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Zereshk Polo (Barberry Rice)

Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 1 hour
Ready in: 1 hour 10 min
Yields: 6 servings


For Rice:
3 cups basmati rice, rinsed and drained
1½ quarts (10 cups) water
2 tablespoons salt
6 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons butter, melted

For Topping:
¾ cup zereshk (barberries), rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon butter
¼ teaspoon ground saffron


Pour the rice into a bowl; cover with cold water. Swish the rice around gently with your hand; drain and repeat until the water is clear. Rinsing washes off loose starch, making the rice less sticky. Strain the rice.

Bring 10 cups water and 2 tablespoons salt to a boil in a 5-quart nonstick pot. Add rice; cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes or until rice rises to the top. Drain in a mesh colander.

Heat 4 tablespoons oil in the same pot used to cook the rice. Pour in the rice. Cover; cook over medium heat for 10 minutes or until the rice starts to steam.

Add the remaining oil and melted butter on top of the rice. Reduce heat to low. Place a clean dishtowel or 2 layers of paper towel over the pot, folding the corners to keep away from the heat source. Cover the pot firmly with a lid; cook for 50 minutes. The dishtowel is used to keep the steam from escaping and to absorb the water that condenses on the inside of the lid, preventing it from falling back into the pot. This results in drier and fluffier rice.

To make the topping for rice, place butter, zereshk and sugar in a skillet over medium low heat. Heat just long enough for butter and sugar to melt. Remove from heat.

Dissolve ¼ teaspoon saffron in 1 tablespoon hot water in a small bowl. Add 2 cups cooked rice, gently mix to combine.

To plate the rice, gently scoop it out onto a serving platter with a wide spatula, mounding it into the shape of a pyramid. Add saffron rice and top with zereshk.

Loosen the tadigh (crispy crust) from the bottom of the pan and serve on a separate platter. If tadigh is hard to remove, lower the bottom of the pot into a sink of cold water for few minutes to help release the crust.

This rice can also be prepared in a rice cooker or in kateh style, then topped with saffron rice and zereshk. Serve with chicken breasts or thighs.