To make a vegetarian version of this dish, replace the chicken with 1 large eggplant, cut into rough chunks.
Fragrant and bursting with flavour, this polow is a great main meal and entertaining centrepiece.
- 250 g (9 oz/1 ¼ cups) Persian or basmati rice, rinsed several times in water
- 185 g (6½ oz/1 cup) puy lentils
- 1 red onion, finely sliced
- butter and olive oil, for frying
- 1 tsp each ground turmeric, cumin and cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into small pieces
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into small pieces
- sea salt and freshly ground
- black pepper
- 30 g (1 oz/¼ cup) sultanas
- 2 medjool dates, chopped
- 1 brown onion, finely sliced and fried until crispy
- 1 egg yolk
- 50 g (1¾ oz) butter, melted, plus extra for cooking
- 100 g (3½ oz) plain Greek yoghurt
- ½ tsp ground saffron, dissolved in 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.
1. Add the rice and lentils to separate pans of boiling water and cook until still a little hard (al dente). Drain and rinse with cold water. Separate out 1 cup of the cooked rice, then add the remainder to a bowl with the lentils.
2. Gently fry the red onion in a little butter and olive oil. Add the spices and chicken and cook, turning, until coloured on all sides. Season with salt and pepper, then transfer to the bowl with the rice and lentils. Add the sultanas and dates and mix everything together well.
3. For the tah digh, mix the egg yolk, butter, yoghurt, saﬀron and reserved cooked rice together in a bowl. Transfer this mixture to a large, non-stick frying pan and press down on it gently, then spoon the rice, lentil and chicken mixture on top and build it up like a volcano. Using the end of a wooden spoon, make 5–6 holes in the rice right to the bottom, and insert a small knob of butter into each.
4. Cover the pan with a tight-ﬁtting lid and cook over low heat for 30 minutes.
5. Take the pan oﬀ the stove and leave it to stand in cold water (this will loosen the tah digh). Put the serving plate over the pan and give it a shake, then carefully invert the pan. The crust should come away easily. Garnish with crispy fried onion.
Pardiz by Manuela Darling-Gansser (Hardie Grant Books, $60.00). Photography by Simon Griffiths & Ebrahim Khadem Bayat.