When in season, baghali – fava (broad) beans – have many uses in Iranian cuisine. Baghali polo is one of our favourites. Cooked with rice and dill, the bean dish makes the perfect accompaniment to stews and sauces. The list of ingredients can be found almost anywhere and as far as Iranian dishes go, it is one of the simplest we've learnt to cook.
- 4 cups basmati or jasmine rice
- 1 tbsp salt
- 3 cups fresh broad (fava) beans, double shelled
- 2½ cups dill sprigs
- 60 ml (¼ cup) vegetable oil
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- 25 g butter
- a pinch of saffron threads
- 2 tbsp boiling water
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Soak the rice in water with the salt while you prepare the other ingredients; you can even soak it overnight if you want.
Wash the dill and remove the stalks. Place the broad beans in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Cook for 1–2 minutes to blanch, then drain; they should be al dente and still bright green.
Drain the rice, then rinse and drain again. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, add the rice and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes or until par-cooked. Drain the rice and set aside. Reserve the pan.
Coat the hot pan with the vegetable oil, sprinkle the turmeric over the base of the pan, then mix with the oil. This will give the tahdig (rice crust) some nice colouring.
Add 2 cups cooked rice to the pan, then combine ½ cup broad beans and ¾ cup dill and gently stir into the rice in the pan. Repeat with layers until all the rice, broad beans and dills are used up.
Wrap a tea towel around the lid and place on the pan. Cook over low heat and after 10–15 minutes, check if it’s ready. There are two ways to know: take a fork and poke holes in the bottom through the rice to see if there is enough tahdig; there should be a nice crispy coating of rice at the bottom; or, if you started with a cold pan and follow the rule used in the North of never opening the rice lid until it is ready (opening it technically ruins the rice), lick your finger and touch the hot pan on its side; if it sizzles, the rice is ready. (It’s up to you to decide which one you dare try!)
Melt the butter with 2 tablespoons of water, then pour over the rice. To finish, mix the saffron with 2 tablespoons of boiling water to make saffron tea. Mix 1 cup cooked grains with the deep amber tea to give it colour. Place the rice and dill mixture on a platter, top with the saffron rice and serve.
Recipe from The Funnelogy Channel by Gabriella Zanzanaini and Nicolas Petit, with photographs by Nicolas Petit.