Tag Archives: almonds

Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Jewelled Persian Rice

Last weekend Peter, Zoe and I went to stay with a friend (also called Peter) who lives near Saffron Walden in Essex. It was wonderfully sunny and we swam outside for the first time this year (hard to believe now, after the gales we’ve had this week…) Huge thanks, Peter, for a truly lovely weekend – full of great fun and delicious food!


We wandered around Saffron Walden itself, too – a medieval market town that was originally called Chipping Walden. Initially the town’s primary trade was in wool but in the 16th century and 17th century saffron became widely grown in the area. This precious plant was used in medicines, as a condiment, a perfume, an aphrodisiac, a yellow dye, and a (luxury) ingredient. This industry gave its name to the town and Chipping Walden became known as Saffron Walden.

When I came home I wanted to make a recipe using saffron – and found this one for Jewelled Persian Rice.

This recipe comes from the recently-published New Vegetarian Kitchen that has been named one of the top 10 vegetarian cookbooks by The Independent. Written by Nicola Graimes, an award-winning cookery writer and ex-editor of Vegetarian Living, it’s full of truly inspirational recipes that prove that there’s a lot more to vegetarian cooking than pastas and bean burgers!

It’s always great to find a new way to cook rice as it’s such an important staple on a gluten-free diet. The wonderful flavours of the saffron strands, with the cinnamon and cumin seeds, give the rice a lovely exotic flavour and the onion, courgette, dried fruits and nuts add even more delicious flavours and textures. And this method is wonderful – you get light, fluffy rice that’s absolutely not stodgy or watery – and with a slightly crunchy crust. Lovely! I couldn’t find dried barberries locally so I used dried cranberries instead.

gluten-free, dairy-free, yeast-free, egg-free, seed-free

Serves 4     Preparation time 10 minutes, plus 1 hour soaking the rice if you like     Cooking time 20 minutes

  • 250g/9oz/1¼ cups basmati rice
  • ½ tsp salt, plus extra for seasoning
  • ½ tsp saffron strands
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 courgette, diced
  • grated zest of 1 orange
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 60g/2¼oz/⅓ cup unsulphured dried apricots, chopped
  • 55g/2oz/⅓ cup blanched almonds, chopped
  • 35g/1¼oz butter
  • 3 tbsp dried barberries
  • freshly ground black pepper
  1. If time allows, soak the rice for 1 hour, then drain and rinse under cold running water. Put the rice and salt in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 4 minutes. Drain again and set aside. Clean the pan.
  2. Put the saffron and 4 tablespoons hot water in a small bowl and set aside to infuse. Meanwhile, heat half of the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium-low heat and fry the onion for 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add the courgette and cook for another 3 minutes, then stir in the orange zest, cumin seeds, cinnamon, dried apricots and almonds. Add the saffron and its soaking liquid, season with salt and pepper and mix well.
  3. Heat the butter and remaining oil in the cleaned saucepan over a medium-low heat. When melted, add half of the rice and top with half of the vegetable mixture, then layer again with the rest of the rice and then the vegetable mixture. Using the handle of a wooden spoon, poke five holes into the rice and pour 1 teaspoon of boiling water into each. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook over a low heat for 10–15 minutes until the rice is tender and there is a light golden ‘crust’ on the bottom. Sprinkle with the barberries and serve.

Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Christmas Cake

I’m so excited about Christmas this year! Zoe is 2 years old, so I think she’ll get it this year. She was only a couple of months’ old for her first Christmas, 2 years ago – and she slept through most of it, including the very loud Mama Mia karaoke my sister had organized! And while she dressed up for the festivities last year, she didn’t understand the concept of presents or Santa Claus. But this year, we’re going to see Santa and I know she’s going to love all the presents, Christmas tree decorations, crackers, party hats etc etc. Can’t wait! Here’s a recipe for a fantastically delicious gluten-free and dairy-free Christmas cake – very rich and moist. By all means feed it with more brandy while you wait for the day. And wrap it tightly in foil, then in an airtight container to store it. I’ve made 2 cakes here, because I wanted one for Christmas day and one to freeze (it freezes brilliantly). But you could always make 1 very large one, instead. Just cook for another hour or so, peering at it frequently to make sure you don’t overcook it.

Preparation time 30 minutes     Cooking time 3 hours     Makes 2 cakes, each serve 8–10

gluten-free, wheat-free, dairy-free, seed-free, citrus-free

  • 350g/12oz dairy-free margarine, plus extra for greasing
  • 1.5kg/3lb 5oz mixture of sultanas, raisins and currants
  • 300ml/10½fl oz/scant 1¼ cups brandy
  • 250g/9oz/1⅔ cups almonds
  • 150g/5½oz/heaped ¾ cup rice flour
  • 100g/3½oz/scant 1 cup gram flour
  • 100g/3½oz/⅔ cup maize flour
  • 100g/3½oz/1 cup ground almonds
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp gluten-free baking powder
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • a large pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • 350g/12oz/2 cups fruit sugar or caster sugar
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tbsp molasses (I used pomegranate molasses)
  • 200g/7oz dried pineapple or mango, finely chopped
  1. Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/gas 2 and lightly grease 2 x 23cm/9in springform cake tins with dairy-free margarine. Put the sultanas, raisins and currants and 1l/35fl oz/4 cups water in a saucepan. Bring to the boil over a high heat, then turn the heat down to medium and simmer for 30–40 minutes until all of the fruit has softened and the water has been absorbed. Pour the brandy in, mix thoroughly, and leave to one side.
  2. Put the almonds in a food processor and pulse until chopped.
  3. Sift the flours into a large mixing bowl and add the ground almonds, salt, gluten-free baking powder, xanthan gum and spices  and mix well.
  4. Using an electric mixer, beat the dairy-free margarine and sugar together in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs, one at a time, until well mixed, then stir in the softened fruits, chopped almonds and pineapple or mango pieces, using a spoon. Quickly fold in the flour mixture. Make sure the batter is well blended, but take care not to overmix. Pour the batter into the tins and smooth the surfaces with the back of a metal spoon.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes, then cover both tins with baking parchment, tucking the ends under the tins securely. Bake for another 1¾–2 hours until browned on top, well risen and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tins for 5 minutes, then turn out and transfer to a wire rack. Leave to cool completely before serving.