Jewelled Rice

This is a beautiful and nutritious way of serving rice, worthy of the extra work needed to produce it. Perfect for a special occasion.
Serves: 4
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 - 25 minutes
2 standard sized mugs of basmati rice
4 oz / 110g butter
1 medium onion finely chopped
1 courgette diced into small pieces
1 small aubergine diced into small pieces
1/2 head of cauliflower (green headed is particularly good here) broken into very small florets
1 carrot cut into fine matchsticks
1 oz / 25 g raisins
2 standard sized mugs of chicken or vegetable stock.
2oz / 50g shelled pistachios (unsalted)
2oz / 50 g pinenuts
1 pomegranate
Herbs & Spices
1/2 tsp Allspice Ground
6 Cardamom Whole
1/2 tsp Pepper Black Coarse
1 tbsp dried Parsley Flat Leaf or 2 tbsp chopped fresh Parsley Flat Leaf
Cooking Instructions
Prepare your onion, courgette, aubergine and cauliflower as in the ingredients list. Cut open the pomegranate, then break the hard skin and white pith to release the bright red juicy seeds. Its best to do this in a bowl as it can be a bit messy. Save the seeds until needed. Crack the green cardamoms open with the back of a spoon.

Heat the butter in a large heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. Add the allspice, cracked cardamoms and black pepper and fry for 2 mins until they become aromatic. Add the onions and cook gently until soft. Add the pinenuts and cook stirring for 2 minutes before adding the aubergine. Stir well to coat with the oily mixture and allow to cook gently until just turning soft. Add the courgette, cauliflower, carrot and raisins and stir well.

Add the rice along with the pistachios and stir well together. Let the rice cook for 2 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking. Then add the stock. It is important to use the SAME mug to measure the rice and the stock, to get the fluid quantities right. Take care when adding the liquid to the rice as there may be spluttering. Season with salt if desired. Place a tight fitting lid on the rice and allow to cook undisturbed for 10 minutes. Turn the heat down if the boiling gets too ferocious. DO NOT BE TEMPTED TO STIR THE RICE!!

After 10 mins lift the lid and taste a few of the grains on top (without disturbing the rest). The water should be absorbed and the rice tender, with a bite. Allow to cook for a few more minutes until this is achieved. Don't allow the lid off for very long, or allow the rice to be disturbed during this time.

Once the rice is ready, turn into a bowl. Add the parsley and the pomegranate seeds and gently fluff the grains with a fork before serving.