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Friday, October 12, 2007

Zafarani Polow (Persian Saffron Rice)

Zafarani Polow (Persian Saffron Rice)

Lil' sis says I always have to "mother" someone. Since she's gone, and since I've never been able to cook for just one, my cousins or friends have been frequent dining companions. The only difference is that unlike lil' sis, my friends seem to really, really appreciate my cooking and they wash my dishes. Ha! Take that lil' sis! :P

I had a couple of very small Cornish game hens that I was going to make into Fessenjan (Persian Walnut Pomegranate Glaze) but never got around to cooking before lil' sis left town. My oldest uncle's wife had also given me a duck that had been sitting in my freezer. But before we get to that, and because I had just figured out the trick for cooking basmati rice, you'll need something to go with that fessenjan.

Zafarani Polow (Persian Saffron Rice)
Adapted from my recipe for albalu polow (Persian sour cherry rice).

For 6 cups, you'll need:

3 cups basmati rice (TJ's has 3-lb bags for $2.69.)
1 or 2 pinches of saffron, depending on how much you want to splurge (Again, TJ's $3.99 for a 1 gram jar.)
1 stick, or 1/2 cup butter

Clean and wash 3 cups of basmati rice. I used a rice cup, which is equivalent to 3/4 of a measuring cup. Fill with water and let the rice soak for at least two hours. This step is not absolutely necessary but it softens the rice and helps it cook faster once it goes into the rice cooker. Just set it aside, go do your usual things, and then come back in a few hours, OK?

Take 1 or 2 pinches of saffron and put in 2 tblsps of hot water. Set aside.

Wash your rice once more and fill it up to the proper watermark in your rice cooker and let it cook. I'm not sure about you, but my mini-rice cooker makes a pot of rice in about 15 minutes.

When the rice is done, you're ready to start layering and steaming (Yes, again!) your polow. In a large pot (I used my 7-quart Dutch oven.) on high heat, add 1/2 of a stick of butter, or 1/4 cup. When the butter is mostly melted, add a light layer of the basmati rice until it covers the bottom of the pot. Then add the rest of the rice in the center so a pyramid shape is formed. Cut the remaning 1/2 stick of butter into small chunks and add them in a circle on top of the rice. Pour the saffron and saffron water on top.

Wet a paper towel or two and place that over the top of the pot. This seals in the steam when you put the cover on top. Turn heat down to medium and cook the rice mixture for another 20 minutes or so. The butter on the bottom of the pot will form a nice ta dig (crispy rice crust). You may even cook this up to 45 minutes if you want an even crispier rice crust.


Serve this with Kefta Kebabs (Middle Eastern Minced Meat Kebabs) or Fessenjan.

Fessenjan Roast Duck 1


  1. Yum! we used basmatic rice but using a rice cooker. I have to try adding some butter to it and saffron!

  2. Daphne,
    The saffron really makes a difference! I was going to be cheap and not buy it, but I love it!

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