This entree has a beautiful presentation, as the rice is cooked into a cake, which the Persians call “kateh” because of the way it is is mounded and cooked in a pan. During the cooking process it gains a golden crispy crust on the bottom, which is called “tadig” and if the whole thing is inverted properly, it does indeed look like a golden cake.
The word “polo” comes from “pilaf” and means to cook rice with seasonings or flavorings such as broth or spices, as the recipe does. The “lubia sabz” means “green beans”, the lubia being the beans and the sabz meaning green in Farsi. It is not to be confused with the Hindi word “sabzi” (which means semi-dry, as an Indian friend once confided in me) even though the sauce in this is cooked until it is semi-dry, as opposed to the other type of Persian lubia sabz, which is the Khoresh lubia sabz, and is a sauce or stew that is served with cooked rice, or chelou, along side of it.
The dish itself isn’t very hard to make, really no harder than making spaghetti with meat sauce really. Once the sauce and rice are cooked, they are placed in layers in a large nonstick pan or skillet, covered with a towel and lid and allowed to cook on low heat for awhile, to give time to draw out excess steam in the rice and as well, to form the crust on the rice bottom. It is important to be noted that since this is still being cooked, any dropping edges of towel should be dog-eared and tucked under the lid so they don’t come close to the heat. You don’t want a fire. I use the towel thing any time I cook rice on the stove, although I generally cook the rice, then pull the pan away from the heat and set it on a trivet with the towel for about 15 minutes. This lets the towel absorb steam and makes the rice quite a bit more fluffy.
The other thing you need to know about this recipe is that when choosing a pan, if you want to invert the cake when it is done, make sure the diameter of you pan is not greater than the diameter of your serving platter. I use a very large round one as you can see in my photos, which is similar in size to my nonstick skillet. You can use a smaller pan, but the smaller it is, the less crunchy tadig rice you will end up with on the bottom. You can serve it as well by just not inverting the cake, but you won’t get the presentation. In any case, make sure your pan is nonstick, so you can get the rice out of there without problems.
As part of a Persian meal, you can serve this along with several other entrees if you choose to and have enough people to eat the food. Often this is served with a khoresh, or stew, additional cooked basmati rice (chelou), perhaps a kebab, stuffed vegetables, or omelet of herbs as well as a plate of herbs on the table, a salad with a lemon vinaigrette, flat breads, yogurt drinks (similar to drinkable kefir but flavored with mint) as well as yogurt in dishes. Of course there is also hot tea and sweets of many types to finish the meal.
So if you have never tried Persian cuisine before, you are in a for a real treat. They take pride in their cooking, as shown by the many excellent dishes they prepare, and in my experience, enjoy serving those to family, relatives and guests. You will never part a Persian table hungry!
Persian Lubia Sabz Polo
- 1 pound ground lamb
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- salt and black pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
- 1/4 cup hot water
- 2 cups raw basmati rice, steamed or cooked to your preference (I used a rice steamer)
- 1 (14.5 fluid ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 (15.5 ounce) cans blue lake green beans, drained
- 1/4 cup butter
- Cook rice in a rice steamer or on stovetop according to package or appliance directions.
- Place saffron in hot (near boiling) water and allow to steep at least 15 minutes.
- Place lamb, chopped onions and olive oil in a large nonstick skillet and cook until lamb is browned and crumbled; drain any fat.
- Return meat to skillet and add salt, pepper, ground coriander, cinnamon, garlic, cumin, turmeric, cardamom, saffron tea, diced tomatoes with juice and tomato paste, stirring well to mix, then folding in the drained green beans.
- Empty skillet of sauce and place butter in the bottom of the pan. Place half the cooked rice over the butter. Place all the sauce on top of the rice in the skillet, then finish by covering the sauce with the remaining rice.
- Cover pan with a thick clean dish towel, tucking ends up so they don’t hang down the sides of the skillet and top with a well fitting lid. Cook on low heat for 25-30 minutes.
- Carefully remove lid and towel (it will be steamy) and if you wish, top skillet with an inverted large platter, clamp firmly together and quickly invert the pan. If you are uncomfortable doing that you can serve from the pan or slide it out to the platter,
- Once inverted, lift the skillet. The rice should be domed and golden with the sauce inside.
From the Kitchen of palatablepastime.com
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