Persian rice (Tahdig) with courgette and pickled walnuts
- A challenge
- June 2019
- Serves 6
- Hands on time 45 mins
There are quite a few stages to this Persian rice dish (Tahdig) but, trust us, the crisp buttery topping makes it utterly worth it. The rice is flavoured with pickled walnuts and sweet shallots and then topped with courgettes and feta. It really is a barbecue masterpiece.
For a slightly easier version, check out these roasted aubergines with buttermilk dressing and jewelled Persian rice.
- 24g (7.9g saturated)
- 50.2g (3.3g sugars)
- 350g basmati rice
- 1 tbsp salt
- 50g walnut halves, roughly chopped
- 50g butter, plus extra for frying
- Good glug olive oil
- 2 shallots, finely sliced>
- 4 fat garlic cloves, finely sliced
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- 150g natural yogurt, plus extra to serve
For the topping
- 2 courgettes, halved lengthways (we used green and yellow)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 80g bag watercress
- 2 pickled walnuts, roughly chopped
- 50g feta
- Pinch chilli flakes
- Grated zest and juice 1 lemon
- Pinch saffron
You’ll also need…
- Heavy-based flameproof casserole with a tight-fitting lid, about 26cm
- Rinse the rice under cold running water until it runs clear, transfer to a bowl, cover with cold water, add the salt and set aside for 30 minutes. Drain the rice, add to a large pan of lightly salted boiling water and cook for 5 minutes. Drain again, then rinse under cold running water. Set aside (chill if not using straightaway).
- Light the barbecue and heat until the coals are glowing white. Set the casserole on the grill bars (or set it over a medium heat on the hob).
- Lightly toast the walnut halves in the casserole, then set aside in a small bowl. Add a little butter and a glug of oil to the casserole and gently cook the shallots for 10 minutes (move the casserole slightly to the side) until softened. Add the garlic and continue to cook for a further minute, then scoop both out with a slotted spoon and add to the bowl with the toasted walnuts. Generously grate over some nutmeg. Stir in, then set aside (see Make Ahead).
- Wearing oven gloves, lay a sheet of non-stick baking paper over the base of the casserole so it comes a few centimetres up the sides. Add another glug of oil and the 50g butter to the casserole (on top of the paper) and let them melt together.
- Transfer a third of the part-cooked rice into a separate bowl and mix with the yogurt. Spoon this mixture in an even layer over the melted butter in the casserole. Stir the walnut/shallot mix into the remaining rice and spoon it over
the yogurt rice, piling it up slightly in the centre. Use the handle of a wooden spoon to poke about 6 holes right through the rice to the base of the casserole, which will allow the steam to rise.
- Wrap the casserole lid with a clean tea towel (tie it on top) and set it over the casserole. Move it to the coolest part of the barbecue (or reduce the hob heat to as low as it can go) and cook for 30 minutes. Turn the casserole every 10 minutes to ensure the base cooks evenly. At the end of cooking time, turn out the rice onto a serving plate (wear heavy oven gloves to protect your hands) – it should be crispy-crunchy on the bottom (now the top!).
- Meanwhile, for the topping, toss the courgettes with the oil and cook on the hot part of the barbecue (or in a hot griddle pan), turning often until tender – about 5 minutes.
- Roughly chop the courgettes, then toss with the watercress and pickled walnuts and sprinkle over the turned-out rice. Crumble over the feta and sprinkle over the chilli flakes.
- In a small bowl, mix the lemon zest, juice and saffron until the juice turns golden. Drizzle over the rice and vegetables and serve with extra yogurt on the side.
Complete to the end of step 3 up to 2 days ahead and chill everything in separate airtight containers.
Tahdig is the Persian name (it translates as ‘bottom of the pot’) for the prized bit of crusty, crisp browned rice that forms on the bottom of the pan as it slowly cooks. Lining the pan with non-stick baking paper and mixing the rice with yogurt is a foolproof way to get a tahdig to form without burning the rice.
With many different flavours and textures working together here, it’s best
to stick with a simple, crisp Italian white such as gavi.
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Or, how about...?
Roasted aubergines with buttermilk dressing and Persian rice
Smoky aubergine and crunchy, aromatic jewelled rice are married together...
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