Updated: Dec 19, 2021
As a service to my readers, food & feast posts will always feature the recipe first, with history, folklore, and cooking tips toward the bottom of the page. For background on this recipe and helpful hints for navigating technique, scroll down! Otherwise, dive right in with the recipe below.
photo by Frances F. Denny
aleister crowley's glacier rice
Prep time : 10 minutes
Cook time : 20 minutes
1 cup long grain white rice
3 pods of green cardamom
4 tablespoons butter or coconut oil ¼ teaspoon ground cloves ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
Scant ½ cup sliced almonds
Scant ½ cup sultanas (golden raisins) ¼ cup pistachios, finely chopped Salt and pepper My additions (optional)
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon Indian chilli powder 1 teaspoon curry powder 1 small handful of fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves, torn and roughly chopped
Crowley instructs us to begin by preparing the rice. Add 4 cups water to a medium saucepan, and season with salt and the bay leaf (if using). Bring the water to a boil and stir in your rice, then simmer, covered, for 8 minutes, or until a grain of rice crushed between the index finger and thumb is “easily crushed, but not sodden or sloppy”. Drain and rinse the rice with cold water, then return the rice to the empty saucepan. Heat the pot again over a medium heat and toss the rice with a wooden spoon, “using a lifting motion, never pressing down,” drying it gently until the rice is fluffy and easily tossed.
In a separate pan, toast your cardamom pods over medium heat until fragrant. Add your butter and, when melted, toss in your dry spices. Sauté for 30 seconds, then add your almonds and sultanas. Add the rice to the pan and toss until thoroughly mixed. Season with salt and pepper, then stir in your chopped coriander leaves (if using) and pistachios until the green colors make the dish “a Poem of Spring”.
There is no figure in Western occultism more revered or controversial than the Beast 666, Aleister Crowley. Most known as the founder of the Thelemic faith, Crowley was a prominent cerimonial magician and poet from fin-de-siècle England. Whether you prefer to admire or critique his works, his experiments and writings have significantly informed the landscape of occultism today. Among his colorful contributions to occult philosophy, Crowley left behind a number of his culinary recipes as well. This particular selection was recovered from among his papers, within the Syracuse University Library in upstate New York. Though many of his culinary works are frightful, and incorporate bodily fluids, incenses and animal blood, his curry rice or “Riz Aleister Crowley” is a surprisingly friendly and mundane addition to Crowley’s other works. You can find scans of both pages of the recipe here.
In his autobiography The Confessions of Aleister Crowley, Crowley recalls serving this rice during a blizzard while climbing glaciers. Although his original recipe contains no chillies, he describes the spicy heat of his dish causing “strong men, inured to every danger and hardship, [to] dash out of the tent after one mouthful and wallow in the snow, snapping at it like mad dogs.” Nevertheless, Crowley seems to consider this dish a wild success, saying of his own recipe: “...it was very good as curry, and I should endeavor to introduce it into London restaurants if there were only a glacier. Perhaps, some day, after a heavy snowfall.”
Inspired by this unique piece of Crowley lore, I’ve expanded upon his trademark recipe here, suggesting a few of my own ingredients in addition. While I don’t mean to correct The Beast on his own creation, the original text of his recipe leaves out ingredient quantities, so there is some room for creative interpretation. However, the procedure detailed above is faithful to the original Riz Aleister Crowley, and my additions are hopefully in keeping with the original spirit of Master Therion’s pilaf. Stay true to the original or experiment with my suggestions – do what thou wilt with this recipe, as Crowley himself might suggest.