Persian Rice with Tahdig & Zereshk

Fewer things remind me more of my grandmother Bibi Fadhila than “Tahdig” and the hillocks of fluffy buttery rice that accompany it. “Tahdig” or “Tahdigh” just means “Bottom of the pot” in Farsi, and in this case the bottom of the pot should be a delicious golden crispy disc of rice – which is highly prized and is as heavenly as it is sinful 😊

In this picture we have “Baghila Pollo” – a special version of Persian rice made with broad beans and dill and eaten mostly in springtime

Once you have learnt how to make rice properly (trust me this is properly!)– despite the several stages needed to accomplish this – you will never look back! Its simple enough – but just takes a bit of planning. Watch my video on how to make Persian fluffy rice with Tahdig here on my you tube channel:

The fluffiness – the individual grains of rice remaining separate – is achieved by washing the rice and by inserting a cloth under the lid of the saucepan to absorb condensation from the steam and prevent it dripping back down onto the rice. Watch my video if you want to learn how to do this!

It looks glorious if it all comes out in one large piece but if it doesn’t (as in the Baghila pollo pic above) you can simply the scrape the crispy bottom out of the pan and pile it with a flourish on top of the rice.

I recently purchased a fabulous non stick pot specifically for my rice so it comes out perfectly every time – however I used a stainless steel la creuset pot before and had a 80% success rate in getting it to come out all at once. If you dont have a non stick pot – to get the best chance of dislodging the crust in one piece you need to immerse the bottom of the pan in cold water (I use the sink) for a minute first before turning over onto a serving plate. The cold helps the rice contract away from the side of the pot which is rather nifty! If you’re feeling nervous you can line the bottom of the pot with baking paper but its fairly fiddly and not something I ever got used to doing.

Here you can see the Tahdig broke up (in the days before my new pot!) and it still looks fabulous and appetizing!

Ingredients – Serves 8

2 cups best quality Basmati rice

4 tbsp Salt

3 tbsp melted butter

50g salted butter, cut into 8 cubes

2 tbsp natural yogurt

2 tbsp saffron water

Instructions

Place the rice in a mesh strainer and wash under running water until water runs clear shaking the sieve all the while to rub the rice.

Place rinsed rice and 2 tablespoons salt in medium bowl and cover with 4 cups tap water. Stir gently to dissolve salt; let stand for 1hr Drain rice in fine-mesh strainer and rinse under the tap.

You can also rub the starch of the rice gently with the palms of your hands in a big bowl of water and then discard the water before soaking a more water saving technique than rinsing under a tab till the water runs clear!

Meanwhile, bring 8 cups water to boil over high heat. Add the strained rice and 2 tablespoons salt. Boil briskly, and time the rice for 6 mins from the time you add the rice to the pot – be precise here.

Drain rice in large fine-mesh strainer (you may have to do this in 2 stages as the rice will have expanded)

Rinse and dry pot well to remove any residual starch. Brush bottom and 1 inch up sides of pot with a little melted butter.

Mix 1 – 1 1/2 cups (or enough to cover the bottom of your pot depending on the size of the pot) of the parcooked rice with 3 tbsp melted butter, 1 tbsp saffron water & 2 measured tbsps yogurt and stir gently until combined. Spread buttered rice mixture evenly over bottom of prepared pot, packing it down gently using a potato masher – don’t be too vigorous – you don’t want the rice to break!

Mound rice in centre of pot on top of rice base (it should look like small hill). Poke 8 equally spaced holes through rice mound but not into yogurt-rice base. Place 1 butter cube in each hole.

Cook over medium-high heat until rice on bottom is crackling nicely, about 4 minutes. Wrap pot lid with clean dish towel and cover pot tightly, making sure towel is secure on top of lid and away from heat

Reduce heat to a low and continue to cook until rice is tender and fluffy and crust is golden brown around edges, 35 to 40 minutes depending on quantity of rice and quality of pot. Sorry to be so vague here but it really just depends on these factors – it might take a couple of go’s to get it perfect – but its worth it – trust me!

Tip the rice out onto a dish and you should have a disc of crispy crunchy “Tahdig”. You can serve it like this or even break it up into shards to avoid people fighting over how much they get!

Zereshk Pollow

This is just a version of the same rice with added barberries and fried onions – its a festive and gorgeous way to serve the rice!

1/2 cup of zereshk or Iranian barberries

¼ cup slivered almonds

2 medium or 1 large onion finely sliced and then dusted with flour and salt

2 tbsp oil/butter/ghee

½ tsp salt

1 tsp brown sugar

Tart & zingy “Zereshk” – or Barberries from Iran to be used in the Zereshk Pollo below – In Cape Town you can get these from the Olive Branch Deli on Kloof street

Instructions:

Soak the zereshk in hot water for 15 mins – wash and drain picking out any grit.

Heat the oil in a heavy based frypan and add the onions. Cook on a gentle heat until all the onions are caramelized and crispy. Keep to one side when done – the addition of the flour helps the onions stay crispy!

You can also just add the Zereshk to the onions at the end of frying – when they are almost done – as the Zereshk don’t need allot of time

In a separate frypan or in the same one washed and dried after frying the onions add a tbsp of ghee or butter and fry the zereshk and almonds with the sugar and fry gently until the nuts have browned and the zereshk have puffed up. 

You can also make this accompaniment and just sprinkle it over steamed saffron scented rice – you don’t have to make the rice with the Tahdig to add these delectable berries and onions!

Noosh-e-Jaan! “May it be sweet for your soul” or ”may it be a pleasure to your being”. Or in common parlance “bon appetit!”

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