Fresh sour cherries are really hard to find in my city Montreal. This year however I was lucky enough to get my hands on a sour cherry farm in the suburb and hand pick them for one of my favorite Persian dishes of all times: albaloo polow, آلبالو پلو a beautiful summary rice mixed with tasty meatballs, sweetened sour cherries and topped with silvered pistachio and almond.
In my old hometown, Shiraz, my family used to buy loads of fresh cherries each summer to make jams, drinks, fruit rolls, dried fruits and of course many meals of sour cherries mix rice. Here is how this delicious dish is made:
Ingredients (serves 4-5)
- 700 gr. Fresh sour cherries washed and pitted.
- 400 gr. ground beef
- 1 medium onion, grated
- 200 gr. raw sugar
- 4 cups Basmati rice
- ¼ teaspoon saffron powder mixed with 2 tbsp. lukewarm water
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric
- Salt, black pepper, oil as required
- Silvered pistachio and almond, 1 tbsp. each (for garnish)
Wash the rice a few times and soak with 2 tbsp. salt for at least 4 hours
In a medium pot, mix pitted sour cherries with sugar. Place on medium heat till it comes to a soft boil. Turn the heat to minimum and cook for 30 minutes. Pass the contents through a colander. For the rice you would only need the cherries. But you could use the juice for Sharbat drink. (All you need to do is let the juice cool before bottling it and placing it in a fridge. Then mix it with water and ice and enjoy on hot summer days)
Mix the grated onion with ground meat, turmeric, salt and pepper. Use your hand and fingers (not a blender) to massage and mix them very well and make it into a large bowl. Take small portions off the large ball and make small balls. In a frying pan heat 1 tbsp. oil and fry the small meat balls till brownish. Put the frying pan aside.
Bring about three liters of water to a rolling boil in a big pot. Pour off the slated water from the top of your rice bowl and add the rice to the boiling water. Let the rice boil till it is tender under the bite. Drain in a fine-meshed colander. Wash the starch off the pot and put it back on the stove. Once it is completely dry, add 2 tbsp. oil then place either slices of potatoes, pieces of flat bread or simply a layer of rice. Add meatballs, cooked sour cherries, and white rice in layers, finishing with a layer of rice. With a spatula push the rice away from the sides of the pot scraping it up into a mound. Make three holes in the center of the mound. Turn the heat to minimum, close the lid and wait a few minutes to make sure you have lots of steam inside the pot. Now cover the lid in a paper towel and steam-cook for 45 minutes.
To serve, transfer a few tbsp. of rice from the top of the pot to a plate and mix it with the saffron liquid. Using the tip of the spatula gently mix small portions of the pot’s content and transfer to the serving dish. Top with the saffron mixed rice and slivered pistachio and almonds.
Tahchin تهچین is a traditional Persian dish which is very unique in its taste and texture – a dense dish flavored with yogurt, saffron and thick yogurt and typically layered with chicken chunks. The delicious thick golden rice crust (tahdig) formed at the bottom and around the cooked tahchin is its shining feature.
An original tahchin is stem-cooked in a pot (a non-stick one in this case) over gas or electric stove just like any other Persian mix rice; however since the amount of liquid in the rice makes its cooking behaviour a bit different and complicated, a lot of recipes advise you to “bake” the dish instead using Pyrex dishes in the oven. Well, I never went with baking style and after many years of trying and failing the traditional pot style, last summer I finally succeeded in getting it right – thanks to my beloved auntie visiting form my old hometown Shiraz. Read the rest of this entry »
Yalda, the Persian celebration of winter solstice, is around the corner. Hence the occasion for a special food blog entry – something representing red and orange colors of Yalda, something made with passion, and maybe pomegranate, to serve along with sweet-nuts mix, watermelon and persimmon as we get together with friends and family to bring to dawn the longest night of the year – the night before the beginning of winter, or the Yalda night.
For most Iranians, smoked white fish resonates with the Persian new year, Norooz, especially when it is prepared long with mixed herb rice. And of course, as an Iranian food blogger I have already posted the full recipe for this delicious Norooz related meal right here.
However, first off, in the mentioned blog entry I did not devote enough attention to preparing smoked fish component of the meal. Secondly, I absolutely feel the need to share with you my new discovery: Smoked fish can be found in most supermarkets in my city (and am pretty sure in many others) ALL YEAR Long!! So, why wait till the New Year? Why have it only once a year? In fact, the type of smoked fish I find here is quite moderate in terms of taste intensity (not too salty, not too smoky) and can be served on its own along with either plain white or herb mixed rice. Read the rest of this entry »
From the sunset in the last day of autumn (Dec 20th) till sunrise in the first day of winter (Dec 21st) we have practically the longest night of the year in the northern hemisphere. And from then on, very gradually, days get longer until we hit the summer solstice six months later
Iranians mark “the longest and darkest night of the year” as Yalda, and have special rituals for it as they often do with other major celestial moments, namely Norooz, Persian New year on Spring Equinox and Mehregan, Persian Thanksgiving Festival around Fall Equinox
An end-of-summer favorite, sour cherries mixed rice is among the long list of Iranian polow — that is, plain rice layered with cooked or fried grains and herbs, vegetables, prunes or fruits. Sour cherries rice tastes- well, obviously, sweet-sour, it is dark-red in color, and is often served in large gathering either along with fried chicken on the side or with meat balls in the dish. Most importantly, just around this time of the year in Iran, an authentic albaloo polow is made with fresh, hand-pitted and home-processed sour-cherries.
Having been deprived of fresh sour cherries here in Montreal, I had been only dreaming about the good old days albaloo polow for the past couple of decades. I did embark on making this delicious dish with frozen and canned sour cherries more than once, but failed miserably each time, for the mix turned too mushy for the cherries to be even recognizable in the platter. Read the rest of this entry »
Once in a while I try at home one of those fragrant and tasty types of rice that one usually indulges in Indian restaurants along with tandoori chicken or barbecued ribs. Of course I am used to preparing rice Iranian style, whether it is plain or mixed, which I maintain is unbeatable!
Meanwhile, the kinds of spices found in Indian cuisine are rarely or never used in Persian rice and for that reason alone the taste and experience is quite exciting. Here is my favorite Indian rice – with fried onions, clove, cumin & cinnamon. I initially came across this recipe in All recipes.com and modified it a little bit. Read the rest of this entry »
Loobia Polow is another of popular mixed rice, typically made with cut green beans and diced meat (often beat or lamb, and less frequently with chicken breast).
Developing a dislike for meat family over the past years, I have been trying to skip or replace the meat component of Persian foods – with much success, I must boast! As for the dish at hand, I have replaced meat with potatoes which makes it quite similar to another Persian dish called estamboli polow. This version is much faster to prepare and just as delicious in my opinion. Please read through, as I will be explaining, for the first time in this blog, a simple method of preparing rice which is half way between two methods of preparing rice Iranian style: soaked & drained (saaf kardeh) and not drained (kateh).
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. Read the rest of this entry »
Ingredients (for 2-3):
- Defrosted or fresh half-cooked shrimp, 450 gr. ( I recommend “Marbel”).
- Onion, 2 small to medium, thinly sliced.
- Dried seedless raisin, rinsed, ½ cup.
- Dried walnuts, rinsed and chopped, ½ cup. (If you have time, it is a good idea to soak walnuts, change the water a few times before using them for this or any other recipe)
- Olive oil: 4 tbsp.
- Turmeric, 1 tea spoon.
- Saffron, ground, 1/2 teaspoon (soaked in 1 tbsp. of warm water for an hour).
- Salt and pepper as needed.
- And of course rice: 2 or 3 cups, depending how rich you want the mix to be. What you see in this picture is made with 2 cups of rice.
Method: remove the entire shelf and devein the shrimp. Wash and drain, then cut them all in half or smaller. In a frying pan, heat 2 tbsp. oil and fry onions over medium heat till translucent. Add shrimp, turmeric, salt and pepper and fry for about five minutes over high heat. Once the shrimp is slightly golden, turn the heat back to medium and add walnuts, raisins and diluted saffron. Continue stirring and frying for another 1-2 minutes, but not longer. Set aside.
Prepare the rice in usual way (soaked in salted water, drained, boiled in lots of water, drained, and steamed cooked for at least one hour). Just before mounting the rice back into the pot (after you have poured some oil in the bottom of the pot, warmed it up, and put sliced potatoes, flat bread or rice at the bottom to make your “tah dig”), mix the rice with the contents of your frying pan. As is always the case with any type of Iranian style plain or mixed rice, you cover the lead and turn the heat to minimum till you get enough steam accumulated inside the pot. That’s when you wrap the lid in a clean cloth and let it steam cook for at least an hour. You could also transfer rice and the frying pan’s contents into the pot in layers: one layer of drained, plain rice and one layer of shrimp mix, and repeat till the end. If you choose to transfer them back to the pot in layers, you would need to mix the two more thoroughly once the dish is ready to be served.
Variation: You can skip dried raisins, walnuts and saffron, and use potato, and dried lime powder instead. This latter version is the one I learned from my parents who were brought up in Iran’s Southern cities of Bushehr and Shiraz. This Method is not that different from the first one, but the taste certainly is: more seafood like, if you will. Here it is:
- Shrimp, onion, turmeric, oil, salt and pepper the same as above.
- Plus: Potatoes, 1 medium, peeled, rinsed, patted dry and cut in small cubes.
- Dried lime powder, 1 tbsp.
Method: In a frying pan, heat half your oil and fry cubed potatoes until slightly golden. Transfer them into a bowl. Use the same pan and heat the rest of your oil. Add shrimp, turmeric and fry on high heat for a few minutes until shrimps change colour. Stir constantly. Add fried potatoes, dried lime powder, salt and pepper and fry for 5-6 minutes on medium heat until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed. This is your shrimp mix. Follow the exact same rest of the instruction given above.