Albaloo Polo recipe | Persian Saffron Rice with Sour Cherries and Meatballs | igotitfrommymaman.com
Persian Classics Persian Rice Uncategorized

Albaloo Polo – Persian Saffron Sour Cherry Rice

Here comes my Albaloo Polo recipe! This one has been highly requested by many of you and I am so glad, that I finally got around to creating it.

Sour cherries are very popular among Iranians. Whether in Albaloo Polo or as a jam – you know we love all things sour, as well as sweet and sour! In this dish the fragrant Persian saffron rice is topped with gently caramelised sour cherries and golden brown meatballs. To add even more colour and texture you can garnish the Albaloo Polo with slivered pistachios and almonds.

This beautiful rice dish can easily be made vegetarian by simply eliminating the meat balls. It also tastes fantastic with chicken!

Fresh sour cherries are difficult to get your hands on here in the UK. It may be because they have a very short growing season or simply because they have fallen out of fashion in this part of the world. Thankfully they are available frozen in Middle Eastern or Turkish shops, as well as other supermarkets. One type of sour cherry is the Morello cherry, which can be found frozen or conserved in UK supermarkets.

So until I have planted my own Morello cherry tree and waited for it to mature, I will have to stick to frozen sour cherries and that’s absolutely fine, as it doesn’t take away from the amazing flavour of this popular Persian dish!

Albaloo Polo recipe | Persian Saffron Rice with Sour Cherries and Meatballs | igotitfrommymaman.com

Ingredients

400g / 14oz sour cherries (frozen or fresh)

400g / 2 cups basmati rice

100g / 1/2 cup sugar

3 tbsp vegetable oil

2 tbsp rosewater (optional)

1 tbsp slivered pistachios (optional)

1 tbsp slivered almonds (optional)

1/4 tsp ground saffron

2 tbsp salt

2 ice cubes

For the meatballs

250g / 8.8oz ground beef or lamb

5 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tbsp sesame seeds (optional)

1/2 tsp mild paprika

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp turmeric

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/4 tsp salt

Time

Prep: 30min

Cook: 1h

Total: 1h 30min

Method of preparing Albaloo Polo

Deseed the sour cherries

If you are using frozen sour cherries, let them defrost. If they aren’t already deseeded, do so now. I found it easiest to use clean tweezers, as you can see below.

Set them aside for later.

Bloom the saffron

Transfer the ice cubes to a glass and sprinkle the ground saffron over it. If you have saffron threads, you can grind them in a pestle and mortar. This allows more of the fragrance and colour to be absorbed by the melting ice cubes. Set the glass aside in a warm place and let the ice cubes melt.

If you plan on adding slivered pistachios and almonds, you can soak them in the rosewater until it’s time to garnish.

Marinate the meat

Transfer the ground lamb or beef into a bowl, together with the sesame seeds, paprika, onion powder, turmeric, garlic powder, black pepper and 1/4 tsp of salt.

Knead the ground meat until all the ingredients are well combined and the spices are evenly distributed throughout the meat.

Cover the bowl and put it in the fridge while you prepare the cherries and rice, so that the meat can firm a little before shaping the meatballs.

Caramelise the sour cherries

Place a pot over medium heat. Transfer the cherries into it, along with 5 tbsp water. Allow the sour cherries to simmer, then add the sugar to them. Let them simmer for a further 8 minutes while gently stirring occasionally. You want the sour cherries to hold their shape as much as possible. Take them off the heat and set them aside.

Parboil the rice

Wash the rice by moving it around in a bowl of water, draining it, adding fresh water, and repeating this process 4 to 5 times until the water remains almost clear.

Bring a full pot of water to boil. Add 2 tbsp of salt.

Once the water is boiling, add the rice to it and briefly stir to make sure it does not stick together. 

After 3 to 10 minutes fish out a rice corn and either bite or cut through it. The rice corn should only be half cooked. The outer layer of the rice corn should be soft and look translucent and the centre should still be firm and appear opaque white. How long this takes depends on which rice brand you are using. I’m using Tilda Pure Basmati and it takes 4 minutes to parboil. If you’re unsure, you can remove and check a rice corn as explained above every minute, starting at 3 minutes.

Drain the rice in a colander and rinse it thoroughly with cold water. This will interrupt the cooking process as well as wash off any excess salt.

Layer and steam the rice

Add 3 tbsp of vegetable oil to a non-stick pot with lid over medium heat.

Now add a layer of the parboiled rice to the pot. Then add a layer of sour cherries, followed by 1 or 2 tbsp of the cherry juice. Continue adding alternating layers of rice and sour cherries, plus their juice until all the rice is used up. Keep some sour cherries and a bit of their juice as garnish for later.

Layering Albaloo Polo

Poke a few holes through the rice with the back of a wooden spoon. Line the lid with a clean kitchen towel. Put on the lid, reduce the temperature to low and let the rice steam for 45 min. Don’t take off the lid during this time. The holes in the rice allow more moisture to escape from the centre of the rice. The kitchen towel then absorbs this moisture, so that it doesn’t drop back into the rice. This makes perfect fluffy rice!

Shape the meatballs

Remove the ground meat from the fridge and oil a plate with some vegetable oil. This will prevent the meatballs from sticking to it when you place them on the plate.

Take a small amount of ground meat and shape a small meatball by rolling it with both palms facing each other. The size you are going for is slightly larger than the sour cherries. The reason I make them so small is, because I like them to be bitesized, so that you can have rice, as well as a sour cherry, as well as a meatball on each spoon. Of course, you could divide them with a spoon, but also the small meatballs look better in this dish in my opinion.

Tiny meatballs for Albaloo Polo

Heat 5 tbsp vegetable oil in a frying pan over medium to high heat. If your frying pan is too small to fit all the meatballs and allow them to come in contact with the hot oil, divide them into two batches and use half the vegetable oil for each batch.

Once the oil is hot, transfer the meatballs into the pan. They should easily slide off the oiled plate. Since they are so small, you don’t need to turn them individually. Simply stir all of them every minute or so, until they are golden brown all around. The whole process only takes about 5 minutes. If you leave them longer, they may become tough and chewy. Take them off the heat and transfer them to a clean bowl or plate.

Arrange the Albaloo Polo

Once the rice is steamed, combine about one quarter of it with the saffron water until it is evenly yellow. Now comes the creative part, that you get to do any way you like. I explain how I arranged my Albaloo Polo, in case you’d like some inspiration.

Layer the white (or by now pink) sour cherry rice with about half of the meatballs on your serving plate until the white rice is used up. Then add the yellow sour cherry rice, layering it with half of the remaining meatballs. Arrange the rest of the meatballs, as well as the sour cherries and juice you set aside, on top of the rice heap. Now top it all off with the soaked pistachios and almonds. Don’t add the rosewater though. You can re-use it in baking, desserts or lemonade. I even added some tiny edible flower, but that’s of course completely optional.

Albaloo Polo recipe | Persian Saffron Rice with Sour Cherries and Meatballs | igotitfrommymaman.com

Albaloo Polo recipe | Persian Saffron Rice with Sour Cherries and Meatballs | igotitfrommymaman.com
5 from 2 votes
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Albaloo Polo – Persian Saffron Rice with Sour Cherries and Meatballs

Course Main Course
Cuisine Persian
Keyword Albaloo Polo, meatballs, rice dish, sour cherries
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Servings 4
Author Hami

Ingredients

  • 400 g 14 oz sour cherries fresh or frozen
  • 400 g 2 cups basmati rice
  • 100 g 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp rosewater optional
  • 1 tbsp slivered pistachios optional
  • 1 tbsp slivered almonds optional
  • 1/4 tsp ground saffron
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 2 ice cubes

For the meatballs

  • 250 g 8.8oz ground beef or lamb
  • 5 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds optional
  • 1/2 tsp mild paprika
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Instructions

Deseed the sour cherries

  1. If you are using frozen sour cherries, let them defrost. If they aren’t already deseeded, do so now. I found it easiest to use clean tweezers. Set them aside for later.

Bloom the saffron

  1. Transfer the ice cubes to a glass and sprinkle the ground saffron over it. If you have saffron threads, you can grind them in a pestle and mortar. This allows more of the fragrance and colour to be absorbed by the melting ice cubes. Set the glass aside in a warm place and let the ice cubes melt.

  2. If you plan on adding slivered pistachios and almonds, you can soak them in the rosewater until it’s time to garnish.

Marinate the meat

  1. Transfer the ground lamb or beef into a bowl, together with the sesame seeds, paprika, onion powder, turmeric, garlic powder, black pepper and 1/4 tsp of salt.

  2. Knead the ground meat until all the ingredients are well combined and the spices are evenly distributed throughout the meat.

  3. Cover the bowl and put it in the fridge while you prepare the cherries and rice, so that the meat can firm a little before shaping the meatballs.

Caramelise the sour cherries

  1. Place a pot over medium heat. Transfer the cherries into it, along with 5 tbsp water. Allow the sour cherries to simmer, then add the sugar to them. Let them simmer for a further 8 minutes while gently stirring occasionally. You want the sour cherries to hold their shape as much as possible. Take them off the heat and set them aside.

Parboil the rice

  1. Wash the rice by moving it around in a bowl of water, draining it, adding fresh water, and repeating this process 4 to 5 times until the water remains almost clear.

  2. Bring a full pot of water to boil. Add 2 tbsp of salt.

  3. Once the water is boiling, add the rice to it and briefly stir to make sure it does not stick together. 

  4. After 3 to 10 minutes fish out a rice corn and either bite or cut through it. The rice corn should only be half cooked. The outer layer of the rice corn should be soft and look translucent and the centre should still be firm and appear opaque white. How long this takes depends on which rice brand you are using. I’m using Tilda Pure Basmati and it takes 4 minutes to parboil. If you’re unsure, you can remove and check a rice corn as explained above every minute, starting at 3 minutes.

  5. Drain the rice in a colander and rinse it thoroughly with cold water. This will interrupt the cooking process as well as wash off any excess salt.

Layer and steam the rice

  1. Add 3 tbsp of vegetable oil to a non-stick pot with lid over medium heat. 

  2. Now add a layer of the parboiled rice to the pot. Then add a layer of sour cherries, followed by 1 or 2 tbsp of the cherry juice. Continue adding alternating layers of rice and sour cherries, plus their juice until all the rice is used up. Keep some sour cherries and a bit of their juice as garnish for later.

    Layering Albaloo Polo
  3. Poke a few holes through the rice with the back of a wooden spoon. Line the lid with a clean kitchen towel. Put on the lid, reduce the temperature to low and let the rice steam for 45 min. Don’t take off the lid during this time. The holes in the rice allow more moisture to escape from the centre of the rice. The kitchen towel then absorbs this moisture, so that it doesn't drop back into the rice. This makes perfect fluffy rice!

Shape the meatballs 

  1. Remove the ground meat from the fridge and oil a plate with some vegetable oil. This will prevent the meatballs from sticking to it when you place them on the plate.

  2. Take a small amount of ground meat and shape a small meatball by rolling it with both palms facing each other. The size you are going for is slightly larger than the sour cherries. The reason I make them so small is, because I like them to be bitesized, so that you can have rice, as well as a sour cherry, as well as a meatball on each spoon. Of course, you could divide them with a spoon, but also the small meatballs look better in this dish in my opinion.

  3. Heat 5 tbsp vegetable oil in a frying pan over medium to high heat. If your frying pan is too small to fit all the meatballs and allow them to come in contact with the hot oil, divide them into two batches and use half the vegetable oil for each batch.

  4. Once the oil is hot, transfer the meatballs into the pan. They should easily slide off the oiled plate. Since they are so small, you don’t need to turn them individually. Simply stir all of them every minute or so, until they are golden brown all around. The whole process only takes about 5 minutes. If you leave them longer, they may become tough and chewy. Take them off the heat and transfer them to a clean bowl or plate.

Arrange the Albaloo Polo

  1. Once the rice is steamed, combine about one quarter of it with the saffron water until it is evenly yellow. Now comes the creative part, that you get to do any way you like. I explain how I arranged my Albaloo Polo, in case you’d like some inspiration.

  2. Layer the white (or by now pink) sour cherry rice with about half of the meatballs on your serving plate until the white rice is used up. Then add the yellow sour cherry rice, layering it with half of the remaining meatballs. Arrange the remaining meatballs, as well as the sour cherries and juice you set aside, on top of the rice heap. Now top it all off with the rosewater soaked pistachios and almonds. Don’t add the rosewater though. You can use it in baking, desserts or lemonade. I even added some tiny edible flower, but that’s of course completely optional. Enjoy!

I hope you enjoyed this recipe! If you have any questions please let me know in the comments, I’m always happy to help. 

I’d love to see your Albaloo Polo! Feel free to tag me with @igotitfrommymaman on Facebook or Insta so I can take a look and give you a thumbs up!

Want to save this recipe for later? You can print out the printable version above or pin it to your recipe board.

Looking for more recipes? Here are my other Persian classics!

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Thanks for stopping by!

Albaloo Polo recipe | Persian Saffron Rice with Sour Cherries and Meatballs | igotitfrommymaman.com

6 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Another amazing recipe by Hami. I asked him a while ago to send me a recipe for it, and here we go. It was worth to wait 😍😍🍒🍒

  2. 5 stars
    My mum was not big fan of Albaloo Polo, I followed Hami’s recipe and the result was fantastic. Now I have everyone including my mum enjoying this tasty Persian dish. Thanks Hami

    1. Thank you so much for the great review! I’m so happy to hear that you were able to convert your mum with this recipe. Made my day! 🙂

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