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:
More Persian Recipes on LinsFood
The King of all Persian dishes, the Persian Jewelled Rice or Morasa Polo bedazzles the eye with twinkles of red, green, orange and gold. Morasa means jewels.
- 500g (1.1lb) Basmati rice, rinsed well
- 2 Tbsp salt
- 2 Tbsp liquid saffron
- 3 Tbsp ghee or butter
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 1 medium carrot julienned
- 2 tsp sugar
- peel of 1 orange, pith removed in thin slithers
- 30g (1 oz) dried barberries, soaked in warm water for 10 minutes, then squeezed dry
- 30g (1 oz) raisins, soaked in warm water for 10 minutes, then squeezed dry
- 30g (1 oz) toasted almond flakes (see handy hints above)
- 30g (1 oz) pistachios, chopped coarsely
- 2 tsp advieh for polo
- 1 Tbsp melted butter or ghee
- 1 tsp rose water
- 2 Tbsp pomegranate seeds (optional)
- Fill a large heavy based saucepan with water, bring it to boil and add the rice. Bring it back to boil and cook for 3-5 minutes. If you’ve soaked your rice, check it after 3 minutes, get a grain and bite it, it should be soft on the outside and just resistant on the inside, not raw solid but almost cooked solid. If you’ve not soaked your rice, this stage will be around the 5 minute mark but every rice is different.
- Drain the rice and set aside.
- Dry the saucepan and add 1 tbsp of olive oil, still on medium heat and sauté the onions for about 5 minutes. Set aside on a plate.
- Add the second tbsp of olive oil and sauté the carrots for 2 minutes, then add 1 tsp of sugar, stir thoroughly and continue cooking for another minute. Remove and set aside.
- If not using store bought orange peel, bring a small saucepan of water to boil with a tsp of added sugar. Add the orange peel in, simmer for 5 minutes. Drain, and set aside.
- Time to cook the rice. Wipe the earlier saucepan dry and place on medium heat. Add 2 tbsp of ghee and 1 tbsp of saffron and swirl it around in your saucepan for a few seconds.
- Add 2-3 ladles of the rice and flatten. If this is your first time, and you’re not so sure or not so fast, lower the heat while you layer up the rice & ingredients, to stop the tahdig from burning. We will keep aside a small amount of every ingredient for garnishing, about 1 heaped tbsp.
- Cook the tahdig for about a minute, then add a third of your rice, gently, with a spatula, spreading it out.
- Next, sprinkle half of every other ingredient on the list, apart from the garnish, remembering to leave out a tbsp of everything for later.
- Follow again by the next third of the rice, then second half of the other ingredients (not the garnish) and finish off with the final third portion of the rice.
- Using your ladle/spatula, bring the top rice layer to the middle, forming a conical shape. The reason for this is that traditional chelow pots were conical, giving you a wide base for your tahdig. Also given the long cooking time, whatever rice that touches the saucepan is going to crisp up slightly. So you want as much of the rice away from the edges as possible.
- Using the other end of your ladle, poke some holes into the rice, these are the steam “vents”, to allow the steam to come through.
- Wrap the saucepan lid up with the towel and place on the saucepan, ensuring it’s a tight fit. The towel is there to absorb any excess moisture, preventing soggy rice. Make sure your tea towel is nowhere near the flame!
- Cook on that same medium heat for 5 minutes. This should be enough time for the steam to build up. My mum used to wet her fingers and touch the side of the saucepan and if it “sizzled” that meant there was enough steam.
- At this stage, lower the heat right down and let the rice steam away for 30 minutes, giving you a rich golden tahdig, as in the picture on this page. Cook it for 45 minutes for a darker and crunchier tahdig.
- At the end of the cooking time, take it off the heat, let rest for 5 minutes.
- Dish up the polow onto a serving platter and scatter all the leftover ingredients all over the rice.
- Mix the melted butter or ghee with the rose water and sprinkle all over the rice and garnish. Finish up with the pomegranate seeds.
- Dish the tahdig up in a separate plate and break it up for the diners to help themselves to.
- Cuisine: Persian