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Banu's sabzi polo mahi (Herbed basmati rice with saffron whitefish)


Saffron whitefish

  • 4 whitefish fillets with skin on
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron sprigs
  • 1/4 cup boiling water 
  • 1 egg
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup neutral cooking oil
  • 1 Seville orange wedge
  • Salt and pepper

Herbed basmati rice

  • 2 cups white basmati rice
  • 2 tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter or ghee 
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 cup chopped dill
  • 1 cup chopped chives
  • 2 stalks green garlic (or 2 cloves garlic)


Saffron whitefish

1. Grind saffron with a mortar and pestle. Add it to 1/4 cup boiling water and stir. Set aside.

2. Crack 1 egg into a bowl. Add 2 tablespoons diluted saffron, then add 1⁄4 teaspoon cinnamon. Whisk mixture together with a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Store the rest of the diluted saffron in the fridge for future recipes.

3. Cut whitefish fillets into thirds. Place fish in the saffron cinnamon egg wash and turn twice to fully coat. Set fish aside.

4. Put 1/4 cup neutral cooking oil in a non-stick pan. Heat to medium-high. Once the pan is hot, place fish in, skin side up (to keep fish skin from shrinking). Cook approximately 4 minutes per side. Flip only once.

5. Remove fish from the pan when it is golden brown and the skin is crispy.

6. Garnish fish with a Seville orange wedge (for squeezing).

Herbed basmati rice

1. In a large bowl, cover the rice with warm water and move the grains around with your fingertips. Drain the water and repeat the rinsing process six times, until the water in the bowl is clear. Cover the rice once more with water and add 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Set aside and soak for two hours.

2. Chop fresh herbs and green garlic stalks or garlic cloves (avoid using a food processor, which will make herbs watery). Mix together and set aside. 

3. Grind saffron with a mortar and pestle. Add saffron to 1/2 cup boiling water and stir until it changes to a beautiful red/orange. Set aside.

4. Fill a large pot halfway with water and bring to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Drain the rice previously set aside and add to the water. Stir the rice only once and parboil for 5-8 minutes. Drain the rice in a colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking and rinse off the starch. Set aside.

5. In a small pot, melt 8 tablespoons butter or ghee. Transfer half into a large pot. Save the other half for later. 

6. Place a layer of rice on top of the butter or ghee in the large pot. Then place a layer of the herb and garlic mixture on top of the rice. Continue alternating layers until finished. Mound layers in a pyramid-like shape. Drizzle half the diluted saffron mixture over it.

7. Using the back of a wooden spoon, poke 6 holes into the pyramid, without hitting the bottom of the pot, to allow steam to escape. Cook on medium for 5 minutes. Once the rice begins to steam, lower the temperature to medium-low. Wrap the lid of the pot with a kitchen towel and cover the pot. The towel will absorb the steam.

8. Cook for another 30 minutes on medium-low. Then with a serving spatula, gently remove the rice from the pot and pour onto a large serving platter, making sure the rice is fluffy and separated. Add the remaining diluted saffron to the top of the rice. Drizzle with remaining butter.

9. At the bottom of the pot, there will be a layer of crispy rice we call tahdig — make sure to scrape up all that goodness and serve separately alongside the rice.

Recipe courtesy of Banu, Toronto.

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