The King of all Persian dishes, the Persian Jewelled Rice or Morasa Polow bedazzles the eye with twinkles of red, green, orange and gold. Morasa means jewels and it’s easy to see why this jewelled rice always makes an appearance at major Persian festivals such as Nowruz, the Persian New Year and especially weddings; its gems and sweetness is meant to be a harbinger of a sweet and glorious life for the newlyweds.
You can read more about Nowruz and its tradition on the Nowruz page:
The name, flavour and colour comes from barberries, raisins, carrots, orange peel, almonds and pistachios. Despite the sour barberries (see handy hints below), the overall taste of Morasa Polow is sweet, because of the sugar used for most of the ingredients.
Now, I am not a big fan of sweet in my savoury (does that make sense?), so over the years, not only have I dramatically reduced the amount of sugar used, but in doing so, the cooking process has also been simplified somewhat, a necessary evil in this busy day and age but also imperative in my two hour long Persian cooking classes, always full up within hours of going live.
The traditional way of cooking Jewelled Rice requires you to prepare every single ingredient separately, to sauté, then caramelise each one with sugar. While it is a task I would happily perform for a big occasion, I find it unnecessary and of course, it produces a rice that is far too sweet for my own taste.
There is a fairly long list of ingredients, but as always, once you have everything ready, it’s pretty straight forward after that. We start the whole process in the same way that we would Chelow. Here, I am going to go for a simple tahdig of rice, fat and saffron. More about tahdig and how to cook Persian rice can be found in the Chelow post. I suggest you read that first, to learn more about cooking rice the Persian way.
Persian jewelled Rice Recipe
Tahdig (image above)
It’s that golden crunchy bottom rice layer, the crowning glory of all Persian rice dishes! While many people in the West would call it the burnt bottom of the rice, in Persian cuisine, it is much sought after! In fact, we go out of our way to create this layer of crispy, “glued together” bottom layer.
tah = bottom
dig = pot
Pronounced ta-deeg. See the Chelow post for more.
Click on in to read more and how to make it. This is just your regular saffron crushed and soaked in water (image above). Although it will last in the fridge for 2-3 days, I always make it fresh as I need it. How much saffron you use depends on what the recipe calls for. In this Persian Jewelled Rice recipe, we need 2 tablespoons.
Dried Barberries (click for more information)
Barberries, Zereshk or Sereshk (image above), an important ingredient in Persian cooking, it is rather tart and is used in anything from rice to chicken dishes. It adds amazing flavour and colour. If unavailable, substitute with dried cherries or cranberries.
You could cheat here and get ready candied ones, the sort used in fruit cakes & panettone. I just make my own by peeling an orange, removing the pith, simmering in water with a tsp of sugar for 5 minutes – see step 5.
These are supposed to be sliced into slithers after soaking them but I dispense with the soaking, preferring the nuts as they are, not sweet.
Almonds – I use store bought flakes and lightly toast them in a dry pan over low flame for 5 minutes.
Pistachios – I place them on a chopping board and roughly chop them.
Traditionally, the rice is always soaked in salted water for at least a couple of hours before cooking. However, I have long dispensed with the soaking method, having found that I much prefer the final texture without. If you are a soaking kind of person though, go ahead, soak in cool water for a couple of hours with 2 tsp of salt.
Let’s get cooking!
How to Serve Persian Jewelled Rice
This rice has so much going for it that you don’t really need a whole lot; some grilled or roast meat, a salad and the ubiquitous yoghurt is perfect. Like in the gallery below:
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