This is a magnificent rice dish which comes from Persia or as it’s called these days Iran.
This country has an amazing history of food and influences of these foods are seen in the cuisines of the Indian subcontinent and the Ottoman empire. The pulao and the biryanis have originated here or in the Ottoman empire and travelled with the many invaders to the sub continent.
There might have been rice which went there and saffron which came back who knows what happened with the old trading routes invaders and all of that. What we do know is we have some amazing food that we can use today.
I learnt to make this when post gulf war two our hotel in Dubai was running empty and restaurants were suffering. Our director ops got the bright idea to sublet our banquet rooms to an Iranian restauranteur / caterer to whom we had to to assist with the food production in our banquet kitchen .
They came or rather the one chef they sent came with their pots and A charcoal bbq which was quite amazing. Had a shallow pit and an electric blower to help light the fire faster .When they left we arranged for this to get hidden so we got the proverbial fell off the back of the truck amazing bbq. I also got the design to custom make two BBQs which 15-16 years later are still in use in my hotel then.
I used this recipe also for the 1st curry cup competition at the Nz culinary fare. The judges had never seen zereskh berries before and we’re blown away. My students Simaranjit Singh and Shamika Ratnayake Palliyage went on to win the inaugural cup , gold medals and best in category award..much joy and happiness. Boom boom bang..fast fwd to recipe before you fall asleep.
- Basmati rice get the good quality one- 200 gm/ 1 cup. Wash with room temperature water till it’s clear this gets rid of the excess starch because the rice when cooked should be individual grains.
- saffron -1/4 of a gram.or a bit less.. toast this in the microwave for 20 seconds ..this makes it easy to get the maximum colour and flavour out. Then add in a few spoons of warm water and cover and keep for atleast 15-20 mins
- Zereskh berries – a good spoonful 2- gms or so.. if you can’t get these you cannot really use cranberries because they taste so different..it’s like using pears for apple pie because it’s a pip fruit. U can buy them dry from a persian shop but keep them on the fridge they get brown and yucky otherwise
- Oil and butter 20-30 gms together ..can go a bit higher too..
Heat water in a heavy bottom pot and add some salt to it and 1 bayleaf and 2-3 cardamom.
while it’s boiling soak the zereskh/ barberries with some clarified butter and some warm water.just to rehydrate them.
When water has boiled add in the rice and cook till 80 %done and drain it. Then in that same pot add some of the oil butter mix and pour the rice over it.. the traditional way they put the saffron and berries underneath but sometimes that kills the delicate saffron or zafran as it’s called . This slow cooking of the base forms a cripsy rice cracker like crust called “Tahdig,”.so In my way we put the saffron on the top of the rice and the berries right in the end .pop a lid on and low heat ,6-8 mins ..et voila..