Mrs Bailey’s Jewelled Rice

It’s like the perfect mix-and-match; just add whatever you fancy

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

If you asked Mrs B for her recipe for this, she’d just snort. It’s different every time, she’d tell you; just throw in what you like, she’d say, and plenty of it. Oh so very helpful.

Sneakily, then, totally behind her back, here at least is her method. Follow along according to your whim: what you have in the larder, what you brought back from the farmers’ market, whatevs.

You’ll need a bowl of cooked basmati rice, enough to feed everyone at your table. If you made that yesterday, it’ll be even better. (Dry rice fries better, is all. If you didn’t make it yesterday, make it as early as you can today, spread it out on a baking tray and set it somewhere a little warm.)

You’ll want some kind of protein. Shrimp are excellent; so are bite-size pieces of boneless chicken or pork, or both. Ham is splendid, chopped up smallish. Cooked beans are magnificent; I love to toss in a couple of handfuls of Mrs B’s peeled broad beans. Flageolets work delightfully too; so would any small white bean. If the protein(s) of your choice need to be cooked, heat a wok and add a splash of olive oil, sear ’em swiftly ahead of time and set them aside. Keep the wok handy.

You’ll want a couple of onions. Slice one of them finely, put an inch of vegetable oil in the wok, heat it high and fry the onion ’til crisp and golden. Fish out with a slotted spoon and set aside, preferable in a wire strainer. Now toss a handful of raisins into the hot oil, stir ’em about till they puff up and add ’em to the onion. Save the oil; you can use it again (and again and again) for this, or just to add an instantly onion flavour to any food you’re frying.

Put a pinch of saffron in a small bowl, and cover with hot water. Set aside.

Toast some slivered or sliced almonds in the oven until golden and aromatic, and set aside.

Chop a few dried apricots, and set aside.

Slice the second onion, and a couple of sticks of celery, and/or a fennel bulb. And a fresh chilli or two, if you like that. Certainly crush some garlic, and chop or grate some ginger. [Hint: if you grate it, you don’t have to peel it first.]

What else, now? Have some vegetables handy. Haricot verts, cooked and halved, if you can find them; regular green beans will work if not. Peas, frozen or fresh. If you like corn, why not have some kernels on standby? Again fresh or frozen, as circumstances allow. Julienned carrot rarely goes amiss; you’d probably want to sauté that ahead of time. Mushrooms, ditto ditto.

Once all of that is lined up and ready, heat your wok one last time, and start in. First the onion: sizzle until tender. Then add the garlic, the ginger, the celery and/or fennel, the chillies if you’re using them. Sizzle sizzle. Any vegetables that haven’t been cooked in advance. Once they’re tender, in go the cooked veggies and the proteins of your choice. As soon as they’re warm, add the rice and the chopped apricots and stir-fry everything together until it’s steaming and sizzling hot.

Add the saffron-water (and every last shred of saffron, yes), scatter generously with black pepper and your choice of textured salt, and stir again.

Heap into an appropriately attractive dish, scatter with crisp-fried onions, raisins, toasted almonds, and call the horde to the table. Have hot sauce and yogurt on the side, plus anything you like in the way of pickles and chutneys and such. A few lemon or lime quarters would be fine too.

You can find more of Mrs Bailey’s recipes here:

I write. That’s what I do. Forty-two years a pro (and counting), and never a day job. Betweentimes I cook, and garden, and am very married.

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