A grandmother’s rice – Il riso alla persiana

My son who is away at uni asked me to give him the recipe for his favourite rice – the kind his grandmother (my mother) always makes for him.  She calls it ‘Riso alla persiana’ meaning Persian-style rice.  I’ve watched her cook it and know exactly how she does it — and though I’ve made it myself countless times, hers is inevitably always nicer.  So hats off to Nonna for being the Queen of Rice.  The rest of us can make do with making very good, as opposed to very, very, very good basmati rice à la persian style.  And there’s nothing wrong with that!

This recipe calls for 500g of basmati rice, which must be rinsed until the water runs clear.  Boil up some water in a kettle or in a pan.  Then roughly chop 1 onion.  Get hold of 1 serving poon of butter (about 60g in weight).  Avail yourself of: 10 peppercors, 8 cardamom pods and 4 cloves and 1 cinnamon stick.

I just made up the number of spices because the truth is I can never remember exactly how many I use … but what I quoted should give a good idea of the proportions and the amounts.  Also required will be a good amount of salt (helpful, eh?) …. about 1 tablespoon, say.

On with the photos and instructions:

Here is a pan in which a chopped onion is being sautéd on a gentle heat, together with all the spices in a little bit of oil and butter.  The amount will be up to you.  Do not overdo it with the oil, however.

Use a wooden spoon to stir …

Add all the rice, all at once, and stir in the melted butter and oil and the spices and onion. Use the wooden spoon to coat the rice as much as possible.  This should take about 2-3 minutes maximum.

Now start adding the boiling hot water …

Stir the rice.  And add as much water as will cover the surface of the rice PLUS about 1 inch. (The rule of thumb, I believe, is that one should add twice the amount of water compare with the rice: e.g. 1 cup rice, 2 cups water).  Add the salt now and give one final stir.

Cover with a lid and cook for ……

Now we two options.


Cook for 12-15 minutes.  This should be enough … remove the lid and taste it and make sure, otherwise cook for another minute or two.

And this is how your rice will look when you serve it, turned upside down, on a platter:

One day I went overboard and fried some potatoes to make a ring around the rice :

Potatoes and rice may sound strange plate-fellows … but they worked very well together with a chicken curry (in the blue bowl).


If you want to make the rice ‘alla persiana’, you have to keep cooking it for another 10-15 minutes, on a very low heat, so that the surface of rice cooking immediately against the pan gets beautifully browned and toasted.  You then turn the rice upside down on a plate … et voilà:

The scent of course is very enticing ….

P.S. My mother often uses chicken stock instead of water.

P.P.S.  It just so happened once that I had cooked far more rice than needed and I really hated the  idea of throwing it away and so I froze it.   Result? Great! Although the fragrance, naturally, cannot compare to freshly cooked rice.  I warmed up the defrosted rice by steaming it by the way …. I don’t own a microwave oven.

About myhomefoodthatsamore

Community celebration via food, wine and all beautiful things.
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5 Responses to A grandmother’s rice – Il riso alla persiana

  1. charlotte says:

    uhmmm we like that, now the salicice recipe

  2. Nicolino says:

    good good good

  3. Yes I know that Persian way of cooking rice so it sticks a little on the bottom of the pan and the nice brown, slightly crusty bit is the best bit!

    • Somewhere, among scraps of notes and other interesting ‘bits’, I have a fabulous recipe for persian style rice which includes: ginger, orange zest and something else that escapes me now. As soon as I find it, I shall make it!

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