I had this rice first at the home of a school friend, whose family had fled to Germany in the wake of the cultural revolution. I loved the flavours and textures of it: the crispy bottom – the tadiq – gives the dish a hint of caramel, which goes beautifully with middle eastern dishes of all sorts.
Hoping to make this dish for ages, I was always slightly intimidated by the thought that the rice might burn and I would have no way of ever using my pan again. Then I came across Sabrina Ghayour’s recipe in her book Persiana, which claimed that it can be done, even by me. Her ingenious trick is to line the bottom of the pan with baking parchment: that way the rice will not get stuck to the bottom forever, but instead might even form the perfect tadiq to crown this dish. She was right, and here is the result:
Chelo Rice, after Sabrina Ghayour (serves 6)
- 500 g basmati rice
- olive oil
- 60 g butter
Heat water in a large lidded saucepan. When it is boiling, add the rice and a generous handful of salt – don’t worry, most of it will be washed out! Boil the rice for 6-7 minutes until it has become bright white and the grains begin to soften a little.
Pour the rice into a large sieve and rinse under cold water for a few minutes: you want to remove the starch and cool down the rice.
Now comes Sabrina’s stroke of magic: line the bottom of the same saucepan with a piece of baking parchment. Return the pan to the hob and add some oil, butter and a tablespoon of salt. Take the cooled rice and literally scatter it into the pan: Persian rice requires that the grains are separated, and by scattering them lightly into the pan you achieve this effect.
Wrap the pan lid in a kitchen towel to avoid any steam to escape, close the lid and if you use gas, cook the rice on the lowest temperature possible for 45 minutes. Sabrina suggests for electric hobs to use a medium-low setting for up to 1 1/2 hours.
To serve you flip the rice onto the dish and hope that you have a beautifully formed tadiq to crown it. Sabrina has a couple of fish dishes that would complement this rice perfectly…