This is another wonderful rice pilaf adapted from our favorite Iranian cook book, New Food of Life, by Najmieh Batmanglij. I prepared it for our New Year’s Eve party and we shared it with our friends Jasmine Turner and Prof. T.
Steven “suggested” the meal, and I’m glad. I was a bit jet lagged from our recent trip to Virginia and couldn’t organize my thoughts around what to cook for our last dinner of 2011: obviously an important decision in any kitchen. This rice is wonderfully fragrant and light. It whispers that spring is coming soon…
Here I didn’t use ghee. Instead I used just a single tablespoon of butter, and extra virgin olive oil for the rest. The recipe calls for plain yogurt but I used labneh—I can’t help it, I’m, addicted to the stuff. I mixed up the herb ratios compared to Najmieh’s recommendations and deployed the cinnamon parsimoniously.
Lastly, this dish requires attention to the process of making it otherwise it won’t turn out the way it is supposed to be. I’ve tried making similar recipes before skipping steps and the result was not as effective, so between prepping and the actual cooking, it took me about 3 hours to prepare.
fragrant herbed basmati polow
3 cups basmati rice
¾ cup whole scallions, roughly chopped
1½ cups dill, roughly chopped
2 cups Italian parsley, roughly chopped
2 cups cilantro, roughly chopped
2 stalks fresh Chinese garlic plants, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp saffron threads (~ 1 gram), dissolved/soaked in 5 tbsp warm water
2 tbsp labneh
Sprinkles of cinnamon
1 tbsp butter
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Rinse basmati rice 3 times in warm water. Transfer rice to a large bowl then add 8 cups of water and two teaspoons of salt. Stir it and soak for 2 hours.
Towards the last 15 minutes of soaking, fill a large pot with 8 cups of water, 1 tsp of salt and bring it to a boil. Rinse soaking rice and put it in the boiling water. Parboil it for about 5 minutes and drain.
Mix all herbs with minced garlic and some salt. Set aside
Using a separate bowl combine about ¾ cup of parboiled rice, labneh and a third of the saffron threads and juice. Be careful not to break the rice.
Heat a tablespoon of butter and a couple tablespoons of water in the pot used for boiling the rice. Spread rice/labneh mix over the bottom of the pan and cook rice for a couple of minutes at medium high. This will build the delicious brown crust of the dish. Reduce temperature to low.
Add a layer of rice, a tiny sprinkle of cinnamon and then a layer of herbs. Repeat until you run out of ingredients. The last layer should be rice. Sprinkle with some salt, the saffron water and threads, half cup of hot water and half of the olive oil.
Place a paper towel on the top of the pan and then cover with the lid. Continue cooking for about 45 minutes. Do not open the lid until time has lapsed. Remove from heat and let it rest, covered, for another five minutes. Drizzle the rest of the olive oil over, transfer to a serving plate/bowl and voila! Najmieh suggests that you pile the rice in a pyramid shape and serve the crust on the side. That would make it look cuter, but we were starved by then so sort of mixed it all together.