Iran is known for many of its exports …… oil, saffron, rugs, and of course Persian cats:) But one commodity that many in the West may not know of is zereshk. Iran is the biggest producer of zereshk in the world. Zereshk are dried barbarries – small delicious tart berries that have been cultivated in Iran for over 200 years. They are used in jams, dried fruit leathers and candies. But one of the most popular dishes that features zereshk is Zereshk Polo.
Zereshk polo is one of the easiest and yet most elegant Persian dishes to prepare. This traditional rice dish has the perfect balance of tart and sweet. Zershk Polo is delicious on it’s own, but I find that it goes exceptionally well with Saffron and Lemon Roasted Chicken.
Zereshk Polo (Persian Rice with Barberries & Saffron)
2 cups basmati rice (preferably Indian)
3/4 cup zereshk* (dried barbarries)
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp butter**
1/8 tsp ground saffron disolved in 1 tbsp boiling water
salt and pepper
Follow instructions to make Persian Rice (click on link for recipe). You may omit the potato if you wish and the rice itself will form a crust.
When the rice is ready you can begin making the zereshk mixture.
Wash the zereshk by soaking them in cold water for a couple of minutes and then draining them in a sieve. Melt the butter in a small frying pan under medium heat. Add the zeresk, 1/2 tsp salt and the sugar. Cook for about two minutes over medium-high heat. The barberries will get a bit fragrant and plump slightly. Turn the heat off and add the the saffron water.
There are a number of different ways that you can serve this dish. Some people add the zereshk mixture to the rice and let it steam together but I find that this turns the zereshk brown and not as appetizing. Some serve the rice and sprinkle the zereshk mixture on top. But I prefer to mix it in right before serving that way you get the sweet and tart in every bite. Pour the zereshk mixture (reserving some for serving on top as well) on the rice and very gently mix in. Using a spatula, sprinkle the rice on serving dish and scatter the remaining zereshk mixture on top.
You may serve the Zereshk Polo on it’s own but it goes exceptionally well with Saffron & Lemon Roasted Chicken (click on link for recipe!)
*You can find zereshk in Iranian or Middle Eastern supermarkets
**You can substitute vegetable oil for the butter in order to make this a vegan dish.