steamed eggplant and brown rice flavored with saffron & cumin

by the time i was a teenager, i had truly discovered the power of food (as in started to really appreciate eating it), and one of my favorite dishes was “bademjan polow” or eggplant-rice made by ali agha-who was an incredible cook and the kindest and dearest old man you can imagine. ali agha cooked for my friends family, and whenever i visited (which was quite often), he would shout up from the kitchen and ask us what we wanted to eat for lunch or dinner: “lalah khanoom! mina khanoom! chi mikhain bekhoreen?” he would ask* until we finally lowered the music and responded to his call (teenagers)! i remember almost always asking for bademjan polow, but getting it only once in a while when he had the ingredients and patience necessary to make it. otherwise, he often suggested hamburgers, which he called “hamboorgerd (this always made us laugh because “gerd” means “round” in farsi). today i made a  meat-less version of bademjan polow with brown rice (instead of basmati) and much less oil. the resulting dish had a different texture than the original, but tasted almost the same. i smiled thinking of ali agha and what he would have thought of it-i bet he would have laughed at me for changing up a real good thing! the original dish is essentially khoresh-e-bademjan, cut in smaller chunks, then layered and steamed with basmati rice. if you decide to try it, cut the beef and eggplants in smaller  pieces and omit the sour grapes, then layer it with par boiled basmati rice following the same general directions as this recipe for  loobia polow. otherwise, try this lighter and easier {vegetarian} version:
(ms. lalah! ms. mina! what do you want to eat?)

ingredients for 4 servings:

  • 1 large eggplant, cut in small cubes with the skin on (or 3-4 italian eggplants)
  • 1/4 cup finely cubed onion
  • 2 cups brown rice (makes about 4 cups cooked to just tender, still chewy~do not over cook)
  • 3 tbs vegetable oil (olive, safflower, or grapeseed)
  • 2 medium tomatoes, cubed (or 1/2 cup good quality stewed tomatoes)
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 small tsp ground saffron (or 2-3 strands seeped in a few drops of hot water)
  • 1 tsp toasted cumin seeds (only if you like cumin)
  • sea salt (to taste)
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional for spicy)

1. in a deep skillet heat 2 tbs oil and add the cubed onions and eggplants, allow them to cook on med/low heat while stirring often. as the eggplants soften (about 5 minutes), add the salt and turmeric and continue carefully stirring. allow the mixture to cook (or fry) more until the eggplants are fully cooked (about 10-12 minutes total). add the tomatoes, stir them in, and turn off the heat. sprinkle with saffron and stir the mixture one more time. taste and adjust the salt.

2. pour 1 tbs oil in a small deep nonstick pot, then add a layer of lightly cooked brown rice, topped by a few spoonfuls of the eggplant mixture, and a sprinkle of cumin. repeat this process creating a “dome” of layers ending with a thin layer of rice on the very top. add a touch more saffron, cumin, and rose petals (gol-e-sorkh-if you like them). see picture of the “dome” above. i don’t add water because the tomatoes typically add enough moisture for steaming-if you feel it’s necessary, add a few drops of water over the top.
3. cover the pot firmly with a lid and start steaming on high for just 5 minutes before reducing the heat to med/low and steaming for another 30 minutes. you should have a nice crusty tah-deeg (or crsipy rice) at the bottom of the pot, if not, turn up the heat for just a few minutes (keep an eye on it) prior to serving. sprinkle with red pepper flakes after serving (if you are using it).

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One thought on “steamed eggplant and brown rice flavored with saffron & cumin

  1. Pingback: did you say veg·e·tar·i·an? a simple {green} dinner for a gathering of friends: curried vegetable rice & fire roasted eggplant salad | Cooking Minette

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