Tuesday 29 January 2013


The rain was playing a concert on the roof Friday night. I woke next morning to the sound of birds chirping and the dulcet tones of 'A' singing in the kitchen below. Not the most tuneful song, but to me it's the best sound in the world. Equal only to H giggling. She was away for the weekend, so I wasn't going to hear much of that over the next few days.

Tea in bed, a real treat and a slow start. Cold winds but a bright, bright sunny day. All the snow had been washed away overnight and everything was green again. I was excited cos one of my sisters  'B' and husband were coming for supper and staying the night. So lots of food preparation followed. They requested Persian Food, Istanbolli Pollo.  I made a big saucepan full, plus a mini  meat-free one for me. Two saucepans sizzling away with their funny tea towel hats on, to served up with cold sour yoghurt, citrus salad Tehrani and green leafy one.

So good to catch up. We'd missed each other at Christmas cos of flu and spent lot's of lovely time round the table, eating Istanboli pollow and talking, lingering over cheese and crackers, coffee and fruit cake. Exchanging simple gifts even though we'd promised not too, my lovely flowers and fun rainbow pasta striped like Blackpool rock with natural ingredients and cute stitch markers like mini baboushka dolls. Made plans to not leave it so long next time and in between for me and B to have a quick catch up sewing day to make dresses for spring.

To make Istanbolli polow for four to five people you will need :

  • One medium sized onion chopped finely
  • A couple of cloves of garlic, minced or crushed
  • Minced or chopped very finely meat. Traditionally lamb but beef will do. About 400 -500gms
  • French beans, topped and tailed and cut into small pieces. Frozen ones will do if they aren't in season or you can use substitute cabbage. I used half a small pointy one, chopped up finely.
  • Three or four fresh ripe tomatoes chopped finely or canned if not in season.  One can will do
  • Four cups of rice, my favourite is Tilda Basmati
  • Tomato puree
  • Ground turmeric or a few saffron strands
  • Sea salt and ground black pepper 
  • Oil to cook.  I use olive oil

There are two ways to make polow but I think that this way is the easiest. It's all done in one pan with a few simple steps. 

One Pot Method:

  1. Fry the onions in a little olive oil in a saucepan until caramelised. 
  2. Then add the garlic and cook.
  3. Add the meat and brown. 
  4. If using turmeric add a little at this point combining all the ingredients and cook it out for a few minutes to remove the powdery flavour. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Add the the tomato puree and mix well
  6. Then the tomatoes and a little water. If using saffron strands instead of turmeric add at now after first beating in a pestle and mortar. You may like to infuse them first in a little hot water. 
  7. Bring all the ingredients in the saucepan to the boil and then leave everything to simmer until the beans are tender.
  8. Meanwhile wash four cups of rice.  Rinse about five or six times until the water runs completely clear.
  9. Drain the rice and then add to the other ingredients in the saucepan and combine well. 
  10. Top up with enough hot water to cover everything by about an inch and a half.  
  11. Seal with a lid that has been covered in a clean tea-towel and cook for about 30 to 45 minutes until all the water has been absorbed.  Try not to open the lid too often.

Two Pot Method:

Complete stages 1 through to 7 using a frying pan.
  1. Complete stage 8 then cook the rice in a salted water in a saucepan until it is al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water in a sieve or colander.
  2. Add a little water and oil into the pan (as above).
  3. Then begin to alternatively layer the rice and the meat sauce, beginning and ending with rice. Draw the rice away from the sides and form a dome in the centre of the pan. Use the handle of a wooden spoon or something similar to make holes in the rice. This will aid cooking evenly.
  4. Seal with a tea-towwl in the same way as the one pot method.  Then put on the hob on a high heat for a few minutes until you hear the water and oil sizzeling. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting and leave to cook for a similar time as above. If you have a heat diffuser it's good to use one so that the rice can cook slowly. 
  5. When you think the rice is cooked...you should begin to smell the lovely sweet rice...splash the pan with a little cold water if it sizzles it should be cooked. 

Both methods should produce moist rice. The grains should be separate and infused with lots of flavour. The best bit is the tadig or crunchy rice that forms a circle covering the bottom of the pan.  You can also layer with lovely thin Persian bread or thinly sliced potatoes. If done correctly this should easily be removed from the pan bottom in one piece.  

NB You can leave the meat out altogether for a vegetarian or vegan option or substitute with potatoes

Moist Fruit Cake

  • 8 ounces of butter
  • 1lb of fruit. I use a mixture of green raisins and sultanas, chopped deseeded dates and un-dyed cherries plus moist preserved pears and apricots. I also like nuts in fruit cake so have a handful of chopped walnuts.
  • 5 ounces of brown sugar
  • 1 level teaspoonful mixed spice. I also add ground cinnamon and a little ginger.
  • 1 level teaspoonful bicarbonate of soda
  • 10 ounces of SR flour
  • 2 beaten eggs.
  • 8 ounces of water
  • I add Vanilla extract and a little almond extract too.
  • It's nice if making for a special occassion to add some rum or liqueur or fortified wine to give a lovely deep grown-up flavoured cake.
  • Almonds, walnuts, un-dyed cherries and crystallised ginger to decorate.
  • Melt the butter in a saucepan and add all the other ingredients except the flour, eggs and nuts if using.
  • Simmer gently for about twenty minutes
  • Allow to cool and then add the flour and eggs and nuts
  • Mix well
  • Transfer to an 8inch cake tin lined with 2 sheets of paper
  • Decorate the top with nuts and preserved fruits like cherries and crystallised ginger.
  • Cook at 300f/150c for one hour, plus for fifteen minutes without the paper until nicely browned.
  • Place on a rack to cool.
  • When cool remove from the tin.

So that was some of my weekend...I hope yours was good...I'm linking over to Amanda to share with hers...you coming too?



  1. sounds like a wonderful, chill weekend. will be trying the polow, or a variation of it at least. it sounds very similar to the usualyw ay you might make a pilau (soudns ismialr too, so probably one influenced the other?) so I'm sure I'll like it. love that picture of the rainbow x

  2. You have such a cheerful kitchen! I love when I get to see it in your photos. I love basmati rice as well. We drive about forty minutes to get the best prices on rice and spices for indian food (my husband cooks it!) My son went back to his campus and took his "whistling" with him. It's very quiet here.

  3. I wondered about the tea towels! Lovely new markers. I have a soft spot in my heart for those dolls. My grandmother gave me a stack of nesting dolls when I was quite young.