I believe I have a rice curse. A Persian rice curse to be exact. My Iranian aunt has shown me a thousand times how to make it, but I never seem to be able to make it correctly 😦
The method consists in rinsing the rice a couple of times, then soaking it overnight in heavily salted water, then rinsing it again before cooking. Sounds fairly do-able, right? Except that rice is more fragile than it looks and, whenever I tried this process, I found myself with a gloopy, burnt mess.
I had intended on sharing this recipe back in March, for Nowruz, the Persian New Year, but obviously my rice curse didn’t allow me to do so.
Consequently, I devised a plan to work around. I’m glad I got the result I was looking for, and I hope anyone of Persian origin will forgive me for not sticking to the original recipe.
I admit the recipe may seem a bit long and daunting to prepare, but with a little planning, it’s ready in just 40 minutes. Less if you prepare the sour cherries and meatballs ahead.
- 350g / 12.3 oz. / 2 cups frozen, stoned sour cherries
- 150g / 5.3 oz. / ⅔ cup sugar
- 1 chicken cut into 4, or 4 chicken thighs
- 3 tbsp butter or olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 200g / 7 oz. minced meat (lamb, veal or beef)
For the rice:
- 1 good pinch ground saffron
- 2 tbsp boiling water
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 180g / 6.3 oz. / 1 cup basmati rice
- ½ tsp salt
- 500ml / 2 cups boiling water
- 1 tbsp toasted slithered almonds, to serve (optional)
Allow the sour cherries to thaw in a small pan. Once thawed, add the sugar and simmer over low heat for about 40 minutes.
In a small bowl, combine the saffron and 2 tbsp boiling water. Let it steep in the water for at least 30 minutes.
In a frying pan, heat 1 tbsp butter or oil, and sauté the chicken and half the onion, until cooked through. Set aside.
In a bowl, combine the minced meat, the rest of the onion, salt and pepper. Mix well, then form small balls, the size of a large hazelnut. Heat the remaining butter or butter in the frying pan and fry the meatballs. Set aside.
In a shallow pan, heat the olive oil. Stir in the rice and salt and stir gently until the rice is coated with oil and glistening.
Add the boiling water and stir briefly.
Turn heat to the lowest setting, put a lid on the pan and simmer for 20 minutes.
Do NOT lift the lid or disturb the rice for the entire time.
After 20 minutes, remove pan from heat, remove lid, and pour the saffron infusion into 3 points in the rice. Place a clean tea towel over the rice and replace the lid.
Let stand for 10 minutes.
When ready to serve, fluff the rice gently with a fork. Mix with sour cherries and meatballs, and top with the chicken.
Decorate with toasted slithered almonds, if you wish.