The dish that takes Persian-style rice to another level.
This Persian “jewelled” rice is one of the prettiest dishes in Mum’s repertoire. The ruby tones of the dried barberries (zereshk) and the golden liquid saffron rice mixture remind me of a treasure chest, filled with ruby stones, gold necklaces and bright diamonds. There’s an air of opulence, yet it isn’t snooty. I guess there’s something about a collection of “jewels” buried in a cloud of fluffy, white Persian rice (polow), and nestled beside homemade slow-cooked chicken (morg), that brings it all back down to Earth! It’s how beauty should be.
Saffron rice with barberries & chicken (Zereshk polow ba morgh)
Saffron rice with barberries:
3 cups long grain basmati rice
1 large potato, sliced into thin rounds (1-2cm thick)
1 cup barberries, washed and rinsed
1/2tsp saffron, finely ground*
6 chicken pieces (we use drumsticks; thigh and breast are fine as well)
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1tsp Persian advieh*
pinch of chilli powder
1tbs tomato paste
1tbs liquid saffron
1tbs lemon juice
In a large bowl wash the rice, changing the water twice. Add 1tbs salt, cover with water and soak for half an hour.
Place saffron in a small bowl, add 3tbs hot water, then place aside.
In a large non-stick saucepan bring 2 litres water and 1tbs salt to the boil. Drain the rice and add to boiling water over high heat. Boil for 5 minutes until tender on the outside and firm in the middle; don’t overcook the rice. Drain and rinse rice with cold water.
On medium heat add 1tbs oil in saucepan, and arrange the potato slices along the base. This protects the rice from burning and also makes heavenly crunchy potato tahdig, which is served alongside many Persian meals. Pour the rice on top and using a spatula, form a cone or hill shape with the rice. Pour the remaining 1tbs oil over the rice. To build steam, wrap the lid in a tea towel (wrap the underside of the lid) before covering the rice. Leave on medium heat for 2 minutes then reduce heat to very low. Cook for 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat butter in a medium saucepan, add barberries, and mix well. Add sugar and stir, then remove from the heat. Once the rice is cooked, add 1 spatula of the rice to the liquid saffron in a small bowl and mix. Then add to the barberry mixture.
Heat the oil in a large pan, frying the chicken until slightly brown.
Add onion, stirring for 1 minute, then add garlic and stir. Add turmeric and season with salt then mix all together. Add advieh, chilli, tomato paste, and stir thoroughly. Finally, pour 1tbs liquid saffron, lemon juice and 1/2 cup water to the pan.
Cover and cook on low heat for 30 minutes.
Place cooked rice on a large serving platter and garnish with barberry mixture. Scrape the crusted potato tahdig from the bottom of the pot and serve on a large plate. Serve slow-cooked chicken straight from the pot, pouring the juices over the chicken and rice on each plate.
1. To grind saffron, place 1 pinch of saffron threads and 1 pinch of sugar in a mortar and
grind until it turns to powder.
2. Advieh spice may be purchased in Persian or specialty stores. Alternatively, you could use equal small amounts ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, ground cardamom, and half ground cumin. It’s not the same, but fairly close.
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