Ouzi rice is my childhood favorite comfort food. This aromatic spiced rice with minced lamb is a one-pot recipe, which means you get to infuse all the delicious together AND only have to wash one pot when you're done. My grandmother used to make this all the time when I was younger, and she'd serve it with laban b khyar, or cucumbers in yogurt. It just brings back so many memories. There wasn't one family gathering where you couldn't find a huge plate of ouzi in the middle of the lunch table.
My grandmother's ouzi always had a special flavor to it, and I think I figured it out: ghee. You fry the nuts generously in ghee and pour it right on top of the rice when it's done. It just adds that special something that makes this spiced rice so deliciously unique.
Ingredients You'll Need
- Ground Lamb: I use lamb and beef interchangeably when I'm making ouzi rice, so feel free to use either one. I prefer grinding my own meat at home and I use leaner cuts like lamb leg.
- Rice: You'll need long-grain white rice like basmati rice. If you choose brown basmati instead, then you'll need to adjust the amount of water accordingly.
- Onion: I like red onion the most, but you can use white onion and sweet onion as well.
- Frozen Vegetables: You'll need around a cup and a half of frozen mixed vegetables. I usually make ouzi with a frozen carrot and green pea mix.
- Olive Oil: Extra virgin olive oil is always my favorite, but we're only using a little bit for this recipe to fry the onions in, so you can use any vegetable oil if you want.
- Spices: To make this aromatic spiced rice, you'll need a mix of cardamom pods, a cinnamon stick, whole dried lime, 7 spices, a bay leaf, ground white pepper, and salt and black pepper to taste. Feel free to adjust these based on what you prefer and what's available.
- Mixed Nuts: Like most Syrian dishes, you'll be topping it off with fried nuts. I used a mix of pine nuts and peeled almonds.
- Ghee: This ingredient is optional, and I like to fry the nuts in ghee instead of olive oil. You can use olive oil, though.
You Will Also Need:
- Large stovetop pot
Tips For Making the Best Ouzi Rice Ever
- Use whole spices. Whenever I'm making any type of spiced rice dish, I always like to use whole spices instead of ground. It makes a huge difference in terms of flavor. It also means your spices will stay fresh and flavorful for longer.
- Choose a slightly fattier mince. Ouzi rice can easily get a little too dry if your ground lamb is too lean. Try to buy ground lamb with a little fat for this dish to keep it at the perfect texture and consistency.
- Cook your onions first. Make sure your onions are translucent and have almost caramelized before you add in the ground lamb. This gives them the chance to "sweat" out any excess liquid and will make sure your meat browns properly.
- Brown the lamb. Before you add in your rice and veggies, make sure the lamb has fully cooked through. Basmati rice doesn't take long to boil, so if the meat is raw when you add the rice, it won't get the chance to properly cook.
- Don't defrost the veggies. I find that adding the veggies straight into the pot while they're frozen keeps them bright and prevents them from overcooking and getting soggy.
- Fry the nuts right before you serve the ouzi. You want the nuts to stay fresh and crunchy, so only fry them and pour them on top before serving.
How To Cook Basmati Rice
The general rule I like to follow for basmati rice is 1.5 cups of water for every cup of rice. Remember, if your rice is undercooked, you can always add more water and continue cooking it. But if you add too much water, you'll end up with mushy rice, which you can't really undo. Also, always add boiling water to your rice, don't use cold water.
Since we're doing 1.5 cups of rice for this recipe, you'll need around 2.5 cups of hot water. You can also use vegetable, beef, or chicken stock for more flavorful rice. But since you're going to be cooking the meat and rice in the same pot anyway, you won't need to use stock.
How Long Does Ouzi Rice Last?
Ouzi rice will keep in your fridge for 3-4 days if kept in an airtight container. I personally think it's one of those dishes that taste even better the next day.
Other Middle Eastern Recipes To Try
If you liked this recipe, here are a couple of other main dishes that are definitely worth a try.