Potatoes are fried in a buttery saffron mixture that help form a beautifully golden crust when this fragrant rice dish is turned out onto a platter.
Basmati rice is one of my absolute favorite ingredients. It’s so beautifully fragrant and makes a perfect addition to so many different types of meals and cuisines. I’ve been using RiceSelect Texmati rice (an American grown basmati) for years. The containers are the perfect size for my tiny kitchen’s limited cabinet space, and I love repurposing the containers for other ingredients and storage after I’m done with them.
For this particular rice dish, I mixed in dried dill canned lima beans. It brings me right back to my childhood – this was one of my father’s specialties. And trust me – this dish can convert even the most adamant lima bean haters into fans.
The last time my father visited the U.S. from Iran, I made sure to get a crash course on rice cooking so I could share it here (and, more importantly, recreate it at home on the regular).
There are a few Persian rice cooking techniques will help you really up your rice game. First off, you need to rinse and soak the rice. This removes the excess starch, making it nice and fluffy.
I like to put my rice in a big bowl, run cold water on it and stir it around with my hands a bit, pour off the water, and repeat another time or 2. Cover the rice by 2 inches with cold water and a bit of salt and let it soak for at least 45 minutes.
Another thing that’s different about cooking rice Persian-style is that you parboil the rice, drain it, add any mix-ins and then steam it with no additional liquid.
It’s very different from the way I normally cook rice, and it comes out so incredibly tender. The grains don’t stick together at all.
One of the ways that Persians fancy up their rice is to make a crust (called Tahdig) on the bottom of the rice, which becomes the top once the rice is cooked and inverted onto a serving platter.
You can do this by adding oil and butter to the pan while the parboiled rice drains. And by all means, feel free to just use oil or a nondairy butter if you want to keep this dish vegan.
If you have a nonstick pot, that works particularly well in this recipe because you don’t have to worry about the crust sticking to the pan. My family likes adding slices of potato that are fried in the butter/oil/saffron mixture.
My father brought me some saffron from Iran that I’ve been using (and wow is it more fragrant than any I’ve bought here in the states!), but use the best that you can get your hands on. You can omit the saffron if you need to, but it really does add a beautiful dimension to the rice. I just love how the color stains the rice, too.
Once your rice is parboiled and your potatoes are brown on one side, flip ’em, pour the rice on top, smooth it out and press down a bit. Then, using the back of a wooden spoon, poke a few vent holes in the rice. Just gently jiggle the handle to get down to the bottom of the pot. This helps the rice steam evenly in its final stage of cooking.
I have one final trick to share for this rice. My father always places a double layer of paper towels between the pot and the lid. The rice cooks on a higher heat for a few minutes then drops down to low until the paper towel starts getting wet.
That, apparently, is the way to know that it’s ready. Not scientific at all, but it works like a charm. You’ll see moisture collecting and starting to spread on the paper towel around the edges of the lid. It only takes a few minutes, and then you’re ready to turn out that gorgeous tahdig!
I served this dish as part of a big Persian feast when one of my friends was over for the day. She was majorly impressed, especially watching my super careful rice flip onto the platter. And it totally converted her to a lima bean lover! Score!
What’s your favorite way to use basmati rice? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!
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