Persian Jeweled Rice With Lamb

persian jeweled rice

I’d be thrilled to report we first had this dish on a long, extravagant tour of the Middle East…but sadly, no.  We tried it at a potluck lunch at our son’s school.

One of the mothers who was originally from Iran used to bring a carload of homemade food to serve the volunteers at the annual debate tournament. I had no idea the names of the dishes we carried out of the backseat for her (One was baklava-like, another a ricotta cheese-based dessert), but they were the most fascinating, exotic recipes my family had ever tasted. No wonder that four day-long debate tournament had plenty of volunteers!

A little googling yielded a recipe for her spectacular main course -a huge pan of cinnamon, cardamom and saffron-infused rice piled high with dried fruits, nuts and meat. It was a meal fit for a king! Not a Buckingham Palace king, but one who sits on Oriental carpets in a tent under desert stars. The dish, Jeweled Rice, is appropriately named because of the bright, multi-colored spices and ingredients decorating the rice.

The recipe is versatile, too.  With meat it’s a one-dish dinner. Eliminate that and it becomes an unusual accompaniment. Don’t like lamb? Substitute beef, poultry or even some of that leftover turkey.

And if you ever need a dozen or so volunteers for a boring and mundane assignment, bring this! And there’s nothing wrong with a little hands-off management if, like that Persian prince, you decide to enjoy a big plate of Jeweled Rice while your helpers do all the work.

Persian Jeweled Rice With Lamb
Recipe Type: Main
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Author: Adapted From [url href=”″ target=”_blank”]The Kitchn[/url]
Serves: 8 servings
  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 1 1/2 pounds lamb stew meat (ask butcher to cut it for you) Or substitute poultry or beef, if you prefer.
  • 3/4 cup butter, divided use
  • 2 tablespoon salt, divided use
  • 1 1/2 oranges
  • 1/2 cup whole dried cranberries (or dried barberries, if you can find them)
  • 1/2 cup sultanas or golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon loosely packed saffron or 1/2 teaspoon ground tumeric
  • 1/3 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/4 cup orange blossom water
  • 1/2 cup sliced raw almonds, toasted
  • 1/2 cup pistachios, toasted and chopped
  • 2-3 large carrots, peeled and sliced into 2-inch matchsticks
  • 1 piece 4-inch stick cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
For the rice layer:
  1. Rinse the rice in a colander or sieve until the water runs clear. Place in a pot with 1 tablespoon salt, cover with water and soak for 2 hours or more. After soaking, drain the rice, return it to the pan. Cover it with water and add 1/2 tablespoon salt. Bring to boil and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes once rice has begun to boil. Remove from heat and drain rice in the sieve.
For the lamb layer:
  1. Cut the lamb stew pieces into 1/2 inch chunks (if the butcher did not do this for you.). In a large frying pan, heat 1/2 tablespoon butter and brown the lamb pieces until cooked, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
For the dried fruit/nut layer:
  1. In a large sauce or frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons butter. Add the almonds and pistachios and sauté for about a minute. Add the raisins, cranberries (or barberries) and dried apricots and toss with the nuts. Empty into bowl and set aside.
For the orange/carrot layer:
  1. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the rind from the oranges. Slice the peel into very narrow slivers 1- 1 1/2 inches long. Put the slivers into a small pot of boiling water and cook for 1 minute. Remove the orange peel and set aside. (This reduces the bitterness of the orange.)
  2. Using a mortar or even your fingers, crush the saffron threads with a few pinches of sugar until a powder forms. Stir in 3 tablespoons of the orange blossom water and set aside.
  3. In the same pan used for the fruit and nuts, heat 2 tablespoons of the saffron orange blossom water mixture, 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add the sliced carrots and orange peel and sauté for about 2 minutes. Add the remaining sugar, the remaining orange blossom water, the cinnamon and cardamom and sauté for about a minute. Add 1 cup water, bring to a boil, then lower to medium heat and cook for about 10 minutes until the carrots slightly caramelize and the liquid has reduced to a syrup.
  4. In a wide, heavy-bottomed pot with a lid (We used an 11 inch stovetop pot), melt 6 tablespoons butter and cover with ground black pepper. Layer with 1/3 of the rice, making sure it is evenly spread over the bottom of the pan. Cover this layer with 1/2 of the fruit/nuts, 1/2 of the carrot/oranges (including the syrup) and 1/2 of the lamb. Repeat the layers, then top with the remaining 1/3 of the rice.
  5. Make 5 or 6 holes in rice to the bottom of the pan with the handle of a wooden spoon. Dot with the remaining butter. Cover the pot with a kitchen towel and a heavy to prevent steam from escaping. [b]Be sure to fold up the corners of the towel to keep it from burning![/b] Cook over moderate heat for about 30 minutes.
  6. To serve, spoon the Jeweled Rice into a mound on a large platter. Sprinkle with a few more nuts and dried fruit, if desired.

Persian Jeweled Rice


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