Being of Persian descent there are certain Persian dishes that I often crave and this one is by far my favourite: Zereshk Polo ba Morgh (Rice W/Barberry & Saffron Chicken). Growing up I took my moms’ cooking for granted and never really realized how much time and effort goes into making Persian dishes.
Living on my own and without home cooked Persian meals is a terribly lonely life and so I’ve decided I am going to have to do it on my own (as painful as it might be). There are a ton of Persian restaurants in Vancouver but as most Persian people will tell you; they just don’t make it like we do at home.
The main difference between Persian food in restaurants vs. at home is (in my opinion); Saffron.
Saffron is one of the most expensive (if not the most expensive) spice in the world! It’s also extremely hard to obtain so it’s very very pricey (it’s the same price as gold per gram). Often restaurants can’t afford to use much saffron in their dishes so they opt out for food colouring (Booo!!) and if they do use it, I personally don’t think they use enough of it.
Anyways, what I am trying to say is that saffron is kind of a big deal! In my culture we even gift it to each other, that’s how much we value it! and I love to overuse it because it just makes everything so much better.
Perhaps, you’d like to join me on my journey? I am not well skilled so really if I can do it- You can too!!
Here is what you are gonna need for my simple and revised version of this aromatic and delicious dish:
- Basmati rice (this rice is used especially for Persian dishes).
- Olive oil
- Lemon juice
Before we start, you should know that there are a ton of different variations on how to make Zeresh Polo and mine is a much more simplified one than most. Expert Persian moms and grandmothers will likely add more spices and flavours to this dish but honestly I was a tad bit limited with what I already had. I will say this though; can’t make Zereshk Polo without: saffron, barberry, and basmati rice, so make sure you have at least those three!!
- Take 2 cups of basmati rice (for a serving of 4) and soak in a bowl with warm water and 1 table spoon of salt for 2 hours.
- Once your rice is nicely soaked, prepare a big pot of boiling water and add the rice to the pot.
- When your rice is half way cooked, drain in strainer (this is really important because it prevents the rice from becoming sticky).
- Add oil to the bottom of your rice pot.
- Take a teaspoon of saffron and mix it with one 1 cup of hot boiling water. Stir the saffron in hot water until it’s dissolved.
- Take about 1/4 of your saffron water and add it to the bottom of your rice pot (which you have already added oil at the bottom of in step Four). Mix the saffron water in with the oil.
- Semi-thinly slice potatoes and place them at the bottom of your pot. (the potatoes will also help cook the rice better).
- Take the rice from the drainer and place it back into the pot on top of the potatoes.
- Once you’ve placed the rice back into the pot take a wooden spatuala and use the end of it to poke holes in to the rice pile so that it can air out while cooking, I would say about 5-8 small holes.
- Wrap the lid of your rice pot in cloth and ensure the cloth is secure on the lid, then place it on top of the pot (this really creates the best result for the rice). Put the heat on low and cook for about 40 minutes.
- While your rice is cooking, take half a cup of Barberry and soak it in water. At this time you want to also pick away any bad pieces of barberry you find in the mix. look through carefully.
- In a small pan add olive oil and butter, wait until pan is hot enough for the butter to melt (low-medium temperature).
- Place the washed barberry into the pan for about a minute and then add 1.5 table spoons of sugar.
- Mix the sugar well with with barberry and after about 5 minutes you should do a taste test of the barberry. (if you like the texture and level of sweetness, take it off the stove immediately. (barberry tends to burn quickly so it’s important not to over cook it.
- Once your rice is cooked, you can also enjoy the crispy saffron potatoes at the bottom of the pot! they are to die for!
Rice, Barberry & Saffron
- Once your rice is cooked and your barberry is ready, take some of the white rice and place it into a small bowl.
- Reheat the remainder of your diluted saffron water (you should have about 2/4 ths of a cup left over).
- Once diluted saffron water is reheated, pour &mix it into your small bowl of rice.
- Finally add your cooked barberry into the small bowl of rice and mix (this will serve as the topper onto the white rice).
- wash and clean your chicken thighs with WATER (for best result purchase organic thighs).(Side Note: the first time I attempted to make chicken off a cooking book, I wasn’t sure what “wash the chicken” really meant so I started to literally washing my raw chicken with soap and water. My mom walked in on a sink full of bubbles and me rubbing the chicken with soap! she was just shocked and said; “what on earth are you doing?”… ahhh you live an you learn…right?)
- Place them in glass container (oven friendly) and add 2-3 table spoons of olive oil
- Chop onion (1 large) and garlic then add it to the container
- Add one table spoon of lemon juice.
- Add salt, pepper, and tumeric (approx. 1 teaspoon each) then mix
- Finally take another 1/4 of your cup of diluted saffron water and pour on top of chicken.
- Wrap the top of your container with aluminum foil.
- Place in over for one hour (at 350 Degrees)
- After and hour, let the chicken sit for 15 minutes before serving on top of rice (add a few spoons of that amazing water on top and your chicken should be soft and juicy).
And there you have it folks! Barberry rice with saffron, Crispy potatoes and juicy saffron chicken served for the most delicious dinner!
If my instructions were not that clear checkout this video as well: