I feel I can’t go any farther without first including a recipe for basic Persian rice (Chelow). Rice, water, salt, simmer, done….If only it were so simple!
To Persians, making rice is an art form. There is a great deal of care and detail involved in making the perfect fluffy and delicate rice we are famous for. The crown jewel of Persian rice is the Ta-dig. The delicious, crunchy golden crust that forms at the bottom of the pot during the cooking process.
Ta-dig is beloved by Iranians and it often disappears as soon as it hits the dining table. When I first started dating my husband, who is Canadian, my younger brother tried to convince him that non-Iranians were not allowed to eat the ta-dig in a desperate attempt to keep it all for himself.
Ta-dig comes in many forms. Some make it with simple saffron rice, others add lavash bread, yogurt, tomatoes, scallions or leeks…..the possibilities are endless. But my absolute favourite is ta-dig made with thinly sliced potatoes. The potatoes form a crispy crust that almost tastes like a cross between a french fry and a potato chip……can you think of anything better than that?
Persian Rice with Golden Potato Ta-dig
2 cups basmati rice (preferably Indian)
2 tbsp salt
1 thinly sliced russet potato
1/4 tsp ground saffron* dissolved in 2 tbsp boiling water
Wash as much starch off the rice as possible. To do this put the rice in large bowl, cover with cold water and agitate it with your hands. You will notice that the water will become milky. Drain the water and repeat. Keep doing this until the water is clear – it will take about five or six times but can take up to ten times.
After the rice is washed cover with 6 cups lukewarm water and 1 tbsp of salt. Allow the rice to soak for at least 30 minutes. This step is optional but the longer it soaks, the more flavourful and fluffy the rice will be.
Fill a large non-stick pot ¾ full with water with 1 tbsp salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Drain the soaking rice and add to the pot of boiling water. Turn down the heat slightly to medium-high (it should still be boiling) and boil for 8-10 minutes stirring occasionally. You will notice that the rice will not only expand, it will rise to the top of the water when it is almost ready.
Make sure to taste the rice as you go along. When it is ready it should be soft but not mushy and over-cooked. Drain the rice and rinse very lightly with lukewarm water.
Clean out and dry your pot. Pour enough canola oil in your pot to just cover the bottom. Cover the bottom of your pot with a single layer of sliced potatoes. Pour the saffron water over the potatoes.
Using a spatula gently sprinkle the rice in the pot forming a bit of a pyramid over the potatoes. Using the back of a wooden spoon poke three holes in the rice. Pour a mixture of ¼ cup water with 2 tbsp of canola oil over the rice. Cover and turn the heat up to medium high for 10 minutes.
Turn down the heat to medium low and take a clean dish towel and cover the lid of the pot (tie the ends so they don’t burn). This is so the steam doesn’t go back into the rice. Make sure that the lid is on tightly. Alternatively you can use a double layer of paper towel between the pot and lid. Let the rice steam for 30-40 minutes.
When the rice is done, use a spatula to gently sprinkle the rice onto a serving dish. This will help ensure that the grains of rice separate and are fluffy. Invert the pot onto a plate to loosen the delicious and crispy ta-dig. Enjoy!
*When you buy saffron it comes in strands. Use a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle to grind it into a powder.