Adas Polo: Persian Rice With Lentils And Dried Fruit

Here in Yokohama the place is jumping in the lead up to Christmas (yes, we have it here but it is more like Valentine's Day, and the somehow KFC and strawberry shortcake have come to be the food traditions) and Oshogatsu, the New Year. It is a time of cleaning house and tidying up loose ends. And also the reason for the absence of new posts on Saffron and Lemons. Hopefully we can still be friends anyway (g).

So, in the spirit of the season, let's tidy up last weekend's foray into Iranian cooking with the recipe for adas polo. It is rather festive, and back when I was new to Iranian food, a dish I (bravely) served it as my offering at a dear friend's Birthday/New Year's party. It seemed to go down well, with the potato crust being particularly popular amongst the (mostly) British party guests.

It is loosely based on a recipe in New Food of Life. The crust, however, is the idea of an Iranian friend, and since I never seem to have much luck with regular rice crusts (probably because I can't bring myself to use the mind boggling amount of oil the recipe demands), I think this is the way to go.

This does take a bit of prep, but it is very yummy and by my reckoning the recipe will feed 10, so you can halve and freeze the filling for use another time.

I use Japanese rice because that is what I have in the house, but you will get better results from long-grain basmati rice if you have it. I also grind my saffron with salt instead of original recipe's sugar. You do as you please! For the dates, you may want to avoid the dry ones that you might have had in sandwiches as a kid if you grew up in 1970s UK. The moreish moist ones are better here, methinks.

Adas polo: Persian rice with lentils and dried fruit

3 cups long-grain rice
1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp advieh (Persian spice mix) (I use a packet of Iranian spices called "special spices")
1/2 tsp saffron ground with a pinch of salt and dissolved in 2 tbsp boiling water
1 1/2 cups lentils
1 cup raisins or sultanas
2 cups pitted dates, chopped roughly
1/2 cup slivered orange peel with bitterness removed by covering with water and boiling for 10 minutes (save extra in the freezer) (or if this is too fiddly, you could probably just zest an orange or two)
1-2 medium potatoes cut into thin rounds about 1.5 mm thick (enough to cover the base of the pan you will use to finish of the rice)

1. Cook lentils for about 10 minutes in salted water. Drain. In a non-stick frying pan, saute the onions in oil, add raisins or sultanas, dates and spices (except the saffron water). Mix well and set aside.

2. Cook rice by your preferred method (the original recipe says to boil in salted water and drain. I use the absorption (rice cooker) method, same as my dear Iranian friends). Transfer cooked rice to a large bowl.

3. In the same pot, gently heat enough oil to generously cover the bottom. Cover with a layer of potato slices. Add rice and lentil-dried fruit mix in layers, sprinkling on a little more advieh as you go. Cover and cook on a medium heat for 10 minutes. Pour over a good glug of oil, 1/2 cup of water and the saffron water. Cover with a clean tea towel or cooking paper to prevent steam escaping and a tight-fitting lid and cook over very low heat for half an hour, keeping a careful nose out for any whiff of burning.

4. Remove the pot from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.

5. Open the pot and remove the saffron-colored rice to garnish. Transfer rice and filling to platter, aiming for a nice mix of color and white, and decorate with the reserved saffron rice.