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I love rice. It’s a delicious grain that both provides the starchy element to a meal while not weighing me down the way potatoes or pastas do. The only problem is that it can be a rather “beige” choice of side dish to go alongside the show-stopping main you’ve cooked for yourself or your guests. With just a few easy additional steps and ingredients, rice can be promoted from the role of beige plate-filler to a dish worthy of second (and third) helpings!
To start, your choice and treatment of the grain is key! I personally like cooking with Basmati rice because I find it is naturally more flavourful and aromatic than regular long-grain rice, and it takes on flavour really well! But if all you’ve usually got on hand is the regular stuff, no worries! This recipe works with everything. It is important to soak the rice before cooking it. For ease (and to speed up the process), I put the rice in a strainer and run it under cold water for 2 minutes, mixing it with my hands and ensuring all the rice gets properly rinsed. Then, while prepping my other ingredients, I leave the rice in the strainer, but just dip the strainer in a bowl of cold water, making sure all of the rice is well covered. That way, when ready to cook with it, you can just easily lift the strainer up out of the water and dump the strainer in the pot!
Next, prep your ingredients and spices. I like to cook the rice with sweet aromatic flavours, such as cinnamon, star anise, and clove, but it can really take on any flavour you like. To extract the most flavour out of these spices, either toast them first in a pan with a bit of oil, or add them to diced shallot and garlic to sweat a bit before adding the rice. Once your spices are very fragrant, you know they’re cooked and ready for the rice. Toast the rice with the spices for 5 minutes to give it a nutty, full flavour before adding water. Then, cover the rice with the appropriate amount of water (found on the rice packaging) and let it simmer away! So easy!
To really elevate this dish, chop up some fresh herbs and green onions, add a squeeze of lime, and if available, throw in the pomegranate seeds! The contrast of the aromatic spicy rice with the fresh herbs and the sweet pomegranates truly takes this dish from boring to anything but! This rice dish not only tastes great, but it’s easy to make AND its much more visually stunning than plain old white rice. Enjoy, get creative, and please comment with your own spin on this dish!
Aromatic Basmati Rice with Herbs and Pomegranate Seeds
Total time: 25 minutes
Hands on time: 15 minutes
Serves: 6 as a side dish
-1.5 cups rice (rinsed, soaked, drained)
-2 cups water
-1 large clove garlic
-2 tbsp olive oil
-1 cinnamon stick
-2 star anise
-1/2 tsp sumac
-1 tsp cumin
-1 tsp salt + extra
-2 tbsp chopped parsley
-1 tbsp chopped mint
-2 green onions chopped
-1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
-Juice and zest of 1/2 lime
- One medium-heat, cook the shallot in olive oil until just translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and spices, and cook another 3 minutes until the the spices are very fragrant.
- Add the rice and let it toast in the pan for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently and ensuring each grain is coated in spices and oil.
- Add in the water, reduce the heat to low or until the water is just simmering, cover and let cook about 15 minutes, or until all of the water is absorbed.
- Remove the rice from the heat and fluff the rice using a fork. Stir in the parsley, mint, green onions, pomegranate seeds, lime zest and juice. Taste, and add salt and more lime juice if necessary. Enjoy!