I never thought that life would lead me to meeting such dynamic humans. Of course, everyone has a story, and within each story I love to learn about that individual. Just sometimes though, you come across true gems of human beings, and it reminds you that the World is good.
My husband is a professional Chess player, and through quite a fun story, we met Chess Grandmaster Elshan Moradiabadi. It was a wonderful friendship to be able to form, and made even more special by getting to know his fiancee, Woman Grandmaster Sabina Foisor. She’s kind, caring, intelligent and beautiful. A truly dynamic and powerful couple. On top of all of that, their cultural backgrounds combine for delicious food on the table. Enjoying a good meal at their dinner table is always a treat, and we’re so ready for this Covid threat to subside so we can be together again.
Many many thanks to Sabina for her beautiful post and delicious recipe she’s sharing today on Sundays with Friends. You are truly a joy to know, and I hope we see you soon!
*Find out more about these guys and their love by clicking here, for a lovely news story.
I have always been passionate about learning about other cultures, and with customs and traditions came food as well. I ended up meeting the love of my life in my mid twenties, but then I was already living on my own and having learned to cook a variety of dishes, but I hadn’t tried Persian food. I still remember our first date, he took me to one of the best Persian restaurants in NYC and aside from his company I really loved the different dishes we tried. It has been over 6 years now and every so often when cooking we tried to encompass both our traditional dishes.
Persian food is delicious, but it can be time consuming to prepare everything from start to finish, aside from the traditional kabob, which is more of a Middle-Eastern dish, Persians are known for their stews and saffron rice. Last Friday was his birthday and I wanted to surprise him with a dish that many told me is hard to get right. After a little bit of research, talks to my fiance’s mom, and personal improvisation I gathered slowly my ingredients (given this Covid situation, many ingredients had been delayed), and last Friday, May 22nd, on Elshan’s 35th birthday, I woke up early in the morning and got into the preparation. I gotta admit it took close to 1 hour 30 min – 2 hours to get everything ready, so I recommend preparing the ingredients way in advance if possible. Also, the first 3 steps can be made in advance a day before (I learned this after, and I wouldn’t want you to have to go through the same “pain”).
Here were the ingredients I used and what you may try to change to in case you don’t find the ingredients necessary:
Morasa Polo or Persian Jeweled Rice
Ingredients needed for about 6 servings
- 1/4 cup unsalted, shelled raw natural pistachios
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds
- 2 cups basmati rice
- 1/2 cup of dried orange peel – the original recipe requires fresh orange and orange zest – thus my improvisation :)
- 4 teaspoons of lemon juice (typically the recipe requires orange juice, but since I didn’t have a fresh orange, I went for the lemon, feel free to add orange instead if you have it)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 cups of pre-cut carrots (I tricked the system here :) ) you may use 2 medium carrots instead – cut
- 1/4 cup dried barberries (can be found in Indian stores, or check Amazon) you may use 1/2 cup dried cranberries instead
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 + 3 tablespoons olive oil (trust me, don’t make my mistake of putting them all in a plate as you will use them separately)
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
- Preheat oven to 350°. Spread the pistachios and almonds on a baking sheet and roast for about 5-6 minutes. Transfer to a wooden cutting board plate, let cool, then coarsely chop. Set them aside.
- Combine the barberries (or cranberries) and raisins in a small bowl and cover with hot water; let soak for about 10 minutes. Drain and set them aside.
- Place the saffron in another small bowl, crush it to a powder and add 1/4 cup hot water; set aside. This can be made and kept in the fridge for days.
- Cook rice in a large pot of boiling salted water (I typically put a pinch of salt), for about 5–6 minutes – the grains should still be firm. Drain and rinse under cold water and then set aside (you will have it cooked in the end once everything is ready to be mixed together)
- Bring sugar and 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Add the lemon juice and the carrots, reduce the heat to low, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are tender. After 5-7 minutes add the orange peels. It took me around 20-25 minutes to cook everything together; drain and set aside (discard the syrup- you won’t be needing it).
- Add in the pistachios and almonds to the carrot and orange mixture. Set fruit aside.
- Heat the butter and 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, season with salt, and cook until it begins to brown. It typically takes up to 10 minutes. Add the cardamom, cumin, turmeric, and 1 tablespoon of the saffron mixture. Cook for about 1-2 minutes.
- Reduce heat to low, add the barberries and raisins mix, and cook, for another 2-3 minutes.
- Mix in the carrots, orange and nuts and cook for another minute.
- Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil in a wide pot/pan over medium heat. Add some of the rice, spreading it evenly in the pan. The remaining rice can be mixed with the mixture and added on top. This is an important step! Don’t mix the entire rice with the mixture as on the bottom of the pan it can burn, so you want on the bottom of the pan only rice. Spread everything evenly in the pan.
- Not necessary : poke a few holes in the rice all the way through to bottom of pot (to help release the steam so that the rice can cook evenly).
- Drizzle the remaining saffron mixture over the rice. Place a clean kitchen towel over the pot (picture), cover with the fitting lid.
- Cook on low until the rice is tender and the bottom layer of rice is browned and crisp (taadik – another Persian tradition to cook the rice), 30–40 minutes.
- You may flip the pot of rice over on a dish to get a beautiful presentation if you are to serve to impress. You may break the bottom crust into pieces. I personally skipped this step and enjoyed it along some grilled chicken.