Learning how to cook rice (the Iranian way)

What follows is a short story from Rosemary’s past. After talking with her, I have taken our discussion and turned it into a series of small stories highlighting the incredible life that she has led. Direct quotes from our discussion are highlighted in quotation marks. All else is a retelling written by yours truly.

This recipe comes from Rosemary’s time in Iran and is one she still uses today. It doesn’t use specific amounts so you might need to do some trial and error before you get it right.

Step one: Get the right rice. It is very difficult to find Persian rice outside of Iran so Rosemary recommends using Basmati. It is the best substitute. Whatever you do, you have to use long-grain rice.

Step two: Soak the rice in lightly salted water. Any length of time is ok but somewhere around the two-hour mark is best as it allows the rice to swell by absorbing more of the water.

Step Three: Begin to boil some salted water in a separate pan. Here is where things get a little tricky. Never use a small pan. There needs to be enough water for each grain to move around (if Rosemary remembers correctly, it is about six pints of water per cup of rice. You can’t have too much water). Make sure the water is salted. Approximately one teaspoon per cup of rice (you are using a lot of water so it shouldn’t be too salty).

“It is much better to have far too much [water] than very little.”

Note: As someone who’s tried this I can say you need a very big pan for all that water. And I’d recommend filling the pan with hot water either from the tap or from the kettle, otherwise you’ll be there for hours as it heats up.

Step four: While the water is heating up, rinse the rice several times to remove the starch. Do this several times until the water is clear. Then drain the water.

Step five: When the pan of water begins to boil, put the rice in and wait for it to boil again. When it does, let it boil for about four minutes. (That’s right, four minutes. If you let it soak it should only take a few minutes to cook).

“Don’t ever believe what the recipes say on the packets of rice”.

But how do you know it is finished?

“You need to be able to just halve a grain with your thumb and fingernail. When you can cut the grain with your two nails it is ready.”

Step six: Take the pan off the heat and drain the water and rice into a colander of your choosing (just make sure the holes are small enough that the rice doesn’t run away).

Step seven: When the hot pan is empty, put a tiny bit of olive oil (or butter if you feel fancy) on the bottom of the pan and put the drained rice back in. Seal the lid of the pan with a tea towel and place the pan back on the stove over low (really low!) heat with the lid resting on top.

Step eight: Wait for about twenty minutes, allowing enough time for the tea towel to absorb the excess moisture in the rice.

Step nine: Serve with whatever you like and enjoy.

You may have to do some experimenting to figure out the measurements for yourself but this is it. Rosemary learned this recipe over fifty years ago and she still uses it to this day.

Stay tuned for more stories from the life of Rosemary. Please note: these stories will not necessarily hold any chronological grounding. They are designed as snippets of understanding into the life of Rosemary and while some will hold chronology, others may not.

Photo Credit: The photo in the logo was provided by Pierre Bamin on Unsplash. If you would like to see more of their work, click here.