Alexandra’s Saffron Rice

This is a lovely savoury rice to serve as the carbohydrate element of a meal, or the base for any number of additions to stir in whilst it’s cooking. It’s what we used to call a risotto back in the Seventies, it is cooked with rice and stock but as it uses long grain rice rather than short it doesn’t result in a gloopy, soupy risotto (though there’s nothing wrong with them), it’s a golden, tasty pile of rice (or a circle as Alexandra makes it look very beautiful by turning it into a metal circle in the centre of the plate and then arranging peas on top and some prawns and chicken or turkey around the edges – no sauce is needed as the rice has just enough moisture to stop the dish being dry)

Be careful with the seasoning though, most bought stock cubes or powder is much saltier than you’d expect when reduced in this dish  if you’ve just used them in a soup or stew. Obviously if you’ve the time and inclination, you could make homemade stock without salt and season as you go along, but Alexandra and I have a few other things going on and don’t have time, so we keep looking for the ideal bought stock and might yet try making it with just water and saffron, this would probably work particularly well if you added other ingredients as the rice cooks – bacon or pancetta or chorizo (cut up small) spring to mind as well as small squares of tomato, cooked or defrosted spinach, broad beans and the aforementioned prawns or chicken.

  • 250g risotto rice
  • 1 litre chicken/vegetable stock, best to use mostly vegetable so it isn’t so salty, but still some chicken
  • Saffron threads (one teaspoon-ish, but whatever you have left should be fine)
  • 50g butter
  • 1 tablespoons of olive oil
  • A little of grated Parmesan cheese to serve
  • Salt and pepper to taste, but you don’t really need any salt
  • 125ml dry Marsala, though we also use white wine
  • 50g shallots, or 1/2 an onion, chopped as finely as you can get them
First of all, heat the stock in a saucepan, sprinkle in the saffron threads and put to the lowest heat, so that it is just keeping it warm.
After that, melt the 50g of butter, and the olive oil in a wide and shallow saucepan over a low to medium heat (I would put it in between both then turn it down further if it starts bubbling to much), add the shallots/onion and cook for a couple of minutes, and until softened, stir with a wooden (or a fancy silicone) spoon.
Next add the risotto rice and keep stirring for about a minute, then turn up the heat and add the Marsala, which will fizzle up crazily, and stir it until it is absorbed.
Now start ladling (much easier than spooning) the hot, amber and sunset stock, stirring whilst letting each ladle become completley absorbed before even thinking about putting the next one in.
Stir and ladle until the rice is cooked so that it is not soggy, or undercooked; cooked but with a slight bite to it, usually about 18 minutes, but by the time you have finnished all of your stock it will probrably be around that.
Turn off the heat, and season to taste (really you can just skip that), and for extra decoration you can use a metal, round cookie-cutter to spoon the rice into, so that when you lift it up it is in a round-ish shape. Don’t worry at all if it falls out of place, it isn’t supposed to be like sticky rice! Sprinkle some parmesan on top, then leave the rest on the table for people to add as they like.
Alexandra xxx


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