Basmati Rice Spiced with Cardamom and Saffron

Basmati Rice with Saffron and CardamonThis dish leans on the flowery flavor of Basmati rice to back up a pretty solid blend of spices.  It is light in texture and fills the role of a pilaf for those times where you really don’t want to expend much effort in your side dishes.  Simply drop all the stuff in the pot, bring it to a boil, lid it up and simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes.  The rice will continue to cooks somewhat after you remove it from the heat.  If you use a clay pot rice cooker to cook this dish, the slacker effect is amplified, since the rice will stay hot right at the table while your prepare the rest of the meal.

There are a couple of ingredients that may be not massively common in this dish.  The first is orange flower water, which provides a nice astringency to the dish and the second is the spice blend ras el hanout.  Both can be had by mail order, although if you really wanted to, you could blend up your own ras el hanout from a recipe such as this.  It is a great blend of spices that is used extensively in Moroccan and Middle Eastern cooking.  It is not overly hot and provides a wonderfully complex profile of flavor, especially when paired with the saffron.

At the end of the day this is a pretty handy base recipe that can be thrown together with spices selected to match your main dish.  In our case, our main was a tagine of chicken with dates and figs.  The rice needed to be have enough punch to cut through the sweetness of the fruit.  I have also cooked a version that used lime and cumin flavors instead.  Adapt at will; just maintain the 1 to 1 1/2 proportion of rice to water, use oil (or butter), be liberal with your flavors, and, above all, have fun.

Basmati Rice Spiced with Cardamom and Saffron
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Rice
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Serves: 3
  • 1 cup Basmati rice
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tsp. orange flower water
  • 2 tsp. ras el hanout
  • ¾ tsp. cardamon, ground
  • 2 generous pinches saffron
  • 1.5 cups water
  1. Combine ingredients in a medium sauce pan or preferably in a clay rice pot. Heat to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cover tightly. Simmer rice for between 15 and 20 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to rest for about 20 minutes prior to serving. Rice will continue to steam during this time.

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