Barberries mixed rice (Zereshk Polow)

This is one of the easiest yet among the most colorful and appetizing Persian foods which usually finds its way in to big formal parties and gatherings. The two main ingredients – barberries and saffron are relatively expensive, therefore the food is considered prestigious, if simple in making.

Ingredients (serving 4-5): Rice (ideally, any type of Basmati), 3 cups. Barberries, 1 ½ cups.  Sugar, 2 tbsp.  Saffron powder, 2 teaspoons.  Salt, 2 tbsp. (this is for soaking the rice). Cooking oil and water.

Start with picking over barberries. Sometime you need to be extra careful with solid particles of grit.  Place the barberries in a small colander and soak it in a bowl of cold water  for an hour.  Change the water and repeat the process if necessary. Rinse thoroughly and drain.

Make your rice, as you would with plain rice – by soaking it in advance in salted water for at least a few hours in advance, semi-cook it in boiled water and steam-cook it for an hour. See here for the full instruction.  Ten minutes before serving the rice, start frying your barberries. Place two tbsp. of cooking oil in a saucepan over low heat.  Add barberries and sautés for about five minutes then add sugar and saffron powder and mix well and continue frying on low heat for another minute or so. Take the pan off the heat.    Note: Barberries are sour and zereshk-polow is supposed to be sour-sweet. Obviously, some people like it sourer than the others. The measurements I just gave you tilts on the sweet side, so you could play around it if you wish.

To mix: With a large scoop, take some rice off the top of your rice mound and in a plate mix it with half of the barberries.  Serve the remaining rice on your main serving platter, while carefully mixing it with the rest of the barberries.  Remove your tahdig and set it aside, if have succeeded in making any. Scoop back the portion of rice-barberries mix you had set aside on the top of your platter. The idea here is to have enough room to mix everything and also to top the platter with richer and higher quality (top portion) rice.

The accompanying meat with this mixed rice is always chicken – usually, but not always, semi fried, and steamed or oven-baked, with onion, salt, pepper, lime juice and a touch of saffron. Here is the recipe.

Look out for a short and sweet video clip I have made on three stages of preparing zereshk:  soaking, rinsing, and  frying :  coming up shortly!

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