Iranian Saffron Barberry Rice with Chicken (Zereshk Polow ba Morgh)

Zereshk or barberry is typically used in Persian dishes ranging from Iran to Western Afghanistan. Each bright glowing berry resembles a jewel which is packed with vitamin C. What does it taste like? It is very tart. Your mouth will quench as if you have just had a spoonful of lime juice. It is very powerful. The barberry is usually mixed with a tad bit of sugar to sweet the tart flavor. It is typically served along side saffron chicken and basmati rice.  There are many variations to Zereshk polo depending on the region of the country.
6
Ingredients (Serving 4)
 
  • 4 cups long-grain basmati rice
  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 2 peeled onions, 1 whole and 1 thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground saffron dissolved in 4 tablespoons hot water
  • 2 cups dried barberries (zereshk), cleaned, washed, and drained
  • 2/3 cup clarified butter (ghee) or oil
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons toasted cumin seeds (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons slivered almonds (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons slivered pistachios (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons slivered dried orange peels (optional)
Instructions
 
Chicken
  1. Saute onions in 2 tablespoons of butter until translucent, add garlic until golden then add the pieces of chicken and cook for about 5 minutes on medium heat.  Once chicken changes color from pink to white on the outside, add 1 tablespoon of turmeric and 2 cups of water. Cook on medium-high heat with lid covered for 1 hour (or more depending on the size of your chicken).
  2. Once ready, add 1 tablespoon of saffron and put aside.
Barberry
  1. Clean the barberries by removing their stems and placing the berries in a colander. Place colander in a large container full of cold water and allow barberries to soak for 20 minutes. The sand will settle to the bottom. Take the colander out of the container and run cold water over the barberries; drain and set aside.
  2. Sauté 1 sliced onion in 2 tablespoons butter, add barberries and cumin, and sauté for just 1 minute over low heat because barberries burn very easily. Add 4 tablespoons sugar, mix well, and set aside
Note: If you prefer a tangy flavor reduce the amount of sugar. If you prefer a sweeter dish, add more sugar. Adjust to taste. 
Saffron Flavored Steamed Rice
 
  1. Bring 8 cups of water with 2 tablespoons salt to a boil in a large non-stick pot. Pour the washed and drained rice into the pot. Boil briskly for 6 to 10 minutes, gently stirring twice with a wooden spoon to loosen any grains that may have stuck to the bottom. Bite a few grains. If the rice feels soft, it is ready. Drain rice in a large, fine-mesh colander and rinse in 2 or 3 cups of cold water.
  2. In a bowl, mix 3 spatulas of rice, 2 tablespoons yogurt, 3/4 cup butter or oil, 1/2 cup water, a few drops of dissolved saffron water, and the cumin seeds.
  3. In the pot, spread the yogurt-rice mixture over the bottom of the pot and pack down. This will help to create a tender golden crust (tah dig) when rice is cooked.
  4. Take one spatula full of drained rice at a time and gently place it on top of the yogurt and rice mixture, gradually shaping the rice into a pyramid. This shape leaves room for the rice to expand and enlarge. Poke one or two holes in the rice pyramid with the handle of a wooden spatula.
  5. Cover and cook rice for 10 to 15 minutes over medium-high heat in order to form a golden crust.
  6. Dissolve the remaining butter in 1 cup hot water and pour over the rice pyramid. Place a clean dish towel or 2 layers of paper towels over the pot and cover firmly with the lid to prevent steam from escaping. Cook for 50 minutes longer over medium-low heat.
  7. Remove the pot from heat. Allow to cool on a damp surface for 5 minutes without uncovering it. This helps to free the crust from the bottom of the pot. There are two ways to serve the rice. The first is to hold the serving platter tightly over the uncovered pot and invert the two together unmolding the entire mount onto the platter. The rice will emerge as a golden crusted cake. Serve in wedges. The second way is to put 2 tablespoons of rice in a dish, mix with remaining saffron water, and set aside for garnish.
  8. Then, gently taking 1 spatula full of rice at a time, place rice on a serving platter in alternating layers with the barberry mixture. Mound the rice in the shape of a cone. Arrange the chicken around the platter. Finally, decorate the top of the mound with the saffron-flavored rice, some of the barberry mixture, and almonds and pistachios. Places pieces of chicken around your serving dish making the rice the center of the display.
  9. Detach the layer of crust from the bottom using a wooden spatula. Place into a small platter and serve on the side or arrange it around the rice. Enjoy! 
Continue Reading

Kalam Polow Shirazi (Cabbage herbed rice with meatballs)- Iranian Cuisine

Kalam Polo Shirazi (from the region of Shiraz) was introduced into the family by my father. His love for this fragrant Iranian rice dish dates back to his childhood in Shiraz where my grandmother’s cooking reigned.  Years later he had to ask around in order to obtain the recipe  asking siblings and cousins. Finally, he got his hands on the recipe which surely had changd over the years. Ever so often coming home from school I would smell the herbs from outside. I knew he missed his mom. He would make it whenever feeling nostalgic or missing my grandmother. I had never attempted to make Kalam Polow until recently I had a major unexpected craving for it. I think I just missed my father and thought by making his signature dish I’d fill the void brought by the distance. 
 

Unfortunately, I was not able to find white cabbage and had to use red cabbage. It has to be made with red cabbage but I can’t say it tasted too different and the Count and I really enjoyed the rich flavors and colorful dish that resulted from using red cabbage. 
Note: if you grew up hating cabbage. Don’t worry as this dish will make you change your mind. I myself am not a big fan of cabbage but when eating it in this dish- it tastes delicious. 
Ingredients: 
 
2 cups of rice
4 cups of shredded white cabbage
1onion (grated)
1 lbs ground beef
1 teaspoon of turmeric
 
2 cups of fresh parsley
2 cups of fresh cilantro
2 cups of chives
2 cups of Persian basil
1/2 cup tarragon
1 cup fresh dill (or dry dill)
salt and pepper 
olive oil 
 
Instructions: 
 
1. Grate onion into small pieces, remove the onion juice. Mix the onion with the ground beef. Add salt and pepper and turmeric and mix with the meat and onions. 
2. Roll small pieces of meat mix into meatballs. You want the meatballs to be on the smaller side. 

3. Cook meatballs in a lightly oiled pan. 

4. Shred white cabbage into small pieces (here I’ve used red but again please use white)

5. Saute shredded cabbage in a slightly oiled pan until cooked. Season with salt, pepper and a pinch of turmeric. 

6. Chop all the herbs into small fine pieces. 

7. Mix the herbs with the sauteed cabbage and add to the meatballs. Turn heat off. 

8. Place mix aside while preparing your rice. 

9. When your rice is ready, remove from pan. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and add layers of thinly sliced potatoes. Add one layer of rice and another layer of mixture. Continue layering and gently mix pot to mix the ingredients together. Finish with a thin layer of rice. With the bottom of your spatula make several holes in your rice layer without touching the bottom of the pot. This allows the steam to reach the top. Cook for 30 minutes on low heat (so that the potatoes don’t burn- mine burnt here a bit 🙁 ). 
 
10. Serve with rice and pickled torshee. 
Continue Reading

Ravagh Persian Grill- Murray Hill (New York, USA)

When in a new city, first thing is first: must find the best Persian restaurant for that oh so frequent Persian kabob craving. Here in New York most would agree that Ravagh provides just that! Quality skewers of juicy meats with generous servings of rice and salad. But Kabob is not all that is offered at Ravagh there is also a wide range of stews and appetizers including my favorites: kashk badenjoon (smoked eggplant dish served with pita) and Gheimeh- tah deeg (Gheimeh lentil stew served over crispy rice). Best part: unlike other Iranian restaurants, Ravagh has moderate pricing for their dishes- which combined with their good Persian comfort food has led to their many years of success. 






Favorites on my list: Kabobs- you can’t go wrong with any of them but so far my favorites are the chicken koobideh, chicken strip kabob, the koobideh and the barg.  As for appetizers the shallot yogurt (masteh musir) is a Must! And so are all the eggplant dishes. But then again everything else is good too. What can I say? I’m a big fan and a frequent visitor. 

Ravagh Persian Grill on Urbanspoon
Continue Reading

Iranian Recipe: Lubia Polow (Persian Green beans and Rice)

Growing up Lubia Polow was always a favorite which in my world is best made by my mother. Somehow, nothing ever tastes as good as my mother and grandmother’s cooking. But now that I’m all grown up, I’ve tried to follow her directions closely in order to have a similar result. I’ve realized it rarely happens since I choose to use very little oil and/or butter while cooking. It seems the secret to that mouth watering taste is all in the butter. Who knew. 

Lubia Polow is a combination of chopped green beans, rice, meat, tomato paste and a pinch of cinnamon. It’s quite simple to make and healthy if you increase the ratio of green beans to rice and meat.

Ingredients (serving 4)
 
1 Large onion, chopped
300-500 grams ground beef or beef/lamb stew meat
2 Cups green beans, cut, 1 cm in length
1 Teaspoon liquid saffron
1 Tablespoon turmeric
1 Teaspoon cinnamon powder
1/2oz can of tomato paste
1-2 Cup of Basmati Rice

salt and pepper to taste 


Instructions 
 
Meat: 

As all Persian cooking, it all begins with the fried onions. 
  1. Chop the onions into small pieces and fry slightly in oil until it turns golden in color. 
  2. Add beef/lamb or ground beef and cook until there is no pink showing. 
  3. Then add 1 tablespoon of turmeric. 
  4. Add salt and pepper to preferred taste. 
  5. Add one cup of warm water, put lid on and cook on medium heat for 1 hour. If all water evaporates add more. Once meat is cooked, add the tomato paste and mix thoroughly. The end result must be a thick meaty paste.
Green Beans: 

While meat is cooking, wash green beans and chop into 1 cm pieces. Heat pan, add olive oil and slightly fry the beans.  Once the meat and sauce is thick, add green beans to the meat sauce mix. 

Rice: 
 
Meanwhile, while preparing all the above, prepare your basmati rice.  
  1. Boil water, add a pinch of salt, add 1 cup of rice, cook over a low boil for a few minutes and remove/rinse. 
  2. Then place rice in a new pot, add cloth to the lid (for the evaporation to be absorbed) and cook on low heat. 
  3. While placing rice, place one layer of rice, one layer of meat sauce, and repeat. This allows for a perfect mixture. 
  4. Mix the sauce and rice so that there is no white rice remaining. 
  5. Pour over the liquid saffron on the rice.
  6. Add a sprinkle of cinnamon powder.
  7. Cook for 30-45 minutes. 
  8. Serve with condiments.

 

Every Iranian meal is best served with a side of Balkan style yogurt, herbs (fresh mint, basil, radish), torshee (Persian pickled vegetables), and Iranian salad (shirazi). 

Continue Reading

Courtyard Grill-Uptown (New Orleans, USA)

Courtyard Grill is the only place in New Orleans where you can feast on Iranian and Turkish cuisine. It is located on Magazine street and offers both indoor and outdoor seating. The Turkish chef blends his cuisine with the traditional Iranian recipes leading to a menu full of delicious dishes.
The meal started off with a refreshing doogh beverage. Doogh is a yogurt drink blended with water and sprinkled with dried mint. It is a very popular drink in Iran and is always served with the traditional kabob and rice dish.

We were also served with a basket of bread and a side of spicy tomato sauce. It tasted like a Turkish version of Salsa. The bread was perfect. It was chewy and crispy on the outside. The best I have had in New Orleans. 
For our main entrees, I chose the boneless chicken kabob served with a side of basmati rice, onions, grilled tomatoes, pickled cabbage and yogurt. The serving was just perfect. Not too much and not too little. The chicken kabob was marinated in saffron and was juicy and tender. The basmati rice was just as it should be: cooked perfectly so that it was not too soft and not too hard. The pickled cabbage and sliced onions were a great touch to the meal. 
 

The next entree was the Koobideh kabob. Koobideh is your Iranian version of a hamburger but while a hamburger is served on a bun the koobideh is served with rice. The koobideh was also tender and juicy and not overcooked. Always sprinkle your kabobs with a Persian spice called sumagh. It adds flavor and helps break up the fat. 

Overall, if you are hungry and want a perfect and delicious meal then you should definitely try the Courtyard Grill. The owners are wonderful people and the service is great. You can’t go wrong with any of your choices since all are delicious and fresh. 
Courtyard Grill on Urbanspoon
Continue Reading

Recipe: Khoresh Kangar and Karafs (Artichoke and Celery Stew)

I discovered this wonderful creative dish through one of my favourite bloggers: My Persian Kitchen– and so I immediately set out on a quest to make it. This is a combination of one of my favorite Persian stews (Celery Stew) with the addition of artichokes. Now artichokes is not a vegetable (or is it a fruit?) that is found in Iran or anywhere in the middle east so you will not see it used in middle eastern dishes. But given our globalized world its so easy to take original recipes and make them better. That is exactly what My Persian Kitchen has done with this dish.  
It is a pretty easy and simple khoresht to make unless you choose to use fresh artichokes and remove the outer leaves yourself. I chose to use canned artichokes (which are also delicious but obviously not a fresh choice). 
Ingredients
1 lb stewing meat
2 12oz bags of frozen artichoke hearts, fresh artichokes or canned artichokes
1 large onion
1 tsp turmeric
4 cups parsley, packed
2 cups mint, packed
2-3 tbsp brewed saffron
3 tbsp lemon juice
oil
salt & pepper
Mint, Parsley, Canned Artichokes, Celery, Onions, Beef Stew Meat, Turmeric powder
Saute the celery with some olive oil. Separately chop the herbs and saute slightly then add to the celery. [if you are using fresh artichokes, cook separately and add to celery]
In a separate pan, saute onions until golden, add meat and saute until no longer pink, add turmeric and water and cook for 30-45 minutes on medium heat
Once meat is cooked add the celery and herbs and the canned artichokes with a teaspoon of diluted saffron and let simmer for another 30 minutes. If you like a bit of citrusy flavor add a spoon of lime juice or several Persian dried lime (limoo amanee) [although limoo amanee must be added earlier in the process to allow the flavors to mix
Enjoy with a side of Basmati.
Continue Reading

Khoreshteh Bademjan (Iranian Eggplant Stew)

This is my personal favorite. And I assure you it will quickly become yours. In my opinion there is nothing more delicious than eggplant dishes.  


Ingredients:

2-3 pounds of lamb or lamb shanks with bones (alternatives are chicken or beef or vegetarian)
– it is however most delicious with lamb shanks
1-2 large eggplants
1-2 tomatoes
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 large onion
2 tablespoons salt
2-3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup water
4 tablespoons powdered Persian dry lime (limoo amanee) or 4 tablespoons lemon juice
1 pinch of cinnamon (optional)

Instructions: 

1. Peel the eggplants, cut into 2 by 4 inches. Sprinkle with salt and set aside for about an hour or longer to let the eggplants ‘perspire’. This takes the water out of the eggplant and in return the eggplant will have less of a sponge effect when frying. 
2. Cut your meat into small pieces. If you use lamb shanks leave whole. 
3. Chop onions into small pieces and fry with olive oil until golden yellow. 
4. Add meat to the onions and fry just until the meat and brown. Once the meat is brown on the outside add 1/4 of water and tomato paste (diluted in hot water), Persian dried key lime, salt and pepper to taste. 
Note: you can also add whole tomatoes at this point in addition to the tomato paste. 
5. Cover and simmer over medium heat for 1.5 hours or less depending on meat used. 

Meanwhile the eggplants will be wet. I usually wash them to get rid of the salt and dry with paper towels. 

1. Saute the eggplants in olive oil (or oil of choice) OR for a healthier version bake. 
Note: The traditional version of this dish requires you to fry the eggplants. Eggplants soak in a lot of oil and therefore can require a lot of oil to cook. As a healthier alternative I like to  rub eggplant pieces with olive oil and bake them in the oven. However, I have to admit that the original version made my my mom and grandma with heavily soaked eggplants is WAY more delicious. So I recommend you try  the original version before the healthy version to soak in the true taste of this dish.
2. Once the eggplants are ready (golden brown on both sides) drain on paper towels. Arrange carefully on top of the stewed lamb and simmer for 15 minutes. Be careful not to break the slices. Do not attempt to mix the stew at this point as the eggplant will be delicate and will rupture. 




Continue Reading

Darchin Persian Restaurant (Vancouver, Canada)

With the large Persian community in Vancouver, you would think there would be more Iranian restaurants around town. However, over the years, many have opened up and closed down shortly after.  It seems people are not as open to trying Iranian food as they are japanese food or greek (which by the way is very similar in flavor and dishes to Iranian food) and the local iranian community not as supportive of each other’s businesses then one would hope.  I really hope that this one lasts. 

Darchin is a relatively new Iranian restaurant located in downtown Vancouver. The restaurant is new, clean and very spacious. The server we had was very attentive and nice. The food was mouth watering and was served in a beautiful matter. For example, the basmati rice served in a pyramid with the top covered in saffron. The kabobs were good quality meat (except for the chenjeh which I was not too fond of). 


Must tries are the kashkeh badenjaan, mirza ghasemi and the shirazi salad. The kabobs were all delicious but my favourite was the joojeh (chicken) kabob.(see menu)   

Kashk Badenjaan
Mirza Ghasemi served with Sangaak bread
Chenjeh  kabob
Koobideh (ground beef) and Joojeh (chicken) kabob served with basmati rice and grilled tomatoes
Zereshk Polo served with Chicken





Darchin is located at: 801 Pacific St, Vancouver, BC, Tel: (604) 632-1717

Darchin on Urbanspoon
Continue Reading