I learned Persian cooking years ago and am dredging up some of the recipes that I made many moons ago. Zereshk Pullow or Basmati Rice with Bayberries is one of many traditional Persian dishes. One thing you will find when learning the cuisine of Iran is that recipes vary from family to family and region to region. This is how I was taught to make it. Persians cherish their rice dishes and one thing that separates rice cooked in the Persian way from most other methods of preparation is what is called “Tahdig” its the crisp crust that forms at the bottom of the pot when you are cooking the rice. The rice is par cooked and steamed. Zereshk pullow is basmati rice laced with bayberries and layered with yogurt infused with saffron. I always served with roast or braised chicken. I was taught two ways to make this dish, one you serve the chicken separately and the other method is to layer shredded roast chicken and steam it along with the rice. I prefer it on the side so that is what I am featuring in this recipe.
THE YOGURT MIXTURE
3/4 of a 35.3 ounce container of plain yogurt. I like to use 2% or full fat yogurt
generous pinch of saffron
salt to taste
3 cups basmati rice
1 cup zereshk or if you cannot find them use dried unsweetened cranberries
2 tbs butter divided
Pour the rice in a bowl and run cold water on it rinsing until the water is pretty clear. Add more water to cover the rice add a tbs of salt and let rice sit for an hour.
Add the yogurt to a bowl and mix in the saffron and salt. Stir well and refrigerate for 30 minutes so that the saffron infuses the yogurt.
NOTE: I like to use a non stick pot to ensure that the tahdig comes out nicely if you don’t have a large non-stick pot just make sure that the bottom of the bottom of the pot is well oiled when you add the rice.
Add water to a large non stick pot and salt it well at least a tbs. Bring to a rolling boil. Drain rice and add to the pot stirring well. You are par cooking the rice so it only takes 10-15 minutes. Drain rice into a colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Let the rice sit for about 15 minutes. During that time take the yogurt out of the refrigerator. Once the rice is drained sccop out approximately 2 cups and put into a bowl, add about 1/2 cup of yogurt and mix well. Add the Zereshk to the remainder of the rice, make sure they are distributed well. Dry your pot and coat the bottom with some neutral oil, add 1 tbs of butter and when the butter has melted add the rice mixed with the yogurt, spread evenly in the bottom of the pan. Now add a third of the rice mixed with the berries, on top of that a layer of the yogurt, then another layer of rice etc… ending with a layer of rice. Place a tbs of butter on top of the rice. Lay a paper towel or thin tea towel on top of the pot and place the lid on securely. Turn heat to high and let it build up steam for 5 minutes, lower heat to medium and steam for 40-45 minutes. You will notice that you can smell the rice and the towel will be damp.
I like to serve with roasted chicken and drizzle the pan juices onto the rice for added flavor.
To dislodge the tahdig all you have to do is put some cold water in the sink, sit the pot in it for 30 seconds and then invert onto serving platter.