Spiced Baked Rice with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Fennel

SERVES 6 to 8 (VEG):  Blooming the North African spice blend ras el hanout with the rice
is a streamlined way to add complex flavor

WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS This hearty rice dish combines several flavorful elements of North African cuisine—sweet potatoes, green olives, and fennel —along with the distinctive warmth of the spice blend ras el hanout. Roasting yielded sweet potatoes with firm, caramelized exteriors and soft, creamy interiors. We prepared the aromatic base on the stovetop, stirring in the ras el hanout with the rice to ensure that the flavors melded and bloomed. We added enough broth to ensure that our long-grain rice came out tender and not too crunchy, then transferred the pot to the oven. When the rice was cooked, we gently stirred in the potatoes and finished with bright cilantro and lime. We prefer to use our homemade Ras el Hanout, but you can substitute store-bought ras el hanout if you wish, though spiciness can vary greatly by brand.

  • 1½ pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 fennel bulb, stalks discarded, bulb halved, cored, and chopped fine
  • 1 small onion, chopped fine
  • 1½ cups long-grain white rice, rinsed
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons ras el hanout
  • 2¾ cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • ¾ cup large pitted brine-cured green olives, halved
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
  • Lime wedges
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Toss potatoes with 2 tablespoons oil and ½ teaspoon salt. Arrange potatoes in single layer in rimmed baking sheet and roast until tender and browned, 25 to 30 minutes, stirring potatoes halfway through roasting. Remove potatoes from oven and reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.
  2. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add fennel and onion and cook until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in rice, garlic, and ras el hanout and cook, stirring frequently, until grain edges begin to turn translucent, about 3 minutes.
  3. Stir in broth and olives and bring to boil. Cover, transfer pot to oven, and bake until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed, 12 to 15 minutes.
  4. Remove pot from oven and let sit for 10 minutes. Add potatoes to rice and fluff gently with fork to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with lime wedges.


SERVES 4 to 6  (FAST) (VEG)

Basmati, jasmine, or Texmati rice can be substituted for the long-grain rice.

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups long-grain white rice, rinsed
  • 3 cups water
  • Salt and pepper

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add rice and cook, stirring often, until grain edges begin to turn translucent, about 2 minutes. Add water and 1 teaspoon salt and bring to simmer. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer gently until rice is tender and water is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Off heat, lay clean dish towel underneath lid and let rice sit for 10 minutes. Gently fluff rice with fork. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.