SHIRIN POLO SWEET RICE STUDDED WITH ORANGE PEEL, JULIENNE CARROTS AND NUTS
This is the mother of all Iranian rice dishes, created around the 16th century under the reign of Shah Abbas. A similar dish – jewelled rice – was served at weddings and on special occasions in ancient times, when real gems such as rubies and emeralds would be used to decorate it.
Serve with Khorakeh Morgh (chicken stew) or Ariana’s Rose water Scented Fish
800g (1lb 10oz) 4 cups rice
Peel of 2 large oranges, or 150g (5oz) 1. cups ready-prepared peel
10 medium-sized carrots, cut into julienne strips
50g (2oz) butter
250g (8oz) 1 cup sugar
50ml (2fl oz) 1/4 cup rose water
1 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
For the taadig:
50–75g (2–3oz) 1⁄3 cup melted butter, ghee or safflower oil, plus 1 tbsp extra for topping
1 1/2 tbsp natural yogurt (optional)
1/4 tsp saffron threads, pounded
1 generous tbsp slivered almonds
1 generous tbsp slivered pistachios
Prepare the rice according to the method for Polo Ba Taadig up to draining and cooling. Place the fresh or ready-prepared orange peel in a pan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and boil for about 2–3 minutes, then discard the water. Do this 3 times to remove the bitterness. Put 500ml (17fl oz) 2 cups water in a pan and add the orange peel, carrots, butter and sugar. Bring to the boil and boil for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the rose water, then set aside.
Add the melted butter, ghee or oil to a heavy non-stick pan and heat briskly with 75ml (3fl oz) 1⁄3 cup water, the yogurt, saffron and 2–3 ladles of rice. Stir well and spread the mixture over the base of the pan and start layering the rice and carrot mixture on top. Start with a layer of rice. Then add a layer of the carrot and orange peel mixture, and sprinkle with 1 tsp cinnamon. Repeat the layers, making the rice into a pyramid shape. Cook the pyramid of rice following the Polo Ba Taadig recipe again.
Now, in order for the almonds ‘not to be too tough on the teeth’ as the Iranians say, you can steam them on top of the rice. Add them about 5–7 minutes before you’re about to take the rice off the heat. If you prefer, put them in a little china ramekin and place it directly on the mound of rice. Pistachios don’t need this treatment as they have a more delicate texture and are best when they are a little crunchy. Serve the rice on a platter with Khorakeh Morgh and scattered with the almonds and pistachios.