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! Continue reading
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{mock} baghali polow: delicious basmati {brown} rice with fava beans and dill

there is no doubt that “baghali polow” is one of the most popular persian dishes. the reason is not hard to understand…fluffy basmati rice layered with soft and tender (double peeled) fava beans, fresh garlic (that’s how it’s done in my family) and lots of freshly chopped dill. it is often served with saffron braised lamb or veal shanks or chicken, and it always satisfies. problem is, you eat too much of it-and that’s why i’ve recently come up with an adapted version with brown rice that tastes just as good, and is possibly better for you. for this recipe you will need a good amount of double peeled fava beans (found in the frozen section of persian markets if you have one near you). you can replace the fava beans with cooked black eyed peas (loobia cheshm boloboli) or lima beans for an equally delicious meal. last night we ate it with a vegetarian ceviche-it was a great combination.

ingredients for 2-3 servings (you can double or triple it):

  • 1 cup brown basmati rice, *cooked (or long grain basmati rice for original version)
  • 2 cups double peeled fava beans
  • 1 large or 2 small (about 1 cup chopped) bunches fresh dill, finely chopped
  • sea salt
  • 1 tsp ground saffron (or a few strands seeped in hot water)
  • 2-3 tsp persian rice “advieh” (in equal parts toasted cumin seeds, crushed rose buds, cinnamon)
  • 3 tbs safflower oil (or your vegetable oil of choice)

* to cook the brown rice: rinse the rice several times in cold water, then add to a pot with 2 cups of lightly salted water (ratio of 1 cup of rice for 2 cups of water), bring to a boil, let the water reduce on medium/high temperature-this takes about 15-20 minutes. when most of the water is gone, bring the heat to low and cover the pot, cook for another 20 minutes or so.

1. heat 2 tbs oil in a heavy (preferably non stick) pot, add 1/2 of the saffron with 1-2 tsp water, and give the pot a shake to distribute evenly. add a thin layer of cooked brown rice, top with a layer of (uncooked) fava beans and then dill, and sprinkle with some “advieh” and a small amount of sea salt-keep layering this way while carefully combining everything with a spatula or you hands until you’ve created a “dome” and finished all the ingredients.
{for the original version with white rice the uncooked rice is boiled in several cups of salted water for about 5-6 minutes, then the fava beans and dill are added to the pot-everything boils together (and gets evenly combined with a careful folding) for a minute before being drained. the rice mixture is then steamed much like in these recipe for “adas polow”  or barberry rice- zereshk polow}

2. sprinkle the “dome” with the remaining saffron, pour 1 tbs oil and 2-3 tbs of water over the top (using a slotted spoon or squirt bottle to evenly distribute).

3. cover the pot with a clean dish towel or paper towel and then the lid (tightly so that the steam does not get out) and cook on high for about 5-7 minutes (stay close by) before reducing the heat to med/low and allowing the rice to steam and cook for about 45 minutes.
4. serve the rice in a platter, then carefully remove the “tahdeeg” or crispy rice (my favorite part) from the bottom of the pot (serve on a separate dish).
“tah deeg” or crispy rice
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