Here is the next stop on our journey into the Persian kitchen, our next adventure in taste.
I’ve got to warn you: don’t read this if you’re hungry.
Saffron Rice (V)
Potato and lamb koresh with orange peel (Iranian stew)
Duck in walnut and pomegranate sauce
Rice holds a special place in Persian cuisine, and fragrant, long-grained rice is the centre-piece of every festive table. It is also one of the staples; there are many different type of rice, and there are different ways of cooking it. Famously, one of them is polow where the rice is layered with a combination of meat, vegetables, fruit and spices and then steamed to perfection. Even more famously, and uniquely Persian, is the fluffy steamed rice rice with the rich golden tah dig (from the Persian for ‘bottom of the pot’), the special crust that forms at the bottom of the pot. This is the pride of every Persian cook, and the mark by which his or her skill is measured.
Where Iranian rice is not available, both Batmanglij and Shaida recommend using Indian basmati rice. Put simply, tah dig is made with a mixture of saffron, butter, yoghurt and rice. This mixture is put at the bottom of the pot, and the rest of the rice (parboiled) is put on top and then steamed. But this is an art, really. For an excellent tutorial with pictures, please see My Persian Kitchen’s blog on cooking rice in the Persian style. Alternatively, Shaida’s very informative book has 4 pages on how to cook this rice dish! This is what we used.
I must admit something here. I committed the capital sin of Persian cooking: I messed up one of the most important dishes of our feast, our rice. I turned off the wrong hob. Instead of rice, I turned off something else which stopped cooking when it shouldn’t have done, and the rice continued cooking when it shouldn’t have done. Hence the burnt specks in the pic below. Sorryyy A!
Rice-stuffed chicken and Persian saffron rice – Photo by Samantha Twigg Johnson
Morgh-e tu por ba berenj
From A taste of Persia – by Najmieh Batmanglij (pg. 58)
Chicken stuffed with rice fragrant with saffron, sweet from the almonds and the spices, slightly sour from barberries and lime juice. This was one of my favourite dishes of the whole feast! It is truly special, and really very tasty. I adored it, and my mouth is watering even as I write these lines. (Trust me, it was much much better than what you might think from the picture.)
This is how you make it. The onions and garlic are sautéed until golden. Then you add dried rose petals (:)), advieh, rice and seasoning, and stir fry or a few minutes. Add chicken stock and cook until the rice is done. Then, add barberries, almonds, raisins, lime juice and saffron water. – It tastes amazing even at this point! – You use this mixture to stuff the chicken and then roast it. What you get is wonderfully moist meat, with a sublime stuffing.
Now, all strict carnivores please skip a line and don’t read what I’m about to say. Go and look at the lamb koresh below.
For my vegetarian friends and readers: forget about the chicken (and chicken stock) and turn this into a really special vegetarian treat.
Potato and lamb koresh with orange peel – Photo by Samantha Twigg Johnson
Potato and lamb koresh with orange peel
From A taste of Persia – by Najmieh Batmanglij (pg. 128)
Slow-cooked koresh is a type of fragrant Persian stew. We choose this one with lamb and yellow split peas (the tiny golden nuggets you can see in the picture above). Flavoured with aromatic whole dried limes so characteristic of Persian cooking, advieh, orange peel and saffron, and garnished with strips of fried potatoes. It was delicious.
Duck in walnut and pomegranate sauce
From A taste of Persia – by Najmieh Batmanglij (pg. 125)
This koresh combines the Persian love of pomegranate and walnuts with duck; an affinity that goes back to the ancient Persia, according to Batmanglij. And indeed, the combination is intriguing. At once both dark and deep from the walnuts and the duck, and at the same time light and sweet and sour from the pomegranate molasses. With a hint of cinnamon to round it off. Do give it a go. Perhaps you’ll need to give yourself a bit of trouble with the garnish, as it’s not very photogenic, but it’s certainly tasty. I would suggest balancing it out with some lighter dishes though, as it may be a bit too strong-flavoured for a one-dish meal.
I would like to add a short note here. In the 4 books that we had, we struggled to find vegetarian mains, and had to adapt some dishes, e.g. the stuffed tomatoes. If you know any vegetarian Persian mains, please let me know. I’d be interested to find out.
In any case: these were our mains. The sweet baklava is next. Until then…
Here are the other posts from my Persian series:
And check out: