butter, melted


Quantity Ingredient
2 mandarins or oranges, cut into julienne strips
50g caster sugar
2 tablespoons dried barberries, stems removed
30g unsalted butter
2 tablespoons Saffron chelow, (liquid)
2 tablespoons currants
50g slivered pistachios
50g flaked almonds, lightly toasted
50g roasted hazelnuts, skins rubbed off
various colours of edible rose petals


  1. Wash, soak and parboil the rice as with Persian chelow. Return the 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. Spoon in the rest of the rice gradually, building it 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. Mix 2 tablespoons warm water with the melted butter and drizzle this over the rice. Continue as with Persian chelow.
  2. While the rice is cooking, prepare the ‘jewels’. Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil and blanch the mandarin zest for 20 seconds. Drain and repeat twice more to remove any bitterness. Add the sugar and 100 ml water to the pan. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Allow to cool, then strain off the syrup and reserve the zest and syrup separately.
  3. Soak the barberries in cold water for 2 minutes, then drain and dry well. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a gentle heat. Add the barberries and fry for 4–5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and reserve.
  4. Once the rice is cooked, remove 2–3 tablespoons, mix with the saffron liquid and set aside. Spoon the remaining rice onto a warm serving platter and mound into a pyramid. Sprinkle on the saffron rice followed by the ‘jewels’. Drizzle over a little of the reserved syrup, which will make the jewels shine.
  5. For an alternative presentation, gently combine the plain rice with the saffron rice, all the jewels and the rose petals in a large mixing bowl. Tip into a large pudding basin and press in gently but firmly. Turn out carefully onto a serving platter and drizzle with the reserved mandarin syrup.
  6. Serve the crunchy tah-deeg separately.
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