Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 2 hour 30 mins
Ready in: 2 hour 45 min
Yields: 6 to 8 servings
For meat mixture:
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
6 tablespoons oil
2 pounds good quality chuck beef, cut into ½-inch cubes
6 tablespoons tomato paste
1½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon Persian Advieh polo (rice seasoning)*
¼ teaspoon ground saffron (optional)
2½ cups water
1 medium head green cabbage
2 tablespoons oil
10 cups water
3 cups long grain basmati rice washed and drained
1 tablespoon salt
4 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons butter melted
Heat oil in a deep nonstick pan over medium high heat. Add chopped onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 to 7 minutes or until onion is slightly golden. Add meat, cook for 10 minutes or until juices are gone and meat is slightly browned. Stir in tomato paste, salt, pepper, turmeric and advieh. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes to blend the flavors. Add 2½ cups water. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium low, cover and cook for about 50 minutes.
While the meat is cooking, remove the outer layers of cabbage. Place on a cutting board, cut in half. Remove the core; cut into ½-inch thick slices. Cut cabbage slices into 1- inch pieces. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large frying pan, add chopped cabbage; cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes. Take off heat.
Add saffron and cabbage to the meat. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes or until meat is fork tender. Taste and adjust seasoning. The meat sauce cooks down to about ½ cup to ¾ cup. If there is too much sauce, cook for few minutes longer without the lid to reduce the sauce.
Bring 10 cups of water and 1 tablespoon salt to a boil in a large nonstick pot. Add rice; stir and return back to a boil. Lower heat to medium; cook for about 6 to 7 minutes or until rice rises to the top. Drain in a fine mesh colander.
Add 2 tablespoons oil to the same pot. Add a layer of rice to the pan followed by a layer of meat mixture. Continue to alternate the layers until all the ingredients are used including the meat sauce. Use the handle of a wooden spoon to poke several holes in the rice, all the way to the bottom of the pot to allow steam to escape. Place a clean dishtowel or 2 layers of paper towel over the pot and cover firmly with a lid to absorb the steam. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. Pour butter and remaining oil (2 tablespoons) over the rice. Lower heat to medium low, cook for 50 minutes.
To serve, gently spoon the rice mixture onto a serving plate lightly mixing the ingredients. The bottom of the rice develops a crisp crust that you can serve on a separate plate.
Optional: Dissolve a pinch of saffron in 1 tablespoon hot water. Mix in 1 cup of cooked rice and use for garnish.
*Advieh Polo is a spice blend made of cinnamon, cumin, cardamom, ginger, cloves and rose bud petals. It can be found in the Persian or specialty stores.