A New Way to Use Dill — Baghali Polo

 Baghali Polo with lamb, served with sides of potato tadig and yogurt with cucumber and mint.

Baghali Polo with lamb, served with sides of potato tadig and yogurt with cucumber and mint.

So you've made potato salad. Maybe you're planning to make pickles. The fact is that you've got dill growing in your herb garden, it's getting tall and leggy, and you're running out of ideas for how to use it. Well, we have a radical suggestion: look to Persia.

While dill is best known as the aromatic star of many northern and eastern European dishes — borscht, gravlax, etc. — dill is a beloved ingredient in Iranian cooking. It makes a gorgeous summery rice dish called baghali polo that you can make with stewed lamb or chicken, or as a side to fish. 

 

BAGHALI POLO

Serves 4

2 cups chopped fresh dill (approx 1 large bunch)

1/2 pound (approx 2 cups) fava beans, fresh de-shelled or frozen and thawed

3 cups basmati rice, rinsed and soaked overnight with 2 TBSP of salt

1 medium baking potato, peeled and thinly sliced

12 cups water, lightly salted (for boiling the rice)

3 TBSP vegetable oil

2 TBSP butter

optional: 1/2 tsp of saffron + 2 TBSP hot water

Equipment: 5-quart saucepan; clean, dry tea cloth; sieve; large bowl

 

1. Drain the rice that's been soaking overnight.

2. Fill a 5-quart saucepan with 12 cups of lightly salted water, and bring it to a boil. 

3. Add the rice to the boiling water, and boil on high approx. 5 minutes - until the outside of a grain of rice feels soft but the core remains solid so the grain does not disintegrate between your fingers.

If you are using fresh fava beans, add them to the pot along with the rice. If you are using frozen fava, reserve for later.

4. Drain the rice into a sieve, then place the drained rice in a large bowl. Very carefully mix in the dill and the fava beans so that they are evenly distributed throughout the rice. Set aside while you prepare the saucepan for final cooking.

5. Rinse and dry the saucepan you just used. Place it over medium heat and add the vegetable oil, tipping the pot around so that the oil covers the surface evenly. Carefully place the potato slices in one single layer to cover the bottom of the pot. You can trim the slices so that they fit snuggly against each other (but a few spaces won't harm the dish). This will form a crust of crispy potato called tadig, which will protect the rice while it steams. Tadig is delicious served alongside the rice, particularly dipped into thick yogurt.

6. On top of the layered potato, add the rice mixture and place the butter on top (it will melt and dribble through). Take the handle of a wooden spoon and poke a few air holes through the rice so the steam can rise and the potato below will crisp.

7. If you're using saffron, mix the saffron in a small cup with a couple tablespoons of boiling water. Stir it vigorously, and then pour the contents over the top of the rice.

8. Finally, cover the top of the saucepan with a clean, dry tea cloth (several sheets of paper towel will do too) and place the saucepan's lid snuggly on top. (Make sure the cloth remains fairly taut so that it doesn't touch the rice.) The cloth will absorb the steam, which makes for fluffy rice.

9. Lower the heat to its lowest setting. Allow the rice to steam on low for at least half an hour. The finished rice should be soft to the bite but not mushy, and fluffy, not sticky.

Recipe by Iran Jolly

 Baghali Polo served with stewed lamb.

Baghali Polo served with stewed lamb.