You haven’t really tasted Persian food until you’ve relished their hallmark tah-dig which is the golden crusty layer that is formed at the bottom of the vessel while cooking any Persian rice dish. Persian cuisine is somewhat similar to other Middle Eastern cuisines like the Turkish, Kurdish, Lebanese and Arabic cuisines in the way the food is flavoured. Persians liberally use dried fruits, berries, nuts, seeds, saffron, rose petals and some spices like cinnamon and cardamom all of which lend a wonderful sweet and tart flavour and a mesmerizing aroma to their dishes.
The signature Persian Jeweled Rice has a special place in Persian cuisine as it’s made mostly during special occasions. In many parts of Iran people cook this dish to mark the New Year and if the rice is cooked perfectly with a beautiful golden crust at the bottom it’s considered as a sign that the new year is going to be full of all things good. This dish is best enjoyed with a platter of roasted chicken. Let’s take a look at our recipe to make Persian Jeweled Rice with oven baked chicken.
Here Is The Recipe For Persian Jeweled Rice With Oven Roasted Chicken:
Preparation Time : 45 minutes
Cooking Time : 2 Hours
Serves : 6-7
1/2 gm Saffron strands
3.5 pounds Chicken (preferably whole)
1 large onion (whole)
4 cloves of Garlic (whole)
Salt as per taste
For Jeweled Rice
3 cups long grained basmati rice
Peel of 2 fresh oranges
2 carrots (julienned)
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
4 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup currants
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/4 tsp crushed rose petals (dried)
1/4 cup slivered roasted almonds
1/4 cup slivered pistachios
1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
1/3 tsp green cardamom powder
2 onions (thinly sliced)
3 tbsp yogurt
salt as per taste
Wash the chicken and pat it dry. Wash the rice a couple of times in cold water and soak the washed rice in clean water for 45 minutes. Scrape the outer rind of the orange peels using a peeler and discard the white pith to lessen it’s bitterness. Cut the scraped rind lengthwise into thin strips. Blanch the rind in boiling water for a minute to erase all the bitterness. Strain the peels and set them aside.
Dissolve saffron strands in 3/4 cup of water by crushing them between your fingers to release its colour into the water. This water will be used to impart orange hue to the chicken and rice.
Smear the chicken all over with half a teaspoon of salt. Place one whole onion and whole garlic cloves inside the whole chicken. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of saffron water over the chicken and rub it in gently to spread it evenly over the chicken.
Place the stuffed chicken in the oven preheated to 350 F and bake until the chicken acquires a beautiful golden colour and is thoroughly cooked. This will take about an hour and a half.
While the chicken is being cooked in the oven we’ll prepare jeweled rice. Wash the soaked rice in cold water. Boil 8 cups of water in a large non stick vessel and add the soaked rice and a liberal sprinkling of salt. The salt you add in this step should be enough to add taste to the rice after the leftover water is drained when the rice is cooked.
Parboil the rice for five minutes and immediately remove the vessel from heat. Strain the rice in a colander and rinse in cold water to prevent the heat of rice from cooking it any further.
In a small vessel add blanched orange peels, julienned carrots, sugar and a cup of water and boil the mixture for ten minutes. Strain the mixture and set aside.
Caramelize sliced onions in a tablespoon of butter. Add raisins, currants and apricots and cook for another two to three minutes. At the end add slivered almonds, pistachios, cinnamon powder, cardamom powder, crushed rose petals, sweetened orange and carrot mixture and 2 tablespoons of saffron water. Stir well and remove the pan from heat.
Heat two tablespoons each of butter and olive oil in the same vessel in which the rice was boiled. Turn off the flame. In a small bowl mix 2 cups of parboiled rice with yogurt and a teaspoon of saffron water and spread this mixture over melted butter and olive oil in the rice vessel. This will form the bottom crusty layer known as tah-dig once the rice is cooked.
Once the bottom layer is spread evenly top it with three layers of rice and onion, carrot and nuts mixture alternating one another in a pyramid shape. At the end mix the remaining butter with remaining saffron water and half a cup of warm water and pour this over the rice pyramid.
Poke a wooden spoon gently all over the rice to help the steam escape from the bottom and cover the vessel with the lid wrapped in a clean dish towel. Cook the rice for half an hour over low heat. When the rice is cooked remove the upper layers of rice in a dish bowl and lift the bottom crusty layer carefully with a sharp edged spatula and serve it as a side. Arrange the cooked rice in a platter with baked chicken and pieces of tah-dig placed on the sides.