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.
My non Iranian friends may already be familiar with Persian aash, especially from my post on Aash-e reshteh. Nevertheless, I am going to take you through some fun introductory notes on aash in general and aash sabzi Shirazi آش سبزی شیرازی in particular, using experts from e-book, A sip, A bite, A mouthful: A memoir of food & rowing up in Shiraz.
As reluctant as I am to use the term “soup” to describe aash, for fear of undermining its significant position within Iranian cuisine and culture, I nevertheless find a comparison between the two the most efficient way to describe the dish to new appetites. To this end, aash could be said to be an “honorable soup”–rich, thick and laborious to prepare. Depending on the type of aash, it is made of specific varieties of herbs, vegetables, fruits, grains and dairy products; with or without beef or lamb. Read the rest of this entry »
Recently, on a hot humid days in Montreal, I was privileged to entertain a large group of my family with good food, scented shades on the porch, open heart, and most impressive of all, with homemade faloodeh Shirazi (pomegranate faloodeh in this case).
Faloodeh or paloodeh فالوده، پالوده is a refreshing iced dessert, a summer savoury, made of frozen cornstarch, water, sugar and rosewater. Like Salad Shirazi, Faloodeh Shiraz is a speciality of my old hometown Shiraz. The dessert is of course popular nationwide and is almost always made from the scratch in ice-cream stores and sold in small washable or disposable cups. In Shiarz alone faloodeh is enjoyed with few drops of either flower syrup or lime juice sprinkled on it; everywhere else people eat it with or without lime juice. Read the rest of this entry »
Sour orange نارنج also referred to as bitter orange is a variety of citrus tree native of Southeast Asia but widely used in the Middle East, parts of Europe and US. In my hometown Shiraz, almost every house with a backyard used to have a couple of sour orange trees which wore perfumed, white robe of blossoms in the spring and orange robe of fruit in early summer. The blossoms of sour orange, bahaar-e naaranj, were used to make sherbet and jams, or sundried to be mixed with loose, black tea. The fruit itself, too, has many culinary usages including for seasoning.
Here in Montreal, Iranian supermarkets carry sour orange right on time before the official spring season starts. Right on time I said because sour orange has a special spot both on our Norooz table as well as with the herbed-rice and fish that we serve on the first day of the Persian New Year, Norooz. Read the rest of this entry »
At any full and happy Persian sofreh or table, several side dishes should be present to complement the main dish, especially at supper time and most certainly with specific types of meals such as kotlet and any kind of mixed rice dishes. The most crucial and common sides to go with these dishes are small bowls of torshi, assortment of seasonal fresh herbs, radishes and scallions, and Shirazi salad.
Now, Torshi, ترشی, or torsu as it is called in Balkan and Middle Eastern cuisine, is basically diced fruits, vegetables and herbs marinated in vinegar and spices to be eaten with food in small portions as an appetizer and counterbalance to the greasy components of a meal. Read the rest of this entry »
That time of the year again, around spring and Persian New year, Norooz – the perfect time to find the motivation to write, to post, and to cherish and share the wonderful moments where people, plants and beautiful customs come to a renewed life one more time. Below is a selection of pictures taken by my sister, in several Iranian cities, including Shiraz, Yazd, Booshehr, Dargahan and Tehran, during the months of March to April 2016.
What is renown among Iranians everywhere as “salad-e Shirazi” is, in fact, a common and popular green salad everywhere in Iran. It is simply considered more authentic when made by a Shirazi or consumed in Shiraz.
It is refreshing, tasty and goes with almost all types of Iranian dish, especially with mixed-rice verities, such as cabbage-mixed polow.
Ingredients: It only takes three vegetables to make it: 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.
This is yet another Shiraz speciality, although in other Iranian cities we have “aash maast” (yogurt soup) which follow completely different ingredients and cooking methods.
Ingredients (serving 4) Read the rest of this entry »