Seafood pilaf
  |  First Published: December 2003

IN THIS Persian dish, saffron-threaded rice partners the briny flavours of seafood and the crunchy texture of cashews. The great thing about a seafood pilaf (apart from the delicious taste) is the fact that you can use any combination of seafood - anything you may have to hand. I have used a combination of mussels, octopus and green prawns in this version, but feel free to add crab, baby squid or pieces of firm textured fish.

Basmati rice is the rice of preference for this pilaf because it is a long grain rice with an aromatic flavour, and the grains stay firm and separate when cooked.


250g baby octopus

250g green prawns, peeled and deveined

1 dozen mussels, debearded and scrubbed

2 tablespoons cooking oil

1 tablespoon butter

500g Basmati rice

1 litre stock, either fish or vegetable

pinch of saffron threads

1 lemon, juiced

1 tablespoon cooking oil, extra

100g roasted unsalted cashews)

roughly chopped parsley, for garnish


• Heat the oil and butter in a large heavy based pot. Pour the rice into the pot and stir to coat with the butter and oil mixture. Add the saffron threads to the stock and stir before pouring the stock over the rice.

• Certain types of seafood can be added to the rice/stock mixture at this stage, e.g. mussels, octopus, green crab pieces and baby squid. Bring the stock/rice/seafood mixture to the boil, add a generous squeeze of lemon juice, reduce the heat to low and put a lid on the pot. The rice is cooked using the absorption method which results in beautifully fluffy rice and tender seafood.

• While the rice is cooking, prepare other types of seafood that best cooked by sautéing, such as pieces of fish and green prawns. Heat a little oil in a frypan and add the fish pieces and/or green prawns. As an optional extra you can add a generous sprinkling of Zaatar spice mix to the frypan while the seafood is cooking (Zaatar is basically a blend of sesame seeds, sumac and thyme and is available from most food shops). Cook the prawns until they’re just pink and the fish until they’re only just cooked and remove from the heat.

• When the basmati rice has absorbed all the stock, remove it from the heat. Tip the contents of the pot into a large serving bowl and add the prawns and/or fish pieces. Sprinkle half of the cashews over the top of the rice mixture and tumble gently to combine. Remember to discard any mussels that don't open.

• To serve, sprinkle the top with the rest of the cashews and a generous sprinkling of chopped parsley. The wonderful flavours are deliciously light – just the thing for summer.

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