Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Waiter, There's Something in My... Pie! 2.0

UPDATE: Hi everybody. Due to problems with images in my last entry, I have duplicated this post, this time taking the images from Flickr. I hope this works and that you can all see these images. You can also look at these (and more!) images in my Flickr photo album entitled "Zereshk Polo and Pie, Step by Step." (click on link)

I'm so excited to finally bring you my first Iranian cooking tutorial. I've decided it's about time someone set about to veganizing some of the wonderful dishes of this cuisine, and it may as well be me!

In this first installment, I will give you a recipe and step-by-step photos on how to make "zereshk polo ba morgh" a.k.a. "rice pilaf with barberries and chicken" or should I say "chick'n". The reason I chose this dish is because it's an interesting and delicious one, and also touches on three important skills of Iranian cooking: rice, tah-digh (or the crispy rice or potatoes on the bottom of the rice pot), and caramelized onions.

Finally, zereshk polo has been on my mind a lot lately as I've been trying to come up with an entry for this month's "Waiter there's something in my..." food event with the theme of pie. I thought, wouldn't it be crazy to take a traditional Iranian dish and put it in (the decidedly NOT traditional) pie form? My result was the "chik'n zereshk pot pie with saffron cream sauce" which I've saved for the end of this post.

Click here to see what other food bloggers found in their pies this month: Waiter, there's something in my...pie! Hosted by the fabulous blog, Cook Sister!

Ok, on to the recipe.

Zereshk Polo ba Morgh (Rice Pilaf with Barberries and chicken) - vegan edition

  • 1 Cup white basmati rice
  • cooking oil of choice, divided
  • non-hydrogenated vegan margarine of choice (I used Earth Balance), divided
  • 2/3 Cup dried Barberries, reconstituted in warm water
  • 1 medium or large white onion
  • About 1 cup vegan chicken of choice (I used 1/2 package of Lightlife Chick'n Strip but I imagine tofu, seitan, and tempeh would all be good.)
  • 1 medium potato, sliced thinly
  • 1 tsp. saffron, divided
  • salt and pepper to taste


To cook the rice in true Iranian way, follow these instructions. Iranian-style rice should be light and fluffy with seperate grains.

First, rinse the rice in cold water until the water runs clear. Use this as an opportunity to pick out any debris or discolored rice.

Next, soak the rice in cold water for at least 1/2 hour, like this:

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. You don't need to measure the water, as you'll later drain the rice. When water has come to a boil, drain soaking liquid from rice and add it to the pot. Let it cook at a gentle boil, uncovered, until "al dente"-i.e. the rice is still a little undone on the inside. Times can vary, but this only took me about 5 minutes, so keep a close eye.

When the rice has reached the "al dente" stage, drain into a colander, like this:

Working quickly, put the pot back over high heat. Add enough oil and margarine to liberally coat the bottom of your pot. Sprinkle some saffron into the oil to give it color and flavor. Next, layer the sliced potato in the oil, like this:

Still working quickly, add the rice back into the pot, making sure it's fairly even. Cover the pot with a paper towel or kitchen towel and then put on the lid. This helps the pot seal tightly, and also soaks up the moisture of the steam, so that it doesn't leech back into the rice. (Remember, fluffy fluffy!) Here's what the closed pot looks like:

If you have a gas stove, be careful not to let the towel hang too low and be a fire hazard! At this point, turn the heat to low and let the rice cook/steam for about 20-25 minutes.

Next, make "piaz dagh". This literally means "hot onion" in Farsi, and it refers to caramelized onions. You have to have great patience to gently cook onions so that they go from this:

To this, without burning:

Caramelizing onions over medium-low heat releases their sugars and transforms their flavor immensely. To the onions, add your "chick'n":

Cook for the proper length of time according to what type of meat substitute you are using. Chick'n strips are not meant to be cooked very long, so I just stirred them briefly with the onions before turning the heat off.

Next, the zereshk. You might have read my previous post where I talked about these funny tangy little berries. You should be able to find them at Iranian supermarkets, or order them on-line. Here they are soaking in warm water:

Drain them of their soaking water, and sautee them with a mixture of oil and margarine and a little splash of saffron for about 5 minutes over medium-high heat, or until they release their aroma. Some Iranian cooks prefer to sautee zereshk with sugar to cut the tang, but I prefer leaving them as is. According to your tastes, you can try this with sugar of course.

Next comes time for assembly!

It is customary to serve the rice and the "tah digh" seperately. Here I have arranged them on the same platter:

You'll notice that for added color, I've sprinkled the top of the rice with a mixture of hot water and saffron. A few spoonfuls of water should suffice, since you don't want soggy rice. (Fluffy, fluffy!)

Next, by adding the barberries to the rice, you've gone from "polo" to "zereshk polo."

Next, by adding the chick'n/onion mixture, you've gone from having "zereshk polo" to having "zereshk polo ba morgh." Ta-da- you're done! Enjoy!

* * *
Waiter, there's something in my...pie!

I decided to bring together some of the traditional flavors of my childhood together in the form of the very untraditional pie, to make

"Chick'n Zereshk Pot Pie with Saffron Cream Sauce"


Crust: (I modified the basic pie crust recipe from James McNair's Favorites) This will make enough for two crusts, but this pie only needs one. You can make two pies, halve the recipe, or use one crust for something entirely different- it's up to you!

  • 3 Cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 Cup non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening (I used Spectrum brand)
  • 1/2 Cup non-hydrogenated vegan margarien (I used Earth Balance)
  • 1 TB. non-dairy sour cream (I used Tofutti)
  • up to 1/2 Cup ice water

Mix flour and salt together and pour into a food processor. Incorporate the shortening, the margarine, and the sour cream by adding about one tablespoon at a time and then briefly pulsing your food processor. After all the shortening, margarine and sour cream has been added, transfer the mixture into a large cold bowl. Sprinkle on ice water and gently blend dough until it comes together.

Divide dough into two balls. Put each ball between two sheets of wax paper and roll gently until they are 5-inch discs of dough. At this stage, refrigerate dough for at least 2 hours up to overnight.

When you are ready to use the dough, take one disc out of the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature (about 10-20 minutes.)


  • chick'n & caramelized onion mixture from "zereshk polo" recipe, above
  • 1 small/medium potato, peeled, cubed, and sauteed
  • sauteed zereshk from above recipe
  • 2 TB. margarine
  • 1 TB. flour
  • 1/2 - 3/4 Cup unsweetened soymilk
  • dash of saffron

Fill a pie dish with a mixture of the chick'n, caramelized onions, sauteed potatoes, and sauteed zereshk.

To make the sauce, melt margarine over low heat. Add flour gradually. Whisk constantly for about 2-3 minutes until you have a light roux. Gradually add the soymilk and continue to whisk until it has reached sauce consistancy, about 4-5 minutes. Turn off heat. Add a dash of saffron to the sauce. Pour over the mixture in the pie dish, and refrigerate until cool.

To assemble the pie:
Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.

Roll out thawed pie crust until it is about 2 inches in diameter larger than your pie dish. Gently place the dough over the cooled mixture and crimp the edges shut. Brush the top with more margarine, like this:

Put the pie into the pre-heated oven. After 10 minutes, turn temperature down to 350 degrees, and continue cooking for 20-25 minutes until the crust is a golden brown:

(I couldn't resist putting little saffron-colored heart cut-outs on it!) Let pie cool for at least 10 minutes. Slice and serve. I really liked this pie. The extra-tender crust created the perfect contrast for the rich, fragrant filling. Enjoy!



Unilove said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unilove said...

Sorry, accidentally deleted my post...Images are now viewable!


scottishvegan said...

I am so glad I can see the photos now! The pie looks great and I love the little hearts on it!! Thanks for sharing this...it looks like you spent a long time over it.
PS My husband reckons your photo problem is to do with blogger not uploading your photos properly or not linking them properly to your blog. You should email blogger support, if you haven’t already, and ask them to sort it out.

Theresa said...

Those berries are so colourful and gorgeous!

Amey said...

Oh Yay!!!
These pix are amazing bazu! The tah digh looks scrumptiously perfect! And the pie is gorgeous. I'm gonna have to hunt me down some barberries!! I noticed that a lot of the Persian recipes I found online also called for them. So beautiful, and thanks again for sharing an Iranian food post!!!!
xo Amey

Kati said...

I love food in pie form! It was really interesting learning a little something about Iranian cuisine - I hope you post more recipes in the future. I admit I was a little scared off by your "working quickly" comments, though! I tend to be disorganized and a bit slow in the kitchen - sometimes it's a wonder I get any food on the table at all! :)

aTxVegn said...

Thanks for alerting me that you now have pictures - they are great! I read the whole post again. I'm with Amey and will be on the hunt for barberries. Chick'n and potatoes is such a great pie filling. With the berries and sweet onions and cream sauce I can only imagine how fabulous it tastes - in pie form or not!

I thought you might be interested in checking out this link to a new bakery here. A chemist from Iran came to the Univ. of Texas to teach, retired, and used her retirement money to open a Persian bakery. www.mydreambakery.biz. Probably not vegan, but fun to look at.

- Diann

Jenni (aka Vegyogini) said...

Oh, wow...Bazu, these dishes look amazing! My mouth is watering just looking at the Iranian vegan goodness. Thank you so very much!

Susan Voisin said...

Yay! I'm so happy to see the photos. Thanks so much for introducing these dishes to us! I will have to start looking for zereshk immediately.

Jeanne said...

Oh *wow*! What an interesting post - I'm intrigued by the berries and I am besotted with the little saffron heart on top ;-)

Thanks so much for one of the most unusual entries this month - and hope to see you again in the coming months :)

Vicki's Vegan Vice said...

ahh haaa, I see! It looks so delicious & thanks for the process. I need to find some zereshk. :o)

vko said...

Yum, how brilliant! I heart persian food so much.

Going to have to give it a try sometime- can't wait. So, when I go to Persepolis and order the cherry rice sounds like it should be barberries with rice, no? I'm feeling a little cheated, thought I was having an authentic persian meal, but I do love the cherry rice so I'm not that mad. I am going to ask them about the barberries next time.

I'm sorry you were in Blogger hell. I had finished a long long post and then had an error message of only allowing 200 characters, ended up cutting the post short, which is what it probably needed anyway and having to copy & paste...but I'm glad the pictures are up so we can see how delicious it all is.

bazu said...

Hi guys,

Thanks for all your comments!

VKO, actually barberry pilaf (zereshk polo) and cherry pilaf (albalou polo) are two different things so don't worry, you got an authentic dish! The rice with cherries is sweeter than the one with barberries- I'm sure Persepolis serves both. I'm working on some eggplant dishes, including the one you requested so stay tuned!

urban vegan said...

I thought you said you wren't good with pie crusts! That looks lovely and porfessional.

What a fun post, Bazu--gorgeous photos nd yummy recipes to try.

I hope I get to visit Iran before I die. I've seen an Iranian mosque in Damascus which was so gorgeous--but that's the farthest I've come. Maybe one day, if the world becomes a more peaceful place.

Heather said...

This is awesome! I am currently learning Persian (Farsi harf mizane?) and we have just been studying food, and of course, being vegan, I'm a little left out in all the jujeh kebab, chelo kebab etc. This is so great!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
KleoPatra said...

Beautiful, Bazu. Colourful AND nutritious. Thanks for the look and re-do of the post so we can see it all in all its glory.


Emmy said...

Yay! I can see the pictures now...the food looks amazing, just as I suspected. I'm seriously drooling over your delicious food.

Anonymous said...

This is a very beautiful post. The colors of the food together are wonderful. The step by step with pictures is perfect for me! I am going to learn to make this perfectly so I can cook it for my Iranian sister. I think she would really appreciate it.

How do you pronounce tah-digh?

OttoMoBiehl said...

Mmmm, looks yummy. :)

Anonymous said...


I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to share all of these beautiful recipes. I'm going to try the chipotle chili in the next couple of days.


The Other said...

You can find barberries online at this address:

Isil Simsek said...

a vegan friend of mine who lives in Istanbul had told me about these berries and I was wondering what they looked like. thanks for sharing.I had just discovered that you are from Iran, hello my neighbour ;)
I once went to an Iranian restaurant namely Pars in Istanbul and enjoyed it very much. (I wasn't vegan then) I adored the yoghurt that was served with dried rose petals. And there was live music, someone was playing the kanun, a lovely night we had with friends.

Anonymous said...

settled 21 and needful of straits some grown-up toys? attain [url=http://www.avi.vg]sex toys [/url] online, ring progress of grown-up toys like [url=http://www.avi.vg/category.php?a=coitus4sexx&cid=3]vibrators [/url] and [url=http://www.avi.vg/category.php?a=having it away4sexx&cid=30]dildos [/url]at www.avi.vg , be comme il faut to current the procession, another spectacular situation to beg upon nigh [url=http://www.ewgpresents.com]viagra online[/url] is the all added http://www.ewgpresents.com and the prime ed rx [url=http://www.rxpillsmd.net]online viagra[/url] pharmacopoeia www.rxpillsmd.net , and the prime generic [url=http://www.generic4you.com]viagra[/url] apothecary at www.generic4you.com or at www.generik4u.com the [url=http://www.generik4u.com]sildenafil citrate[/url] shop.

Anonymous said...

looking for ed drugs? [url=http://www.cahv.org]buy viagra online [/url]and profit from set free shipping at http://www.cahv.org . another good place to [url=http://www.kiosknews.org]buy viagra online[/url] is www.kiosknews.org .

Anonymous said...

looking representing ed drugs? [url=http://www.cahv.org]buy viagra online [/url]and charge out of free shipping at http://www.cahv.org . another good place to [url=http://www.kiosknews.org]buy viagra online[/url] is www.kiosknews.org .

LAj said...

Hi bazu,
I know this is an old post, but I'm sure is very younger related with the tradition of this dish.
It is very beautiful and make me understand how much we go faraway from the good knowledge brought us from the east.
I'm writing from Italy and look like my country is farther then US from your culture.

The dish was very good. It was very funny to try step saffron thread( sorry, my first time ) ...I ended souting them with barberries :).
Definitely, has been a very rich experience ...to be repeat!
Thank you.

I hope to read your new posts soon.
Cosimo G.