Are you enjoying autumn where you live?! Cooler weather, slowly getting into eating comfort food again? 😀
Persians are celebrating the arrival of autumn around the world through the ancient festival of “Mehregan” right now. “Mehr” in Persian means affection, and “Mehregan” is a celebration of love and friendship. This festival also falls in a month named identically “Mehr”, the seventh month of the Persian calendar.
You might wonder why Persians do this kind of celebration? That’s because Zoroastrian Persians deeply believed in celebrating life and happiness. They did so through many festivals. As the Zoroastrian Persian calendar used to have two seasons only, spring and autumn, arrival of spring was celebrated through Nowuz (literally meaning new day); and arrival of autumn with Mehregan. These two have been the two most important Persian celebrations since then.
Mehregan used to be celebrated quite extravagantly in Persepolis, capital of Persian Empire. People would take gifts to the king and everyone would participate in the festivities. Nowadays, Persians celebrate Mehregan by setting colourful tables, preparing sumptuous meals and enjoying time with their families. Still, like thousands of years ago, food plays an important role in Persian celebrations.
Persepolis, palace of king of kings in ancient Persia, circa 350 BC
(all three images above are reconstructed images from Balage Balogh/Art Resource, NY).
Tehran, capital of modern day Iran, in Autumn.
Typical fruit market in Tehran in Autumn.
Last year’s Mehregan, I made this aromatic and so delicious apple jam 😀
This year, I’ve made a Persian classical dish called “Baghali Polo” (pronounced baaghaaly polow). It is basmati rice, made with saffron, dill and broad beans. It can be served with chicken, beef or lamb. I made my version with a tomatoey beef stew.
Now the most delicious part of this dish (in my opinion) is the tahdig! Pronounced “tah-deeg”, this is the crunchy and crispy rice at the bottom of the pot in which rice is made. It is such a staple of all persian tables. Families fight over who gets the biggest piece!
It sounds quite simple, but until you haven’t eaten it, you won’t know what you’re missing out on! The crispy crunchy texture of it, drizzled with a bit of sauce from the stew is so unbelievably good, youu just have to try it for yourself!
It is a bit tricky to “master” making the perfect tahdig, as it takes practice! But, trust me when I say it is worth every effort you put into making it!
I’ve tried to explain all the tricks and methods I’ve learned to make mine here. If you burn it the first time, just decrease the cooking time next time and soon you’ll get the hang of it 😉
Now here is how to make “Baghali polo” with “Tahdig”! ❤
~~Part 1: Broad Beans & Dill Rice Recipe~~
Basmatic rice: 5 cups (I’ve found the Coles brand in Australia is the best one)
Broad beans: 1 cup
Low fat greek yoghurt: 4 tablespoons
Brewed saffron: 1/4 cup (even a bit less would be better!)
Dried dill: 9 grams (half of that bottle in the picture)
Light taste olive oil: 2 tablespoons
Salt: 1 teaspoon
Now the two essential parts of getting a nice tahdig are:
– Good qaulity nonstick pot
– Stovetop Burner: Best to use the largest burner which has one larger flame and one smaller one in one burner (you can use a heat diffuser if you don’t have this burner on your stovetop)
Now the rest of the method:
1. Pour the rice in the nonstick pot. Then, rinse it with cold water at least 5 times, until you can see when water is added to the pot and swirled around, it does not get cloudy. Empty all the water one last time.
2. Cover the rice with water, so that there is about 1 inch of water over the rice. Make sure the rice is sitting evenly on the bottom of pot. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and stir to combine.
3. Bring the rice-water mixture to boil. Then, simmer on medium heat until the rice is al dente. Keep checking the rice during simmering, to avoid it being overcooked. Once it is al dente, drain it and pour cold water over it to prevent it from cooking too much.
4. Add the yoghurt and brewed saffron to a jug and mix well. Then add about 5 tablespoons of rice and stir until all rice is completely colored.
5. Peal the road beans. Mine were the frozen ones and defrosting them in the microwave cooked them a bit. They cooked completely during step 7.
6. Pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pot on medium heat. Swirl the oil around. Then add the saffron-yoghurt-rice mixture as one even layer to the bottom of the pot.
7. Now layer alternatively with dill, board beans and plain rice. You can add more saffron rice as well.
8. Cover your pot lid with a tea towel and let the rice cook on medium heat for about 20 minutes. The timing of this stage is really dependent on your pot and flame of your stove, but I’ve found with mine 25 minutes is the perfect time.
9. Turn the heat off and scoop the rice out of the pot and into a large bowl, until only the bottom most layer is left in the pot.
10. Now the fun part, getting the tahdig out!! Put a large flat plate over the pot. (Use kitchen towels as your pot is HOT!)
11. Now in one quick move, flip your pot so that the “tahdig” falls down to your plate. If your pot is a good quality non-stick one and you put a good amount of olive oil, it should not stick to the pot at all.
There it is! Your new crunchy (relatively healthy) addiction! 😆
~~Part 2: Beef Stew Recipe~~
Chicken/beef stock (low salt): 500 ml
Diced beef (I used the blade cut): 250 grams
White onion: 1
Tomato paste (low/no salt): 1 tablespoon
Diced tomatoes: 200g (half of the can in the picture)
Light taste olive oil: 1 tablespoon
Sea salt: 1/4 teaspoon
Turmeric: 1/2 teaspoon
Paprika: 1/4 teaspoon
1. Dice the onion. Then satuee it in the pan until translucent.
2-3. Add the beef pieces and the dry spices (except salt) and tomato paste. Stir well to combine. Let fry for about a minute.
4. Add the diced tomatoes, salt and stock and let simmer until the stock is reduced. This can take about 30 minutes on medium heat.
~~Part 3: Putting it all together!~~
Now its eating time! Rice on bottom of the plate, with tahdig (if you have managed to resist eating it until now! :D) and stew on top. Enjoy! ~~~~~~~~~