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Jun 1, 2011 06:42 AM

Seductions of Rice: Cela, Polo, Pulao: The Persian Way

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  1. Cardamom and Rose Water Rice Pudding p.313

    I wonder if the authors named the book on account of this beguiling dish. Seductions of rice sums it up perfectly. This is a lavish, exotic version of rice pudding, not unlike a version of kheer that I know of.
    Rose water has such an alluring, bewitching fragrance, and I can't get enough of this flavour. A little goes a long way though, and the recipe calls for 3 tablespoons. I reduced by about half, and that was more than enough for me. I used Egyptian rice, and it was a very soft, creamy choice in this pudding. Perfect, if you will. Due to this rice exchange, it was perhaps a bit thicker than it was supposed to be. The rice is simmered in whole milk and water for 2 hours. When soft and luscious, the sugar and cardamom are added, although 1 cup of sugar made for a very, very saccharine pudding. I will reduce it by half. The dessert was topped with chopped pistachios and a drizzle of honey, which I adored. The floral flavour from the honey paired beautifully with the rose water. What a great end to an evening.

    11 Replies
    1. re: Allegra_K

      Since you love rose flavor (as do I), keep your eye open for Turkish rose jam (labeled "gül", the TR word for rose, of course). it's wonderful, just the right level of rose.

      1. re: buttertart

        Am I right that the rose petals should be the very most fragrant you can find? And the red is only for color--it would be possible to make good jam from yellow or even white roses?
        Or should rose water be used to make rose jam?

        1. re: blue room

          The ones I've seen (there is gorgeous red rose jam made in France, too) have petals suspended in them. I don't make jam so I'm not sure. But if anyone were to present me with a jar of white rose jam, I think I'd expire of joy.

          1. re: buttertart

            Interesting; I have never seen rose petal jam or jelly w/rose petals in it, only a clearish, pinkish jam. I don't know what the difference, if any, in flavor would be, but I imagine the jam with petals suspended would be very pretty!

      2. re: Allegra_K

        Sounds lovely! I never know what to do with my rose water!


        1. re: Allegra_K

          Allegra that dish looks stunning! I have to say that I haven't yet acquired a taste for rosewater, I poured mine out after using it three times and finding the flavour too overpowering.

          Perhaps someone could point me to a particular brand they've been pleased with.

          1. re: Breadcrumbs

            I have rose water and orange flower water from Savory Spice Shop and like them both. Finally. After getting used to the taste. It was something very different for me when we first cooked from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook . A little goes a long way.


            1. re: Breadcrumbs

              Well, I love rosewater and orange blossom water in certain dishes, but my labels were all in Arabic, plus I've transferred them to Morrocan spigot bottles by now. If you get the courage and try rosewater again, don't throw it out if you don't like it in food. If nothing else, it's lovely to use AFTER a middle eastern or north African meal, especially one which has been eaten with fingers. Pass it around in a spigot bottle, or just sprinkle a little on hot towels!

              1. re: L.Nightshade

                What a great idea LN. It may be that the bottle I purchased was old or off. I'll definitely give it another try and if we're still not convinced then I'll absolutely do as you suggested, what a lovely idea. Thank-you!

          2. Beautiful! The full amounts of sugar and rose water sound very potent--and a little cardamom goes a long way too. Heady dessert.

            1. Turkish Rose Jam recipe:


              I would say not to use rose petals from a florist shop. You need rose petals that have not been sprayed with pesticides, etc.

              1. Golden Chicken Kebabs p.296

                It was a gorgeous evening for a barbecue, and these lovely kebabs fit the bill perfectly.

                The lightly charred skewers of marinated chicken were surprisingly good. Small chunks of boneless chicken are soaked in a mixture of yogurt, garlic, saffron, and dried mint for several hours, up to 24 hours. I didn't plan far enough in advance for such a long marinating time, though I imagine that the longer they sit in the yogurt, the more tender they would become. 3 hours was enough time for the meat to become sufficiently flavoured. I used fresh mint in the marinade, which worked out well.
                After the bathe in the sauce, the meat is threaded onto skewers and grilled. Cooking took mere minutes. With enough advance planning, this is a very simple dish. The flavours of the mint and the saffron are subtle, but still enough in the forefront that you know they're there. The time spent in the yogurt tenderizes the meat nicely, and the chicken was lovely. I will make this again.

                Special Everyday Persian Rice p.288

                This is an elaborate and time-consuming way of preparing basmati rice, but it creates the most perfect, dry and fluffy rice I've ever made.
                The rice is first soaked in salted water for 2-3 hours. The amount of salt called for is surprising-3 tablespoons! I followed the recipe despite my misgivings, and everything turned out well.
                Once done soaking, the rice is sprinkled into boiling water and boiled for several minutes, until the resulting grains are tender on the outside, yet still firm in the middle. Once done, the rice is quickly drained and rinsed with cool water.
                The same pot is then heated over high, and oil and water (!!) are added. About 1/2 cup of rice, an egg, and 2T. of yogurt are mixed together, and then spread into an even layer on the bottom of the sizzling pot. This is to become the tahdig, the flavourful crust that makes Persian rice so unique. The remaining rice is mounded into the pot, and the lid of the pot is wrapped in a tea towel, soaking up the steam from the rice as it cooks. The heat is lowered to medium low and steamed for 30 minutes.
                When done, for ease in removing the crusty layer, the pot is put into a sink with cold water for a minute or so. Turn the rice onto a platter and break the tahdig into chunks. A bit of rice is spooned into a saffron-water mixture, then sprinkled onto the white rice. It looks lovely on the plate, the fluffy white and yellow grains with the golden brown crust pieces.
                I added the optional herb mixture as well, since I have tarragon and chives up to my eyeballs.
                The tahdig was not that wonderful, due to the fact that my pot darkened it a bit too much. (It was the pot, you understand. Not me.) I can see how delicious it would be if it was cooked properly. I would try this again, if only to see how the crust is really supposed to taste.
                The chelo paired perfectly with the onion-pomegranate salad.

                Oasis Salad p.299

                Not much to say on this one, just a light, refreshing salad of cucumber, tomato and radish. Garden fresh produce would elevate this so much more. Soon! The veggies are mixed with chopped cilantro. I also added mint, as I seem to have a mint theme going on here.

                Pomegranate Onion Salad p.302

                This was the hit of the evening! The flavours of this recipe blew me away!
                A sweet onion is thinly sliced and tossed with salt for about 30 minutes, then rinsed and drained. A dressing of pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, sugar, and cayenne are tossed gently onto the onion, and chopped mint is mixed in. It was so simple, yet so exotic tasting. I love the sweet tang of the pomegranate molasses, and am so pleased to have found another excuse to use it. The onions just had a touch of a bite left in them from the salting, and they readily soaked up the dressing. I polished off the salad by itself, but it was also wonderful mixed with the Persian rice. This is going to be a staple every time I cook middle eastern cuisine. It was amazing!!

                3 Replies
                1. re: Allegra_K

                  Beautiful dinner! The onion salad is intriguing, when you say "sweet onion" -- would that be like Vidalia onions? (I was not aware that salting and rinsing an onion would take out the bite--I'll bet that technique would be useful elsewhere.)

                  1. re: blue room

                    Thank you! I did use a Vidalia. It really was amazing how mild and soft it was after the salting method. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

                  2. re: Allegra_K

                    Pomegranate Onion Salad – p. 302

                    Big thanks to Allegra for pointing out this recipe and for doing such a great job of describing how it comes together, this was a big hit at our house too!

                    I’ve never prepared onions in this manner. Onions are tossed in course salt and set aside for 20 - 30 minutes in order to remove any strong tang according to the book. I used Vidalia onions which, in my view, don’t normally have much of a tang however, I did like the resulting texture and flavour of the onions produced by the salting process. The onions take on a satiny-soft texture. I would reduce the amount of lemon juice to 2tbsp next time I prepare this dish as we did find the dressing to be somewhat bitter. The bitter-sweet crisp pop of the pomegranate seeds provided the perfect contrast to the silky, sweet onions. I used chili flakes vs cayenne. We loved this dish, it was perfect w our souvlaki and the rice. We treated it more as a condiment rather than a salad. Delicious, we’ll definitely have this again and I’d like to try it with lime juice next time.

                    Edited to add: I should have noted that I used basil in place of the mint in the salad and it worked really well.

                  3. Yogurt Salad p.303

                    Very similar to an Indian raita except for the addition of dill.
                    I didn't add the optional radishes, will probably try them later.
                    A whole deseeded cucumber (double the recipe amount) was used. Even more would work without the cucumber dominating the texture.
                    One aspect of the recipe is intriguing and puzzling - some whey is drained out and then water is added back in! Not wanting too liquid a result, I only added about two tablespoons of water.
                    As expected, it was a refreshing side dish.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: DiveFan

                      That sounds like a nice dish DF. Is the cucumber drained and shredded or sliced in this case? I agree that the addition of water is interesting. I wonder if whey is bitter . . . . perhaps a trick to reduce bitterness?

                      1. re: DiveFan

                        I didn't salt/drain the cucumber, just quartered lengthwise and sliced out the seeds. I then chopped it as finely as I could, my preference for this kind of dish.

                        I was thinking the same about the liquid substitution. The recipe also reminds me of a Bulgarian (or Polish?) style yogurt soup, just add more water and minced garlic.