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Persian Orange Peel Rice

Updated January 18, 2018
Persian Orange Peel Rice
Persian Orange Peel Rice

Editor's Note: Combine basmati rice with an assortment of spices and rose water, and you get this recipe for Persian Orange Peel Rice! You will love sharing this dish with family and friends for any event that requires a celebration and an elegant dish to eat, too. This rice dish recipe does require some planning and preparation, as the orange peels may take up to five days before they are completely dried and ready to include with the other ingredients. Instructions on how to prepare the orange peels, as well as tips on how to toast the nuts, are included below this recipe.

At every festive meal in Persian and Afghan homes you will find this sweet, jeweled rice, shirin polo, made with basmati rice and perfumed with rose water-infused dried orange peel. It is a dish that is served upside down, from the bottom up; that way, the candied oranges and roasted almonds that have fallen to the bottom during cooking appear at the top. As a child, I remember my mother cutting the orange peel into slivers and then placing the slivered orange peel flat on the table in the breakfast room, to air-dry. To prepare your own peels, refer to the method below. 

Preparation Time: 20 minutes, plus 2 hours for soaking the rice and 30 minutes for the orange peels

Cook Time: 2 hours, plus 4 hours for drying the orange peels

Serves6

Cooking MethodDehydrating

Kid FriendlyYes

MoodFestive

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups (575 g) brown basmati rice
  • 1 cup (75 g) finely slivered dried orange peel
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup (200 g) sugar
  • 1 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Pinch of saffron threads
  • 2 tablespoons rose water
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 4 tablespoons oil
  • 1 cup (100 g) roasted blanched almonds (see Oven Roasted Nuts, below)

Instructions

  1. Wash and soak the rice according to the instructions included in this recipe.

  2. To make the candied orange peel, place the dried slivered peels into a small saucepan and add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and boil for 10 minutes. Drain and repeat this step two more times to remove any bitterness. Combine the orange peels, the 2 cups water, sugar, lemon juice, and saffron in the same saucepan and stir over low heat until boiling. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until syrupy. Let cool, add the rose water and cardamom and set aside.  

  3. Bring 9 cups (2 liters) of water to a boil with the salt in a large saucepan. Add the drained rice and boil rapidly for 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente. Drain in a fine-mesh sieve. Pour the rice back into the saucepan and poke 7 deep holes in the surface and drizzle with oil.

  4. Place a paper towel large enough to cover the surface of the rice. The ends will extend outside the pot. Cover tightly with a lid. Cook over medium heat, covered, for about 10 minutes, or until steam appears. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the rice is tender and the bottom is crisp. (The towel will absorb the steam, preventing the rice from getting too sticky.)  

  5. Spoon the rice with a flat serving spoon onto a large platter. Break the crust at the bottom of the pot into large pieces and set aside. Top the rice with the candied orange peels and roasted almonds. Garnish with the burnt crust around the top layer to make a decorative and appealing display.

How to Prepare the Orange Peel

  1. You need large oranges with a thick peel and a good small, pointed knife. To sliver the orange peel, cut straight lines down the sides of the orange from the point of the stem to the other end and try to get only the smooth outer layer and as little of the bitter white pith as possible.

  2. Peel off the segments without tearing them. 

  3. Lay the strips with the skin side facing down on a cutting board and sliver away the rest of the pith. 

  4. Cut the sections into thin matchsticks and then allow them to air dry for four to five days, or until they no longer contain moisture. 

  5. You can also dry the orange peels by placing them on a non-stick cookie sheet and putting them in the oven at 150 degrees F (65 degrees C). Leave the orange peels in the oven until no moisture is left behind, which will usually take about four hours. 

  6. Store the dried orange peels in a sealed container, in the fridge. An easier alternative is to purchase ready-made dried orange peels (available in Middle Eastern stores), which you can hold on to for quite a while until you are ready to use them.

Oven Roasted Nuts

It's the little things that transform the merely good to great, and in the kitchen, roasting nuts catapults an ordinary dish to extraordinary. The difference between a complex golden roasted nut and a sorry-looking blanched specimen is no small thing. 

Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Arrange the nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet. 

  2. Roast for about 5 minutes. Remove from oven and stir gently to prevent burning. Return to the oven and roast for another 5 minutes. The nuts are ready when they are golden and fragrant. 

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