Rice and chicken. You can’t go wrong with these two ingredients where kids (or grown ups) are concerned…add the words ‘Persian pilaf’ to it and you’ve got a winner.
For our family, Persian food offers a unique familiarity – flavors of the Parsi cuisine – but with less focus on spice, and more on sweetness…
I like Niloufer’s suggestion of pairing this rice with the well known Parsi Dhansak Daal (lentils), which we often serve with our much-loved Parsi Pulao.
Niloufer and I met virtually, through our blogs. As fellow Parsi Zoroastrians, we instantly made a connection, a friendship that steadily grows with a mutual admiration for each other’s creations.
In addition to food, Niloufer writes interesting travel articles on Huffington Post like her recent one on eating in Florence. And her wonderful set of well-priced ebooks on Amazon have something in them for everyone.
My favorites from her cookbook series are Persian Fusion (from which I’ve taken this recipe) and the Moroccan Cuisine one. I’m excited to check out Niloufer’s recently released ebook Spanish Tapas, sure to bring back memories of our trip to Spain.
So how did it go in the kitchen with a recipe that could actually get quite challenging for kids? Very well, I’d say, with a couple of tweaks and adult supervision! (Read: 10 Things to Consider While Cooking New Cuisines with Kids.)
And as always, much of the ingredients got eaten along the way, making me glad I hadn’t halved this recipe…
Let’s step into the kitchen, shall we?
Following Niloufer’s lead, I split this recipe into 3 parts for the boys…For long cook time recipes like this one, smaller parts help make things more exciting and less of a chore. As always, I suggest keeping kids under 12 years in the kitchen for no longer than 30 minutes at a time.
Part I – Chicken Sauce
In a large pot, heat 2 tablespoons of oil and add 2 medium onions ground to a paste (recipe suggests slicing the onion, but my younger one starts pulling out strands from his food if I do – a good example of tweaking a recipe as per your family’s choices). Cook well for 5 minutes, on a timer.
Add 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, 1 and half teaspoons of salt, 1 teaspoon of black peppercorn (I used cracked black peppercorn in place of whole ones), 1 cinnamon stick of about 2 inches length, 6 whole green cardamom and 2 cups of water.
Bring to a rolling boil and add 2-3 lb. of bone-in chicken pieces (I suggest boneless chicken thighs, cut in pieces, if your kids are young). Cook for 30-45 minutes till chicken is cooked through.
Part II – Cooking Rice
Remove pieces of chicken and use the strained flavor-filled liquid to cook 2 cups of uncooked rice. Leave the rice grains ‘al dente,’ that’s a bit raw to the bite, they will finish cooking after assembly. Fluff with a fork to release steam, so the rice doesn’t cook while standing.
Part III – Berries in Sugar Syrup
Make a sugar syrup by bring to a boil 1 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar. Once sugar melts, add 1/2 cup of dried berries (I had cranberries on hand; Zereshk or barberries are delicious not easily available around here) and 2 teaspoon orange zest, juice of one lemon and 1 teaspoon of saffron threads, if on hand. Within a minute or two, add the chicken pieces to this thick syrup.
We loved the flavors emerging at this stage; the boys wanted to eat the chicken just as-is!
Now layer the rice over the chicken pieces. Give it a gentle stir; cover the pot and turn off the stove. Let it stand covered for another 30 minutes, for all the flavors to blend and the rice grain to cook through in steam.
Enjoy this flavorful Persian chicken rice pilaf; it’s sure to become a family favorite:)