baghali polow: steamed basmati rice with dill and fava beans served with saffron braised veal

last year my special someone chose steak and fries (with entrecote wannabe sauce) for his birthday dinner. that was a good dinner, and we were all happyhappy afterwards. boy did the year go by in a flash! he just had another birthday, and this time, he chose baghali polow { باقلا پلو } for his special dinner, served with saffron braised veal shanks as a must, no less! i called the butcher right away, and they actually had some beautiful fresh ones available-oh joy! baghali polow is the perfect (special) meal for the spring and early summer months when the ingredients are abundantly available. i’ve already shared a {brown rice} “mock” baghali polow recipe, but this time we’re making the traditional version-the one my grandma used to cook for us often with so much love and care. there’s nothing like the smell of chopped fresh dill (combined with the garlicky warm aroma of slowly cooking veal) traveling through the house with the promise of a most delicious meal to follow. every time i chop herbs for my persian dishes i literally see my grandma’s (mammaan) hands in my mind’s eye as she held a huge bunch of clean herbs together tightly and slicechopslicechopsliced away at the ends with a sharp knife and an unbelievable combination of intensity and grace. she would often caution: “pull you fingers in like this so that you won’t cut yourself by mistake…” i’m reminded of a funny story: years ago i was buying  mounds of herbs (we’re talking bunches and bunches of parsley and mint) for a persian celery stew (khoresh-e-karafs)  (for a dinner party) and the woman at the check out asked me if i  had a bunny i was feeding!! i told her i has several :-) you will need plenty of fresh dill weed for this dish-some people use dry dill and insist that it works just as well (it does NOT)! if you have the patience and time necessary to double peel (see here for how) the broad (fava) beans, fresh is always best, if not, the frozen ones are a good substitute. get ready to be surrounded by the heavenly aroma this dish creates as it braises (veal shanks) and steams (rice) away!
ingredients for about 6 servings:

  • 6 cups fresh dill weed, finely chopped (remove the thicker stalks)
  • 2 pounds fresh (or frozen) double peeled fava beans (shelled)
  • 2.5-3 cups long-grain basmati rice (i prefer more greens & less rice)
  • 1-2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1-2 tsp toasted cumin seeds (optional)
  • 1-2 tsp ground saffron (or saffron threads dissolved in warm water)
  • 3-4 tbs vegetable oil (or 2 tbs oil and 1-2 tbs melted butter)
  • sea salt
  • water
veal shanks:
  • 6-7 veal shanks (or lamb shanks-about 3 pounds)
  • 1 large (or 2 medium) onion, finely chopped
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, slightly crushed, sliced
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 1-2 tsp ground saffron
  • sea salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1-2 tbs vegetable (olive is good) oil
  • 1-2 bay leaves
1. in a dutch oven or baking dish combine meat, onions, garlic, turmeric, sea salt & pepper, oil, and bay leaves. brown the meat on both sides on high, then add1/2 cup water, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cover and cook on low (or bake in the oven @ 350 degrees) for about 2 hours-keep an eye on it-you may need to add a touch more water. add saffron water about 30 minutes before the meat is fully cooked and tender (at about 1.5 hours).
2. peel & prepare the beans (or soak the frozen beans in warm water for 3-5 minutes, drain).
3. bring 10-12 cups of water to a boil in a deep non stick pot with about 2-3 tbs salt. rinse rice until water runs clear, about 5-6 times. add to rapidly boiling water and boil briskly for about 7 minutes, then add fava beans while stirring gently with a wooden spatula. when beans are evenly distributed (no more than 1 minute), add dill and stir again (make sure it is also evenly distributed). remove from heat and drain quickly in a large fine-mesh colander. rinse with 3 cups or so lukewarm water.

4. heat 1/2 of the oil (or combination oil/butter) in the nonstick pot, add a few drops of saffron water, then start layering in the drained rice from the colander-rice mixture, a sprinkling of cinnamon and cumin, more rice, repeating the layers and forming a “pyramid”. add the remaining saffron water and oil (or oil/butter mixture) with about 1/4 to 1/2 cup warm water evenly over the top (using a slotted spatula). cover with a clean kitchen towel or paper towel and then tightly with the lid. cook over med/high heat for about 8-10 minutes (to form crusty rice or tah-deeg), then REDUCE heat to low and cook without removing the lid (don’t let out the steam) for another 50-55 minutes.
5. to serve: remove lid, set aside the top layer of rice with saffron in a separate diss, then serve the remaining rice one spatula at a time in a mound on a serving platter. add the saffron rice (set aside) to the top. arrange the braised meat around the rice and pour the delicious juices evenly over the dish. 6. serve the tah deeg (crusty rice from the bottom) in a separate dish. 7. serve with yogurt, pickled vegetables (torshi) and fresh herbs (lemon basil). noosh-e-jan!
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7 comments on “baghali polow: steamed basmati rice with dill and fava beans served with saffron braised veal

  1. I love this dish. Lamb shanks are the best. And of course tah dig is THE best.

  2. Love this dish. Lamb shanks are so awesome. And of course tah dig is fab.
    Last night I made polo mahi and I was thinking that sheved baghali would be next.

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  5. Pingback: my noosi’s dill herbed rice with black-eyed peas {cheshm bolboli}: shevid polow | Cooking Minette

  6. Very well written story. It will be useful to everyone who usess it, as well
    as myself. Keep doing what you are doing – looking forward to more posts.

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