I love Persian/Iranian food, I used to make it all the time but have sadly fallen out of practice on many dishes that were staples in my kitchen repertoire. Loobiya (green bean) Pollo (rice) was one of them that I made frequently years ago, I actually forgot how to make it and didn’t have my original recipe, it was somehow lost. Thanks to great blogs like Fig and Quince and Fae’s Twist and Tango I have been able to piece together and actually remember many dishes and how I made them. It’s kind of like riding a bike, you never really forget, it is in the recesses of your mind. Azita from Fig and Quince gave me her recipe for Loobiya Pollo and after reading it, the memories started flooding back.
Loobiya Pollo is very simple, you make a stew using meat (beef or lamb or even chicken) that is braised in a tomato based sauce spiced with turmeric, cinnamon and saffron, you add caramelized onions and green beans and let it cook together slowly. The stew is layered with basmati rice and steamed. It’s absolutely delicious. One of the best parts of the dish is the Tahdig, crunchy rice that forms at the bottom of the pot. The rice mixed with the rich tomato sauce is so wonderful.
I have to confess I don’t really follow a recipe exactly and don’t really measure when I make these dishes. I season to taste, eyeball consistency so results may vary. I will try my best to approximate the amounts for you though. I like to serve this dish with crisp cucumber strips and plain yogurt mixed with dried mint, diced cucumber and a little lemon.
I always make this with meat but it translates beautifully into a vegetarian or even vegan dish, simply omit the meat, you can add different vegetables and layer and steam with the rice.
Serves 4-6 depending on serving size
For the stew:
1.5 lb stew meat (lamb or beef)
1 yellow onion chopped (divided, reserve a small amount to saute with green beans)
approximately 4 oz tomato paste
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
2 whole fresh ripe tomatoes peeled and chopped
3/4 lb green beans, stem end removed, blanched and cut into bite size pieces
turmeric (approximately 1/2 tsp)
cinnamon (approximately 1/4 heaping tsp)
saffron (a pinch)
salt and pepper to taste
Approximately 2 cups basmati rice
oil for pot
pinch of saffron (in 2 tbs water)
1 tbs of butter (I like to use salted butter)
Heat a saute pan coated with oil (I used olive oil) on med/high and add the onions, saute until soft and caramelized (takes 15-20 minutes) remove from pan and set aside. Add a little more oil and add the meat, sprinkle with salt, pepper and turmeric, sear the meat until browned, remove from pan and set aside. Add the tomato paste to the same pan, stir frequently and caramelize, add the onion and meat to the pan with the tomato paste, now add the tomato sauce and chopped fresh tomato, add the cinnamon and season with salt and pepper. Cover with lid slightly ajar and simmer on medium heat. It will take at least an hour and a half for the stew to cook and the meat to become tender. Check frequently you may need to add a little water if it looks like the stew has cooked down too much, stir occasionally. Taste as it cooks and adjust seasoning, I found that I needed to add a dash more cinnamon to get the flavor just right.
While this is cooking start preparing your rice. Rinse rice with cold water until the water comes out clear. Add the rice to a bowl, cover in cold water and add salt (approx 2 tsp) let rice sit in the salted water until you are ready to boil.
Heat saute pan with a little oil, add the reserved raw onions and saute until soft, add the green beans and a pinch of turmeric and a little salt and pepper and cook for approximately 2 minutes just until the green beans are lightly sauteed. Set aside.
When meat is tender but needs another 30 minutes or so add the green beans and finish cooking add a pinch of saffron, stir to combine.
Put large pot of water on to boil, add about a tbs of salt. When water is a full rolling boil, drain the rice that has been sitting in the water and add to the pot. Stir to separate each grain and let par cook, this takes about 10-12 minutes, the rice will be hard in the center of the grain. Drain into sieve and rinse with cool water. While rice is draining, put your pot back on the stove, dry it and add a little oil to the bottom of the pot, let it heat on med/high heat until good and hot. Add enough of the rice to cover the bottom of the pot about 1 inch thick, now add a thin layer of the stew spread evenly on the rice, now you will layer, add some rice topped with stew, you will end with plain rice, add 1 tbs butter and drizzle with the saffron water. Cover the pot with tea towel or paper towel and place cover on pot so that it is a tight fit. Turn heat up to high for 5 minutes so steam will build up in the pot then lower to medium and let it steam undisturbed for 45-60 minutes depending on how much rice you have made. Don’t open it while it’s steaming but keep your nose at attention, if you smell it burning remove from heat immediately.
To remove from pot and serve:
I like to use a non stick pot to make my rice, the tahdig can stick to the bottom of the pot and having a non stick surface makes it easy to get out in one piece. When the rice is finished cooking put a couple of inches of cold water in your sink and place the pot in the water, let sit for about 30 seconds.
Place serving dish over the pot and invert. The rice should come out in one piece (looking like a cake). The tahdig (bottom of the pot) should be nicely browned and crisp) it’s so delicious and underneath is tender totally separate rice. Serve hot.
An example of how rice will look when it comes out of the pot, this is not the loobiya dish but a plain basmati rice with tahdig, I didn’t get a picture of the loobiya pollo.