Tuesday 10 September 2013

Indian summer: Barberry rice (Zereshk polow) with chicken and Mulberry Spelt Crumble.

It seemed like we were going to have an Indian summer. Blue skies and warm sun. Not too hot, with that nice cool breeze that whips through the open windows and continues to carry the scent from the honeysuckle that's still blossoming three months on.  

We spent the last week of the summer holidays cutting off branches and picking big fat juicy mulberries to make spelt crumble...lots of crumbles...that I would eat for breakfast dinner and tea given half a chance. We steeped sour dried black barberries to make big jugs of juice and cooked red ones with honey for sweet/sour zereshk polow (barberry rice). Made salads with anything I could find and soups with roasted vegetables or pumpkin. 

Oh and French flan...whoops forgot to show you the photo last time...and I read the magazines 'A' treated me to when we were away...a big stack of them...Whenever I miss those days all I need to do is whip up a batch of flan and take out one of those magazines... It's almost as good as being there...

To make Barberry Rice you will need:

  • Dried barberries. If you have difficulty finding them you get them online at shops like this one here 
  • Basmatti rice
  • Honey or sugar or maple syrup this recipe needs some kind of sweetener to balance the sourness of the berries
  • Sea salt
  • Oil or butter 
  • A few threads of saffron if you have any put into a small dish or mortar and covered with a drop of water then crushed to make liquid saffron.


  • I find a stainless steel pan easier to make rice than a cast iron one. You will need to have a pan with a close fitting lid.I also find that a round bottomed one rathe than with straight side makes it easier to get the tadik, crunchy rice from the bottom out.,
  • A clean tea towel to cover the pan lid.
  • A colander to drain the rice
  • One of those big wide kitchen spoons, the kind that usually has holes in it...I'm not sure what it's called...but one of those is really useful too.

  1. Wash the rice at least five times until the water runs clear. This removes some of the starch and helps to keep the grains separate when cooking.
  2. Place in a saucepan and cover with cold water and salt and bring to the boil. Cook until aldente. This should only take minutes after the water has boiled so keep your eyes on it because it's going to be cooked again later. 
  3. Whilst the rice is cooking wash the barberries very well removing any stalks. Place them in a heavy sauce or frying pan add a little oil or butter and cook for a few minutes until the berries begin to swell and rehydrate. Mix in the sugar or honey and liquid saffron is using allow it to meld into the berries. Remove from the heat,
  4. Place a large colander in the sink and as soon as the rice reaches the al dente stage. It shouldn't be cooked all the way through but still have a hard centre. You can check this by breaking a blade of rice in half, you will clearly be able to see the central white core. At this point drain the rice in a colander in the sink and let cold tap water run over the rice to cool it down and stop the cooking process.
  5. Put a little bit of water and butter or oil into the saucepan and return it to the hob. Avoid using a strongly flavoured oil like olive oil if possible. 
  6. Allow the butter to melt and begin to sizzle and then begin to return some of the drained rice to the pan along with the berries mixing them as you do so.  
  7. When all the rice and berries are in the pan gather them together away from the sides of the pan with a large flat spoon if you have one, making a dome shape. Use the handle to poke three or four big holes into the rice like little chimneys.Pour liquid saffron over them.
  8. Take the clean tea towel and wrap it around the pan lid and place it on to the pan pressing down securely. Return the pan to the hob. Turn up the heat until you can hear a sizzling sound. Then reduce it to the lowest heat and leave to cook. Make sure the tea towel doesn't fall down on to the naked light as this could be dangerous.  I usually use an elastic band to keep it in place, fastening it over the pan knob. You can buy special little pan covers for this purpose in Iranian shops but I always find them too big for my pans. 
  9. Cook the rice for a minimum of thirty minutes. Check to see if it's ready by splashing the side of the pan with cold water. If it makes a sizzling sound the rice is ready.
  10. Put a little cold water in to the sink and place the hot pan into it. It may rattle and roll a bit as it cools down a little.
  11. Remove and take out the rice carefully. Trying to keep the crunchy bottom layer that should have formed in the base of the pan. This is the tasty tadig, literally pan bottom. The Persian equivalent to crunchy roasted potatoes. 
This is traditionally served with saffron chicken. Saffron Whoops that should have said chicken gently poached with saffron.

...and the spelt crumble...I used this recipe here but double the crumble ingredients. I just piled up a dish with mulberries and poured some honey over and then topped with Miss D's lovely topping. Yummy...

What about you, are there any favourite seasonal recipes that you can't stop making at the moment? 

I'd love to hear about them...



  1. I have never heard of a braberry,but now I am curious.
    I am on a ten day juice fast, but as soon as I am done I can't wait to try your recipes. Just looking at all your photos made my stomach growl!
    I can't wait to open up my home, it's still wicked hot here.

    1. I hadn't heard of them either Tracey until I met my husband and his family would send us lots of parcels with packets of these little berries.

      Apparently they used to be native to the UK but gradually were eradicated as the plant can harbour wheat rust which can damage crops. The ones I use are dried ones that come from Iran.

      I hope it soon cools down for you.

  2. I don't think I have ever eaten barberries and have never cooked them. I could eat crumble morning noon and night too. Crunchy rice - I remember my mother always cooked rice under the Sunday roast, it would gently fry in the meat juices. Lovely photos enjoy the end of summer - we are looking forward to ours, we have hope as spring has sprung in the garden. Before long we will be swimming again.

    1. That's interesting about your mother's crunchy rice. I would never have thought of doing that, I bet it tasted amazing.

      I hope you'll be swimming soon.

  3. I don't think we have barberries....I'll have to look that up. I can tell that you love to create in your kitchen. It's a beautiful space and the dishes you make are mouth watering from way over here :)

    1. Maybe I could send some dried barberries. I was just writing to Tracey that we don't have them here either as they were eradicated because of a paticular fungus that can attack the plant and also wheat. So maybe the same happened in the US.

      It's a shame because they are delicious.