Zereshk Polo, sort of (B)

August 31, 2006 at 6:07 pm (B_minus (2.5 stars), Grains, My brain, Persian, Quick weeknight recipe)

3I have some ancient barberries that I bought at a Persian grocery when I was in Vancouver ages ago. Since I had some leftover basmati rice I thought I might throw together a dish inspired by the great Persian rice dish Zereshk Polo, but without the chicken and butter.

1 tsp. olive oil
1/4 cup barberries, dry
10 cashews, coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
1 cup basmati rice, cooked

I heated the oil then added everything but the rice and fried it a bit, then added the rice to heat it and mixed it all thoroughly.

Despite their senectitude, the barberries added a vivid sweet/sour dimension. The fennel flavor came through nicely, and the cashews added a bit of crunch if not much flavor. The rice didn’t have that buttery rich mouthfeel that makes Persian rice so decadent, but it only had 1 tsp. oil so that was kind of to be expected.

In looking up a recipe for the real zereshk polo (or polow as it’s sometimes spelt), I discovered that it typically has not only basmatic rice, lots of butter and chicken, and barberries, but also saffron. Some recipes also call for onions and/or sliced almonds. I think that next time I’ll leave the cashews out and add carmelized onions and saffron instead.

My barberries (zereshk) have gotten quite dark over time. In reading recipes I found recommendations to keep them in the freezer to prevent this from happening. Another site suggested rinsing them, then soaking them in a few tablesoons of water and a couple of spoons of sugar, until they get plump and bright red.

I would really like to come up with some more recipes that use barberries. I love the flavor, but never know what to do with them. Maybe I can use them instead of currants sometimes? Other ideas are welcome.

Rating: B

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