Skin off the chicken. If you use poussin like I did this time, you can leave it on if it doesn’t bother you. It’s very thin, so I personally don’t mind it, plus it looks nicer when served whole with the skin on.
Heat a frying pan and add the vegetable oil. When the oil is sizzling hot put in the chicken/poussin and fry it on all sides until golden brown. This is just to brown the outside. It will have plenty of time to cook through later. Be careful not to burn yourself with the sizzling hot oil.
Skin off the onion and carve into it from the top as if you wanted to quarter it, not completely cutting through it. This lets the juices of the onion cook with the stew but the whole onion can be removed after the chicken is cooked.
Transfer the golden brown chicken to the pan you want to cook it in, together with the onion. Add 1 1/2 to 2 cups of freshly boiled water to it. Also add the tomato puree (alternatively 1/4 tsp of saffron), turmeric, black pepper, and salt and stir until everything is combined.
Put on the lid and put the pan over low heat. Now it’s time to prepare the Zereshk Polo. The chicken is taking care of itself from here on out, all that’s left for you to do is turn it over after about 30 minutes. Put the lid back on and let it simmer for another 30 to 45 minutes.
I made a potato tadig (crispy part of the rice from the bottom of the pan) this time. This is not usual for Zereshk Polo but I felt like it today, plus potato tadig is the best imo. 🙂 If you want to do the same, peel the potato now (or several baby potatoes) and cut it into 0.5cm/0.2″ thin slices. Set them aside for later.
Wash the rice by transferring it to a bowl, adding water, moving it around with your hand, rinsing the water, and repeating these steps 3 to 4 times.
Bring a pan of water to boil and dissolve 3 tbsp of salt in it. Don’t worry, you will wash most of the salt off the rice later. Trust me, if you use any less your rice will taste bland.
Add the rice to the pan and keep the water boiling. Let it pre-cook until the rice corns are soft on the outside but still have bite in the centre. How long this process takes depends on your rice. I’m using Tilda basmati rice and it only takes 3 minutes for the rice to cook to this stage. It might take anything from 3 to 7 minutes.
Once your rice is pre-cooked, drain it in a colander and rinse it with cold water to interrupt the cooking process and wash off the excess salt.
Transfer about 1/4 of the rice into a small bowl and combine it with half of the saffron water until it’s evenly yellow.
Cover the bottom of a coated pan with 2 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil. Add 1 tbsp of water to it and give it a quick shake. If you like, you can lay the potato slices on the bottom of the pan for the tadig. Then add the saffron rice. You can taste the rest of the rice to see if it needs any additional salt and if so season it now. Transfer the white rice into the pan, on top of the yellow.
Combine 1 more tbsp of vegetable oil or ghee with 1 tbsp of water and pour it over the rice.
Poke a few holes through the rice to the bottom of the pan using the back of a wooden spoon. This way the moisture can evaporate more easily. Cover the lid with a clean kitchen towel and firmly close the pan with it. Let the rice steam over low heat for at least 60 minutes.
Wash the dried barberries and heat a small pan with 2 tbsp of ghee. Briefly fry the barberries together with the sugar in the hot ghee. Don’t let them fry any longer than 30 seconds. Combine the sweet fried barberries with the slivered pistachios and set them aside for later.
After 1 hour you can touch the outside of the pan with a wet kitchen towel. If it makes a sound like ‘tshhh’ your rice is done.
Before turning the pan upside down onto your serving plate, transfer a small part of the rice from the top of the pan into a bowl and combine it with the remaining saffron water and the barberry pistachio mix.
You can submerge the bottom of the pan in a sink filled with cold water to make the rice and tadig come off easily. Just a fair warning, this might not be the best practice when using expensive coated pans. If you have a good quality pan, the rice shouldn’t stick and if you have a less valuable pan you might as well risk it – at least that’s what I’ve been doing and the coating is still intact.
Place your serving plate upside down onto the pan and carefully flip the pan around using both hands. Arrange the saffron rice with the barberries and pistachios on or around the rest of the rice.
Now you can serve your Zereshk Polo with the chicken and sauce (khoresht-e morgh). You can serve some yogurt with it, too. Enjoy!