Baked Saffron Rice with Confit Leeks

Serves 8 as a side dish

To confit is basically to poach in oil as opposed to poaching in water, the confiting of the leeks here, makes them meltingly tender and yet they retain their shape. They pair perfectly with the aromatic saffron rice, for a side dish so beautiful and so delicious it will rival any main dish.

For the Leeks:

  • 2 large leeks, see washing and trimming directions below
  • 1 medium (45g) head garlic, peeled cloves kept whole
  • 3 sticks cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon diamond kosher salt
  • 100ml (⅓ cup + 1 ½ tablespoons) olive oil
  • 1 large pinch saffron threads
  • 600ml (2 ½ cups) just-boiled water
  • 300g ( 1 ½ cups) basmati rice
  • 40g (¼ cup) sultanas (golden raisins)
  • Flakey sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

For Leeks:

  1. Heat oven to 160℃ (320℉).
  2. Prepare the leeks, cut off the outermost layer, chop off the dark green top of the leeks, with a sharp knife slit the leek in half vertically from the top almost down to the root. Now hold the leek root side up under running water and wash well between each layer. Once the leek is totally clean place it on a cutting board, holding the layers together slice the leek into 3cm (1 ¼ inch round pieces, holding all the layers together place the leek rounds slice side down in a 2-liter casserole dish, the leeks should look like they are standing up. Wedge the whole cloves of garlic, cinnamon stickers, sprinkle the top of the leeks with thyme leaves and salt. Pour in the olive oil and bake in the oven for 1 hour.
  3. Remove the leeks from the oven and turn up the oven temperature to 220℃(450℉).
  4. Place the saffron threads in a mortar, use the pestle to grind into a powder, you can also do this between to tablespoons over a small bowl, add a couple of tablespoons from the just-boiled water to the mortar (or small bowl) and let steep while you finish putting together the rice.
  5. Pour the rice in an even layer over the leeks, scatter the sultanas, season with salt and pepper. Pour the saffron-infused water over the rice, and then ‘rinse out’ the mortar (or small bowl) with the remaining water and pour that as well over the rice.
  6. Cover the casserole well, either with a lid or aluminum foil and bake for 25 minutes until rice is cooked through. Serve warm.