It’s rice time! Erfan from Shiraz Persian Restaurant in Surfers Paradise teaches us how to make a classic Persian dish, Zereshk Polo.
I was asked to do a simple recipe for Silver Magazine, but being a Persian, I can’t! All ingredients came from our Persian Store at Shiraz. So next time you are in for a meal, grab the ingredients from our food store!
This is a very popular Iranian dish, both at restaurants and home. This dish can be made in various ways. But this way is how I like it.
Prep time: 10-15 mins
Cooking time: 45 mins–1 hour
-Carrots, grated or finely julienned
-Chicken thighs or breast
-Takdaneh Tomato Paste
-2 celery sticks (optional)
-Turmeric, cinnamon, salt, and pepper.
Finely dice the onions. Garlic is optional (Persians hate the smell of chicken, so we use garlic and onion or whatever we can make that smell go away). Put in the oil and cook the onions until they soften and go brown, then add one teaspoon of turmeric. Put a heavily-stacked tablespoon of tomato paste on the side of the pan, and cook on a medium-low heat. Use the Iranian tomato paste, it has a much more intense flavour than the paste you find here in supermarkets. We use the Takdaneh brand in all of our dishes at the restaurant. It is an excellent product.
Once it is slightly heated, add the carrot, and some boiling water, and stir together everything in the pan. Cook for another five minutes or so. Add two teaspoons of salt and one teaspoon of pepper.
Then, add the chicken on top. Close the lid and let it all cook for ten to fifteen minutes. Then, open the lid and turn the chicken over. Add a couple of celery sticks for flavour. You can put them aside before serving the dish.
While that is simmering away, you can prepare the saffron water. We use premium Iranian saffron in the restaurant. Everyone knows how expensive saffron is, so here’s a tip on how to get the most out of it: Don’t just take it out and throw it in the food. You have to grind it in a herb grinder to get the most flavour from it. After grinding, store it in a jar that you never use for anything else, and never wash it! Keep it in the fridge. It’s just too expensive to waste!
There are two ways to dissolve saffron. The first is to mix it with hot water. The other way is to throw it on ice, which makes the colour way more vibrant. What I do is melt it in ice, then put it in a clear pumppack dispenser. It’s always ready to go for that night. For this dish you just need the tip of a teaspoon worth of ground saffron.
You also need to prepare the rice. The best brand in my opinion is Woolworths brand basmati rice. It’s actually a very good rice!
Iranians always soak the rice overnight because we believe if there is any residue, or anything that’s inside the rice, it will come out at this stage. I wash the rice three times with warm water. The fourth time I add a little bit of cold water, and a bit of salt. One cup of rice serves about two people. For every cup of rice, add 1.5 cups of water.
Grab one full tablespoon of barberries. Soak for a few minutes in water to soften them, and to get off any residual particles.
About 10 to 15 minutes before your chicken is ready, put your rice in a pan and add water. Put a lid on it and put it in the oven on medium heat. Let it boil and the water will evaporate. Once you see the water has almost evaporated, turn the heat down low and let the bottom of the rice get crispy. We call it tahdig – the bottom of the pot. Then add a little saffron to the rice.
Back to the chicken. Once fully cooked, turned the heat off and then add one tablespoon of rosewater, plus two tablespoons of the saffron water you made previously. Add half a teaspoon of cinnamon, half a lime.
Grab a very small frying pan and add a teaspoon of sheep ghee. You can get it from our store here, it tastes ten times better than anything else available. When it is melted, add the barberries. You don’t want to cook them, just heat them. The barberries are very sour, so it needs to be balanced with sweetness, so add one or two teaspoons of sugar to taste. Also add a teaspoon of saffron water and a touch of rosewater. Then you can mix it in with the rice, or lay it across the top.
Then serve it all up and let the praise of your family and friends wash over you!
All the ingredients for this dish can be bought at the Shiraz Bazaar.
Want to read about more fancy dishes? Click here!
Editor for Silver Magazine Gold Coast