Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Baghali Polo (Persian Rice with Dill and Fava Beans)

I knew as soon as I saw fava beans on the CSA list that I would be making this rice dish.  I toyed with the idea of using them in a salad instead but this Persian rice dish is a favorite in our household and since the weather had cooled down a bit yesterday it was a good day for cooking.   It makes a lot but most Persian food is a bit time consuming and not really worth making a scaled down version - we'll just get several meals out of it!

Baghali Polo

3 cups basmati rice
2 lbs. fresh fava beans
1 large bunch fresh dill, removed from stems and chopped
2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
1 package vegetarian "beef strips" (I used Trader Joe's) cut into smaller chunks
olive oil
salt, pinch of saffron threads

First rinse the rice in a large bowl until the water runs clear.  Then cover the rice with water and some salt (~1 tablespoon) and let it soak (it can soak for several hours so you can do this early in the day if you prefer).  For the fava beans, steam them in their pods for about 10 minutes and then run cold water over them.  

Once they are cool enough to handle, removed them from the pods and then remove the skins from each bean.  Put a large pot of water on to boil.  Once the water is boiling, pour the water out of the rice and add the soaked rice to the boiling water.  Stir to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom.  You'll boil the rice for about 6 minutes.  It should still be firm on the inside - sort of al dente but rice-style!  Before you drain the rice, skim some of the rice water off the top - about 1/3 cup and add the saffron threads to the water.   Drain the rice in the sink and run cold water over it to stop the cooking.  Let it drain completely.  In the meantime, saute the onions in some olive oil until they are tender (if you get a Skype call from your best friend during this, saute them until they are well browned).  Add the veggie beef strips and cook until they are heated through.  In the same pot you cooked the rice in, add about 1 tablespoon olive oil to the bottom of the pot.  Next, using a small strainer, pour about 1/2 the saffron liquid into the pot and swirl the pot to blend the water and olive oil.  

Spoon about 1/4 of the rice into the bottom of the pot.  Next add 1/2 the onion/veggie strip mixture, half the fava beans and half the chopped dill and spread evenly on top of the rice.  Repeat with another layer of rice, onion mixture, beans and dill and finally top with the last 1/4 of the rice.  You want it to be sort of mounded and not level.  Using the handle of a wooden spoon, poke some holes through the rice to the bottom of the pot and then pour the remaining saffron liquid over the top making sure some goes through the holes.

This will be steamed for about an hour.  To prevent any moisture that gathers on the lid dripping into the rice and making it soggy, you'll want to cover your lid with a clean dish towel before putting it securely on the pot. 

Cook for about 10 minutes over a medium - medium/high heat (depends on your stove).  After ten minutes turn the heat down to low and continue cooking for another 50 minutes.  This can be unattended but you want to make sure it doesn't burn.  The goal is to get the browned, crusty rice on the bottom which is known as tahdig (or the best part that everyone fights over).  

I will admit that I don't always get a perfect tahdig but the blogging gods were on my side because last night it was perfect and came out in one piece.  And since tahdig is really only good straight out of the pot and there were just three of us, we definitely got our fill!  We always serve plain yogurt to go along with these polo dishes.  I'm happy to say that we used up every single item we got from the CSA over the course of the week and am on my way out the door to pick up this week's box!

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