The first recipe post of the year 2017… Alhamdulillah, I am starting enthusiastically, but how much I will continue that enthusiasm throughout the year needs to be seen. Some excitement coming up on the blog this month – should I say it or should I let it surface by itself? I guess I will go with the later… That will ensure that you all stick to my blog this month… I can afford to be a bit selfish, right? 😉
I have already mentioned how much I love Persian food. I have shared some recipes on the blog too, and having a big list of many many more to try. One of the recipes I really wanted to try was this rice I am sharing with you. Zereshk Polo is basically a pilaf with dried barberries. This was one rice that used to feature for our lunch during my first job at an Iranian company. I use to love the intermittent bites of the tart “zereskh” in between. It was my wish to recreate this dish in my kitchen, but not knowing the name of these red rubies, I had given up my hope. All of a sudden, a blogger had posted this on her blog – I really don’t remember who! – and that’s when I got the Persian name. During our visit to the Global Village last year, I had tracked down this ingredient from the Iranian pavilion – obviously! 😀 I was really excited to try this dish, and finally I did! Such a simple dish, yet looks all so complicated. Later I did find these dried barberries at the Iranian shops in Rolla, Sharjah. I am sure the ones in Deira side must also be stocking them.
If you have had Iranian food, you will realize how separated their grains are. You can literally count them in your plate! This is because of the technique of steaming that they use. You cook the rice just around 80%. Then the rice is arranged in a dry platter and few holes are done in between. Then the saucepan is cooked on high for a few minutes, before reducing the flame to the lowest, covering the lid with a cloth, so that the steam doesn’t vaporize and make the rice clumpy. It is literally like the dum process we follow while making biriyani. After using this technique, I have now started doing the wrapping up for all my pulaos as well! 😀
The Zereskhk Polo is normally served with some grilled or steamed chicken, and nice douse of Mast-o-Khiar. You can have it on its own with a salad as well. It definitely continues to be one of my favorite rice dishes in Iranian cuisine. If you are able to find dried barberries, then definitely give it a try. I am sure you will enjoy it as much I do. 🙂 Off to the recipe…
- 2 cups basmati rice, soaked for at least one hour
- 1 cup barberries (zereshk)
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2-3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 potatoes, thinly sliced
- FOR SAFFRON WATER:
- 10 strands of saffron
- ½ tsp sugar
- ½ cup hot water
- To prepare the saffron water, crush the saffron and sugar using mortar and pestle till powdery. Add the hot water and mix. Set aside.
- Drain the soaked basmati rice and set aside.
- Boil around 10 cups of water with some salt. Add the drained rice and cook for around 5-7 minutes. Drain. The rice will only be partly cooked. Wash well in cold water.
- Wash the barberries well till it is clean. Remove off stems if any. Allow to drain on a kitchen towel.
- Heat the butter in a small pan. Add in the barberries and sprinkle the sugar.
- Toss well. You will see the barberries slightly puffing up. Take off the heat. Add 2 tbsp of the saffron water and mix well.
- Heat up a saucepan till dry. Take off the heat.
- Sprinkle in the olive oil and 2 tbsp of the saffron water.
- Line up the sliced potatoes at the bottom. This will make up the crust called "tahdig".
- Arrange half the rice on top, spread the barberries, and then spread the remaining rice.
- Poke in several holes in between, for steam to escape. Close the lid.
- Keep on high flame for five minutes.
- Now lower the flame to the lowest possible, take off the lid and sprinkle in the remaining saffron water.
- Cover the lid with a kitchen towel and keep it tightly closed.
- Cook undisturbed for 30 to 45 minutes.
- Just before serving, take off the lid, and give it a good mix. The potato would look crusty.
- You can serve the mixed rice with the potatoes, or serve the potato crust separately.