Translating to “arranged at the bottom”, this traditional Persian dish features crisp saffron-infused rice layered with chicken, yoghurt and tangy barberries (zereshk).
- 1 onion, roughly chopped
- 600 g skinless chicken thigh fillets
- ¼ tsp saffron threads
- 360 g (2 cups) basmati rice, soaked in cold salted water for 2 hours
- 3 egg yolks
- 250 g Greek-style yoghurt
- 50 g unsalted butter
- 1 tbsp dried barberries (see Note), plus extra, to serve
- chopped pistachios, to serve
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 2 tsp caster sugar
- 2 tsp vinegar
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.
Soaking time 2 hours
Cooling time 30 minutes
You will need a 21cm saucepan or deep frying pan for this recipe.
To make fried onion, heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add onion and 1 tsp salt, and cook, stirring, for 13 minutes or until golden and crisp. Stir in sugar and vinegar and cook for a further 2 minutes or until caramelised. Set aside to cool.
Place onion and chicken in a large saucepan, then cover with cold water and 2 tsp salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook for 20 minutes or until just cooked through. Remove 60 ml cooking liquid, place in a bowl with saffron and set aside to steep. Drain chicken, reserving remaining cooking liquid, then use two forks to shred the chicken. Allow to cool completely.
Drain rice, place in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil over medium heat and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, drain and refresh under cold water.
Combine egg yolks and yoghurt in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Mix chicken with 2 tbsp yoghurt mixture. Stir remaining yoghurt mixture through rice.
Melt butter in a 21 cm deep frying pan over medium heat. Add half the saffron mixture, then cover with two-thirds of the rice mixture. Arrange chicken in an even layer over the rice, then scatter with barberries. Top with remaining rice mixture, then evenly pour over remaining saffron mixture and 60 ml reserved cooking liquid.
Cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to low and cook for 1 hour or until, when lifted slightly, a golden crust has formed on the bottom. Invert onto a serving plate and scatter with pistachios, fried onion and extra barberries. Serve cut into wedges.
• Barberries are a sour, dried fruit available from Middle Eastern food shops. These tiny ruby-coloured berries were especially popular in England and Europe in medieval times, and are still common in Persian cooking. They are frequently used to flavour rice dishes, and often feature in wedding banquets – the sourness of the berries serving to remind the newlyweds that life isn’t always sweet. Tahchin is often made for special occasions, and the most beloved part of the dish is the bottom layer of rice (known as tahdig), which becomes crisp and crunchy as it bakes against the hot pan. Substitute chopped dried cranberries.
Photography by Brett Stevens
As seen in Feast magazine, Feb 2014, Issue 28. For more recipes and articles, pick up a copy of this month's Feast magazine or check out our great subscriptions offers here.