When pomegranates burst onto the foodie scene a few years ago in South Africa, I’m sure most food stylists peed in their pants, because the seeds are just so gosh-darned purdy. I remember one particularly beautiful autumn spread in Taste magazine that had me longing for the fruit, but I held off buying it because I was indignant about the price.
Also, I just wasn’t entirely sure what the seeds were for.
I mean, you can sprinkle them over stuff for decorative purposes, but I couldn’t really perceive what was so special about them besides their looks. Until now, that is.
I can’t remember where I originally found this dish, as it was floating around in my recipe graveyard, which I excavate every so often. I was immediately intrigued, and couldn’t believe I’d just printed it out, filed it (i.e. stashed it between 101 other recipe printouts in no particular order) and forgotten about it.
But such is life.
The combination of textures is really quite unbelievable. You’ve got the lovely sweet burst of the pomegranate seeds, of course; then the soft, chewy rice; but you’ve also got the crunch of the raw fried rice — when you put a forkful in your mouth, the sensation is quite a (pleasant) surprise. And, unlike a lot of other dishes where pomegranates are included, their flavour and texture here are essential. The tart seeds are a perfect complement to the starchy, savoury flavour of the rice.
This is all quite apart from the fact that all the ingredients are basics you’re likely to already have in your kitchen cupboard (barring the pomegranate), and so it’s a pretty easy one to fall back on in a pinch, if pomegranates happen to be in season, which they are now.
I served this rice with a roast chicken, which it complemented beautifully, but it’ll work with just about anything savoury: red meats, curries, fish. It has the added bonus of looking way posh, but what I love most about it is that its appearance is not its strongest point.
The original recipe called for white jasmine rice, but I used brown jasmine rice, and also substituted shallots with a bog-standard onion, with good results. Also, I'm sure you could use veg stock instead of chicken. Have a bash and let me know what you think.
1. Measure 2 cups of jasmine rice. Add a quarter of this (1/2 cup), to a nonstick pan with 2 tbsp unsalted butter. Cook this rice for 30 minutes over a very low heat, stirring occasionally, until it turns a nice, nutty brown color.
2. While that rice is toasting, heat 1/3 cup olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add 2 chopped shallots, a 2-inch piece of ginger (peeled and grated), a cinnamon stick and the rest of the rice, and sautée for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. To this add 3 cups chicken stock and 1 bay leaf, bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the rice sit (covered) for about 10 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed.
3. Combine the toasty rice and the simmered rice in a bowl with the seeds of 2 pomegranates. You could add 1/2 cup shelled pistachios if you like. Serve and be amazed.